Attachment To Things Has Gotten A Bad Rap

In a country where hoarding is an epidemic, while simultaneously Marie Kondo has become a celebrity for downsizing, it’s important to understand the reason behind our attachment to possessions and the therapeutic value ‘things’ have in grieving.

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” 🎶 a popular lyric and a popular trend when I was growing up in the midwest. Beautiful, architectural, and historical buildings bulldozed, then replaced with parking lots and structures. The trend remains the same, it’s just a different kind of parking structure today…storage facilities.

When people’s attachment to things is such that they require separate housing for their belongings we have to start asking, “why?” It isn’t enough to just roll our eyes and say, ‘commercialism’, or ‘materialism’, or ‘gluttony’, as so often I’ve heard.

When people live in homes that have become unhealthy and deteriorated because attachment to their possessions has become unmanageable, we have do to more than give it a name and slap it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

In a culture that denies death’s inevitability; that has sterilized death and dying care, by allocating it to institutions rather than family members; and has created fantasy worlds on television bombarding people with false notions and images of impossible idyllic life standards, it’s no wonder “things” become important.

Things don’t die and they don’t abandon us.

It’s no secret we don’t do death well in this society, but what is a secret is why we feel so attached to family heirlooms, gifts and mementos, sometimes to the expense of our wellbeing.

It’s more than just ‘sentimentality’. Objects hold energy. Our possessions (things we have owned) hold our energy very strongly because it was constantly bathed in our energy.

However, even store-bought gifts hold the energy of the giver even though it might not have been in their possession for very long. The intent or ‘thought’ behind the gift lives in the material of the gift.

Individuals who have strong attachments to people, and have suffered great loss, will often have stronger attachments to possessions than those who do not have strong attachments to people and/or have not suffered great losses. Holding onto belongings is a coping mechanism designed to exert some control over loss. The theory is ‘I love things because things don’t abandon me. They can’t die and they can’t walk out on me.’ Which is why then those individuals will be devastated if something of value gets broken or stolen (material versions of death and walking out).

When someone dies there are many who rush to get rid of the loved one’s possessions believing the things are painful reminders. They mistakenly believe getting rid of the belongings quickly will facilitate faster grieving. The truth could actually be the exact opposite. Holding onto belongings that hold the energy of the loved one keeps their individual signature vibration within daily life. This enables the relationship to reconfigure. Spoiler alert, we don’t have to stop having relationships with people just because they die.

We don’t stop loving someone when they transition to the next life, whatever you believe that life looks like. Love is energy and energy never dies. Our love just has to have a new focus of attention. Hence why some find visiting gravesites to be important and necessary. A focus. A new physical focus of the relationship.

Others choose to embrace personal belongings of the loved one. A healthy attachment to those things would be someone choosing several items of the person’s belongings to incorporate into daily life. An appropriate amount would be what can easily fold into one’s current living situation and serve a purpose. Serving a purpose is largely defined by the individual. A box of personal belongings that is taken out once every other year and brings comfort does indeed serve a purpose. The rest of the belongings then are easily, even joyfully shared with family, friends and the community by way of donations.

In extreme contrast, an unhealthy attachment to those things, of course, would be the inability to release any of the items to new homes and having the possessions overrun the home. The items cannot be incorporated into daily life, because there is no living actually happening when the possessions…well…take possession of the person. Excessive items stored, whether hoarded in a residence or locked away in a storage facility, are possessions in possession of people. Not a single item can be connected with or appreciated on a daily basis because it is not accessible. So you are paying rent for things to take up space in your life that are not adding quality to your life.

Having the deceased person’s belongings allows us to hold onto a physical representation of that relationship, yes, but it also allows us to continue a relationship with our loved one in a new way. Every time we wear that sweatshirt, we first feel the energy of our loved one that still lives in the material. When we feel that energy we are connecting with it, just as we did when they were alive. Then we might recall some memories. We feel again how we felt when they were alive – even if just for a moment. And whether we know it or not, we are making new memories with that person because we are doing new things while thinking of them.

This is so important. Not just right after a death, but for years going forward. After death, love and grief are forever intertwined. Grief doesn’t end. There is no finish line we magically cross. There is a difference between grieving and grief.

Grieving is the expression of the loss we feel for someone who has recently died. Grief is the cloak that love wears post death. Grieving ends. Grief does not.

Grieving is also called mourning. Its symptoms include but are not limited to sobbing, anger, depression, sadness, lethargy, insomnia, rage, and outbursts. Its cause is the loss of something/someone we love. Grief is loving someone who is no longer on this planet. Grief is the missing of someone. Therefore, we don’t grieve or mourn forever, but we feel grief forever. Many people do not understand this distinction and feel guilt when grieving ebbs, having associated their intense grieving with their intense love. Grieving is connected to the intensity of the loss of the love, not the intensity of the love itself.

When we incorporate loved one’s items into our daily life we are honoring them and ourselves. Instead of the empty place setting at the holiday table, we can focus on feeling their energy present at the table in the dishes they used or passed down to us. Someone’s clothes can be worn to provide us with a hug just when we need one. Clothes can also be made into blankets to promote that safe feeling someone gave us. Personal items can be pinned onto, sewn into or carried for a wedding ceremony as way to connect with them on that special day. Jewelry, as well as dishes, can be passed down for generations ensuring that the energy of the ancestors is prevalent and available for generations to come.

In recognizing the importance of personal items we have to understand our reaction then when these things wear out, get broken or lost. In many ways it is like losing that loved one all over again. We made the transfer from loving this person in body, to loving them in spirit with these items as a tangible tool. It can feel like losing that person all over again when these valued items are lost or broken.

It helps to remember that nothing is ever really lost or broken though. Broken dishes can be made into beautiful mosaic garden stones or even jewelry. Once more we need to make a transition from one physical focus to another. When we lose something of a loved one then it is a little harder to adjust, but it’s still a matter of perspective. You can view it as ‘the loss of one thing, makes room for another.’ Or it can be the impetus for you to take an action you otherwise wouldn’t have. Maybe acquire something of your own that holds as much energy for you. The situations are too numerous to go into in a simple blog post, but I hope you get the idea.

In the crystal gems world we believe that when a stone is lost it is either going on vacation for a much needed rest for a job well done, or it was needed elsewhere by someone else. A broken gem implies that someone you love needs the energy of that stone, thus it broke in order to be in two places at one time (or three or four). Something that shatters into pieces that are rendered unusable is considered to have served its purpose and is returned to the earth where it began. Quite often those pieces find themselves in potted plants where they still continue to be of service by nurturing the plant.

In this society we are too quick to judge…ourselves as well as our neighbors. We are too quick to judge someone’s home as cluttered simply because they have ‘more things’ than we choose to. If the things bring them pleasure and are easily incorporated into their living, then they have just the right amount of things for them. Instead of judging ask them about those things and the stories they hold. When they die you might just find that old cuckoo clock they spent the afternoon telling you about brings you comfort too…

The ACTS Of Empowerment

ACTS of Empowerment

One of the scariest situations we can be in, is the one where we are not in control. This time in our country’s timeline will go down as one of the scariest of all; A time when we had to physically separate from loved ones for fear of a life threatening invader.

In truth though, death is always in our cards, we simply have chosen to exist in denial about it. COVID-19 is forcing us to consider our mortality and that of our loved ones. Everything about COVID has taught us we are not in control of anything outside ourselves. We are not in control of what our government, our neighbors, our employers, the healthcare system or the virus does. We can only control our own thoughts, actions and beliefs in any given situation.

When we don’t feel in control, we don’t feel empowered. The problem is not the lack of control. The problem is 1) thinking we were in control of things we weren’t and 2) not exerting control over the things we were.

These four acts of empowerment are useful across the board of our lives. It is important to look at this because fear is a very dangerous symptom of any crisis. And if you take the time now to come to some sort of terms with your own mortality, I promise you, it will change the way you live your life after this crisis is over.

Empowerment is the anti-dote for fear.

Empowerment is an inside job. I don’t believe in beings empowering other beings. We are empowered from the second Life is Breathed into us. Throughout our lives we discover more and better ways of accessing and demonstrating our power, and THAT is something that others can support us in…but no one else actually empowers us.

Acceptance

The first act of empowerment is Acceptance. To accept what is, as is. Dissonance happens when we are in resistance to what is, by looking back to what was. In today’s happenings we ask ‘when will things return to normal?” But normal is gone. Normal is attachment to yesterday. Yesterday we had a plan and today that plan is no longer viable.

We need to embrace today there is something new at work and we haven’t yet figured out what it is. That’s ok. It’s ok to stand in the not knowing. In fact, that is what we must do to get into acceptance. We have to also acknowledge that we have grief over the loss of yesterday’s plan. Not having a ‘normal’ is a loss and grief is the emotional reaction to that loss.
To get to acceptance we must embrace what is, even if what is feels like being ‘stuck in the mud’. It’s ok to sit still in the mud for a minute. Embrace that. Accept that. Attachment to how things used to be keeps us in dissonance. Dissonance and acceptance are mutually exclusive. Resonance breeds acceptance. So, pay attention to what resonates with you at your highest level.

You don’t have to like something to accept it.

That’s key. Just like forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone someone’s behavior, so too, just because you accept something doesn’t mean you like it. Acceptance just means you are in the present moment, understanding it as reality. You are no longer trying to change the moment back to what was yesterday. You are also not looking to tomorrow hoping to recreate yesterday. That’s another key. You take what is today and see what you can do with it even if you are not its biggest fan.

The place of acceptance is resonance while the place of resistance is dissonance. The more you follow resonance the more empowered you will feel. Acceptance resonates at a high level. Even if you don’t like what you have to accept, accepting it will be more resonant than remaining in a state of resistance. Acceptance does not mean you don’t want to effect change upon the circumstance. Acceptance of the situation in its entirety enables you to make necessary and valuable changes.

You will know you’ve entered a state acceptance when you can at least say ‘Ok FINE! Now what?’ Resignation is a form of acceptance.

Connection

The second act of empowerment is connection. When we feel disempowered we feel isolated and vice verse, so it stands to reason that the anti-dote to that would be connection.

You might be thinking this is quite the challenge during this quarantine lockdown we are in, but you would be wrong. The kind of connection we are seeking here is actually something that has been missing for a long time, yet within everyone’s grasp.

Many are talking about ‘when this is over we will return to normal’. Others are saying that the normal that once was will never be again. And I hope that is true. Our normal was seeing a gathering of individuals, most of which were on their phones or other devices. Now, when connecting via devices is the only life line, we are beginning to understand how much we took face to face for granted.

The connectedness we are talking about though in regards to empowerment is the connection to something bigger than ourselves. This does include connecting to the love that we have for family and friends, however it has to also include something bigger than that. Whatever your Source is for Love and Light. The All. Whatever name All goes by for you: Allah, Jesus, God, Mother Earth, Goddess it doesn’t matter. Whatever you feel is a higher consciousness or a bigger energetic body than you.

Where do you connect to that Source? Church? Well, where else can be your church now? A backyard meditation garden is a wonderful start! Out in nature is an easy one, because everyone ‘believes’ in nature! Nature works its magical wonders of connection on you whether you realize it or not. If you don’t have a backyard then find a county or city park that offers you some natural habitat. If you can find a body of water, even better.

Other ways to connect to Source is to create a small altar in your home and sit with it for awhile. You can meditate, or pray, or do rituals, or say spells…they are all basically the same thing. You might have been conditioned to be afraid of one or more of those words but honestly they are all containers for the same energy.

How do you make an altar? Simple version: cover a small table with the scarf or hanky of a loved one and place a candle on top. You can get as elaborate as you want from there by adding fresh flowers, dried herbs, crystals, family pictures, sage, incense, bowl of water, images, icons, rosaries, prayer beads, malas, statues etc…

Whatever makes you happy and adds to your connection to Source.

Spending just 15 mins a day in quiet solitude in front of your altar will offer you a wonderful connection.

Connection to something bigger than you gives you power to handle the situation you are in. It isn’t really a belief system thing. It is an energetic feeling. You can’t believe it into being. You can’t speak it into being. You have to practice it into being.

Transmutation

The third act of empowerment is transmutation. The transmutation process changes something from one form into another form. In this case, transmutation is the act of changing negative into positive, and changing negative to positive is the basic premise of empowerment.

Beginner empaths are often taught to ‘block’ or ‘guard’ their energetic fields in order to protect them. This is a necessary step in learning how to manage energy, however it is not a landing place.

When we block and guard we do nothing to improve the situation. We simply allow the less than desirable energy to remain in the environment and affect the next person who comes along. Don’t believe me? How often have you walked into a room where an argument had ensued and ‘the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife’? Now, if someone had transmuted that energy then no one else would walk in and feel that.

Developing the skill to transmute negative heavy energy into positive light energy is an important evolution in any energy healer or empath. However, even non-empaths and those without an interest in energy healing need to engage in transmutation. It is simply a matter of not adding fuel to a fire.

When someone comes at you with negativity or aggression, you respond in neutralizing opposition. Which means, you don’t respond with negativity or aggression, but with compassion and assertiveness.

It means not perpetuating the situation, as well as not escalating it. Phrases like “I understand what you are saying.” “I hear you.” “Maybe we can talk later.” “That sounds really painful.” “I can see you are really hurting.”

This doesn’t imply one allows bad behavior to continue. It dictates use of compassion to help the other feel supported so that they can change their own behavior. When efforts to do this fail, it is advisable to extricate oneself from the situation and circle back to the person at another time if desired.

If you can’t practice transmutation then you must at least refrain from contributing to the heavy energy.

A wonderful side effect of this practice happens automatically. You will find yourself lighter, with less stress and feeling more emotionally stable. Indeed, you will find yourself empowered.

Becoming skilled in transmutation you ultimately leave the world in a better state than you found it.

Surrender

Surrender is often defined as giving up, but that is not the spirit of Surrender. The spirit of surrender is to cease resistance. The essential art of going with the flow, instead of swimming against the tide.

Surrender realizes that forcing something is a sign that whatever ‘it’ is, is not for you at this time. Releasing the need to control outcomes, is the swiftest way to surrender. It isn’t that you give up on your goal, it is that you realize you might have mixed up your goal with one possible outcome, which is in fact, not a goal but merely one possibility. In other words, your goal might be making THIS relationship the one to end all relationships, when in fact that is one possibility for the actual goal, which is to be in a relationship that serves you.

Surrendering will be understanding that the best way to meet your goal would be to let go of the relationship that seems to want to end rather than pulling out all the stops to keep it in play.

Surrendering requires us to evaluate obstacles when they show up. Obstacles on our path serve two purposes: cause to pause and redirection. Cause to pause, is an opportunity to really take stock of what is happening. Is it for our highest good? Is this what I want? Usually this obstacle simply gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why do I want this? Why do I feel this is in my highest good? And to ask ‘is this worth it?’ then really listen for the answer. If it isn’t making you feel better OR making you a better human being (cause sometimes that process doesn’t feel so great initially), it isn’t worth it.

After such pondering it is easy to see that sometimes a change of direction is warranted. When you ask ‘is this worth it’? And answer ‘no’, then you must switch directions. Take the opportunity to redefine your goal to make sure it is a goal and not just one possible outcome. Restate your goal. Envision it. Then choose the new path to get there.

Surrender is not about giving up, it is about leveling up. It’s about Trusting your Higher Self and Divine Grace to get you where you want to go. In surrendering we feel more empowerment because we understand that the Universe is conspiring on our behalf, rather than believing we are all alone against the world. We no longer believe that we have to be in control of everything, because in fact, we cannot.

The ACTS (Acceptance, Connection, Transmutation, Surrender) can be used in any situation to develop your Empowerment. Apply it to work, life, problem, challenge, parenting, encounters with bullies and other crabby people as necessary.

If nothing else remember that empowerment is an inside job.

Peace Be With You,

Jade

Holiday Grief

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With marshmallows roasting and…”

Except when it isn’t.

Grief at the holidays is 1) normal, 2) inevitable the older you get and 3) more intense than any other time of the year. It is an unexpected, yet regular, extra guest at every dinner table.

From the time we are young, regardless of our socioeconomic status we are conditioned that the holidays are made for family. That there is ‘specialness’ in the air. That there is magic in the air. The expectation is that we gather from far and near to join family in a heartfelt exchange of gifts and celebration.

In reality, that may not be our story. It may be that our parents had to choose between the food on the table and buying presents. That our family was fragmented by conflict. Or that some tragedy befell the family.

Thanksgiving morning, 1971, my mother and my aunt went off to visit my grandmother in the hospital. On their way there, a drunk driver crossed the meridian and hit them head on. My beloved aunt was thrown threw the windshield, never regained consciousness and died three days later. My mother was held in the car by the steering wheel but hit her head on the windshield. She suffered a closed head injury and had permanent personality changes as a result.

For years and years Thanksgiving carried that shadow. My mother had survivor’s guilt on top of the brain injury. While we missed Aunt Agnes very much the whole year, that day was different each year.

A few years later their brother, a missionary Redemptorist priest, home from the Amazon, died in his sleep on New Year’s in our home.

My mother died 13 years ago this December 13.

My mother was Christmas for our family. She was that mom that shopped all year to find the perfect gifts, put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving and had decorations in every single room of the house – including the bathrooms.

That first Christmas without her we were still in shock because she died just 11 days before. No one felt like doing anything, much less celebrating. A year, later we all felt like it was the first Christmas without her because the actual first one seemed non-existent.

But it doesn’t matter when in the year someone dies, the holidays always bring your attention to their missing presence. The hole in your life where they used to be is highlighted at the holidays, because we are so focused on being together for the holidays that their absence is magnified. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been gone either; that grief will find you.

It might be while shopping and you come across that perfect gift they would’ve loved. Or a reminder of a special tradition the two of you shared. Or their place at the dinner table.

With each holiday that passes, their absence in your life seems more, not less. It seems to serve as a place card – before they died and after they died. While we may have new and wonderful people in our lives since our loved one transitioned, there is still that empty space where they used to sit.

The holidays highlight our losses because they highlight love – both the presence of it and the absence of it. If your family is not picture perfect, then you experience the grief over the loss of illusion every year. And after a death you have the grief over the loss of the possibilities of reconciliation. If your family is picture perfect (or as close to it as you can get) then you have the loss of the special energy that loved one brought with them.

Yes, we believe that love lives on. That our loved ones are around us everyday. That they never really leave us. But that doesn’t soothe the ache to feel their physical arms holding us once again. It doesn’t satisfy the need to hear their voice one more time. It does not stop us from missing their physical presence.

Be kind to yourself in your holiday grief. Do not put on bold false faces. Allow yourself time to mourn. Don’t judge yourself thinking you should be over it – no matter how many years have passed. Our lives are a collage of memories that do not die when a loved one does.

It is ok to remember and be sad. It is not ok to deny those feelings or hide them away. It is not ok to pretend to be happy when you are grieving. Find a way to tap into their energy, because it is all around you. They have never left, but their form has indeed changed.

  • Create a remembrance tradition to replace some of the traditions you once shared.
  • Light a special candle each year to symbolize the light they brought to this life on Earth.
  • Take a walk under the stars to symbolize your journey with them in life.

Find a way to channel your grief into honoring their memory. It is a gift you will give to both of you.

I love you. And they continue to love you. Blessed holidays to you all.

~Jade

Grief

If there is something I feel overly qualified to speak on it is grief.  I have had more than my fair share of loss due to death, both traumatic and natural.  I lost my father suddenly of a brain aneurysm, my sister committed suicide, my mother died of chemotherapy poisoning and I had to turn off life support, my aunt died at the hands of a drunk driver (which left my mother with a brain injury), my uncle died in our home of an aortic aneurysm, my grandmother transitioned peacefully at the age of 89.  These are not all my losses due to death, just the most significant ones.

Grief is not limited to death of course, and I’ve had many of those experiences as well.  I’ve been fired. I’m divorced.  I’ve had significant friendships end abruptly and badly.  I have estranged family members.

I experienced all but my mother’s death by the time I was 25.  I then lost my mother when I was 40. My early exposure to death led me to become a hospice social worker.  I felt that Life had given me this experience so that I could help others in their journeys of dying, death and grief. I did that for 10 years, which is extremely unheard of because of the high burnout rate.  I walked with more people than I can count in those 10 years. I continued to walk with their grieving loved ones for a year after the death.

candlelight candles
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

So I know grief intimately.

I don’t tell you this to toot my horn, elicit sympathy or diminish anyone else’s experience.  I tell you this because I don’t take this subject lightly.  There are few who have as much experience as I in this arena and if it’s put in front of me (the topic came up in another blog) then I feel it is the Universe’s way of telling me to speak to it.  At least that’s how I look at it.

It is a common misnomer that time heals all wounds.  Time has nothing to do with it. Attention is the one and only thing that affects grief and sets about the healing process.  That attention will vary not only mourner by mourner, but also loss by loss. You may be surprised by your varying expressions of grief for different losses. You cannot have the expectation that you will grieve each loss similarly. Grief is kept in a box in our hearts and every time we experience a loss we open that box and all the losses we keep in the box come flooding out. The grief gets all mixed up together.  It is very difficult if not impossible to grieve one loss and not all the others that came before it.  This happens in the very best of circumstances, in the healthiest coping.  We never “get over” a loss; we learn to live with it.  Complicated grief is what it’s called when we don’t learn to live with it.

A loss changes you forever, but you decide how it changes you.

That is what grief is about, the more significant the loss the more significant the change. It doesn’t matter what you lost.  Society seems to think that there are certain relationships that are more significant and more worthy of grief and sympathy than other losses.  The reality is that what that relationship meant to you makes the difference in grief.  While you may have one parent with whom you have an ideal relationship and one from whom you are estranged, you may find you grieve both equally hard in different ways.  While you will grieve the loss of the now and future presence of your ideal parent, it is the loss of the potential of a better future you will grieve regarding your estranged parent.  We all have expectations of the future in all relationships and they factor into grief more than anyone considers.  When we lose an estranged parent we lose the hope that one day that relationship will improve.  This is something that often takes people off guard.  In addition you may experience more profound grief over a family friend who was more like a mother to you than your own mother. Don’t let relationship labels dictate “how much grief” you should be experiencing.

Paying attention to your grief will ensure you get through it to the point that you live with the loss but without the active grief.  Ignore the grief and no matter how much time goes by you will not heal it one bit.  Using alcohol, activity or anything else to “keep busy”, “keep your mind off it”, or any other platitude will only stifle your grief at exactly the point you began to ignore it.  I’m NOT saying that it isn’t good to resume activity or engage in things that get you out of the house, re-engage you with your life, or give your mind a reprieve.  I am also NOT saying that you should sit home and wallow in the loss.  I AM saying that these phrases are misleading and as misinterpreted as “time heals all wounds”.

Paying attention to your grief means take care of yourself like you would after a major surgery.  Sleep when you are tired.  Eat healthy meals, even if they are just small ones. Make no major decisions.  Take on no new responsibilities.  Let others help you in whatever way they can.  Your grief will touch their grief and not everyone will be able to walk with you the way you want them too.  Feel free to say no if you are not ready or up for something.  Don’t let others pressure you into something you are not ready for…like getting rid of personal items, selling a home, going back to work and “getting over it”.

General guidelines to determine complicated grief:  3 months after the loss you should feel as though you have moved slightly in a better direction.  6 months you should recognize that you are in a significantly better place than you were the day of the loss.  After the first anniversary you should recognize that your grief is no longer intense.

If you don’t recognize these improvements by these benchmarks then you are in complicated grief and may need someone else’s assistance in moving through.

I’ve reprinted this article from another blog I had in 2015. It seemed a good time to share it here. 

As always…I love you.

~Jade