I’ve had this delicate ornament for at least 24 years – I can’t recall exactly. Amazingly, the tiny decorative sticks of clove still have a scent, although obviously not as fresh as they were.
This small item was a gift from a friend, a colleague, actually my work supervisor from long ago. I probably wouldn’t have kept it except she died, and I held on to it to remember her and her friendship.
The ornament is a keepsake. That sounds an old-fashioned word and it conjures up pictures of delicate objects, but they don’t have to be.
The fridge in my kitchen is covered with magnets. My daughter Catherine liked collecting them, and I would bring back magnets for her from my various travels at the time. After she died, I inherited her small collection and then continued to build it, in her memory. And so it has grown, as you can see.
I suppose I am a bit of a sentimental soul. I have an unused handbag still wrapped in paper that my father designed and made in his factory, probably before I was even born. He made it and it’s never been used, and that makes it special to me. On the other hand, I have one of Catherine’s purses that I use on special occasions – in this case, the use of it is what links me to her.
I imagine if you’re grieving you also have some special items, some in use and some not.
Any object, no matter how everyday, can become infused with meaning as we remember those who have died. A postcard, a pen, a pair of socks, a hat, a scarf, a mug, a battered suitcase, the stub of a cinema ticket, dried flowers in a jar, a tie, a pair of well-worn trainers, an armchair, a garden rake – the list is endless.
Eventually, many of these items will be discarded, but as long as they hold meaning for us, as long as they are cherished reminders, as long as we have space to keep them – why not?
“Continuing bonds” is often manifested in objects, keepsakes, although it doesn’t have to be. A place can also be important.
For example: a loved one’s ashes. Some people keep them safely in an urn.
It’s even possible to have a diamond made from the ashes, thus turning them into an object – (find out more here: Heart in Diamond)
But others choose to scatter the ashes, perhaps at a place that holds special meaning.
It is entirely a matter of personal preference. There are no “shoulds” in grieving. I hope you never feel you “should” keep this or you “should” throw that away or you “should not” do it .
Whatever helps you individually, whatever connects you to your loved one in a way that you find comforting, that is what is right.
If objects hold meaning to you, hold them close.
Or if you’d rather discard them, do so.
It is up to you.
There is no wrong or right way to remember with love.
Some tips regarding keepsakes
- If you don’t have space or possibility to keep items that are special to you, taking a few photos of them can be a way forward
- Some people like to keep their small special objects in a memory box
- Sometimes giving the item away can be part of its journey. Giving it to a friend or someone in need can make the object even more special. (And you can also take a photo of it before pass it on)
- As time passes, our feeling about certain objects may change. Something that we wanted to hold onto when our loved one first died may not seem so important later on. It’s good to be open to our evolving feelings.
- As in anything connected with “continuing bonds”, people around us, be they friends or family, may not understand or agree with our actions. They don’t have to. It’s our own choices that matter.
Do you have anything to add to this list? Comments welcome!