Learning Through Loss

Five siblings and I met at my Dad’s condo to sift through his belongings. After that was done, we’d need to take away what was left to prepare the space for sale.

We started off, sitting in a semi-circle in the living room, reviewing the order of picking. Then, one by one, we each chose items that reminded us of my dad or mom…or of our childhood. Many times, I found myself aimlessly wandering around from room to room not really knowing what to do. What could I take that would fill the giant crater left in my heart now that my dad was gone?


Of course, the answer was “Nothing”.

But I still collected furniture, dish-ware, photos and art. After a while, my younger brother announced “Anarchy!”, allowing us all to cruise around and choose what we wanted. Things moved faster after that.

Then it was time to move on to the “Does anybody want this? I’m pitching it!” portion of the day. Slowly, hour by hour, a lifetime of accumulated stuff and the memories that went with them, were claimed, boxed for donation, or hauled to the dumpster.

I looked around at the pile of bags and boxes ready to be given away. Then I turned and looked at the empty rooms that were filled only two days before. The reality of it all finally crept up on me, so the tears do too.

Month by month since June, parts of my dad’s life, and the life I had with him, have misted over and then disappeared. His home is the last place that anchors me to my father and my family history. I wish I had the depth of language to tell you how hard it is to see it all go.

Months from now, maybe sooner, I’ll be able to look back on these moments with a more spiritual perspective. As I’ve said before, I know that he’s with my mom in heaven. I know personal stuff is just stuff. I know that this life is nothing compared to the life to come. But you see, I’ve got this crater…

It’s a pretty big hole, not to mention how dark and empty it is in there. Seeing it makes me feel weepy and sad. I think the hardest thing is knowing that nothing will ever fill it. Not silverware. Not a statue. Not a photo.

“Suffering loss” means just that. Suffering. But I guess I’ll have my own lifetime to learn how to live with this hole. I accept that it’s hard to look at it, but the aching sadness that comes with it always seems to surprise me.

Anyone who has learned to live with loss (and isn’t that everyone?) figures out eventually that it’s not about filling the hole at all. It’s about making peace with it. Maybe even being grateful for it. Grateful because the crater means someone made an impact.

I guess I just never realized how deep an impression he made…until he was gone.



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52 thoughts on “Learning Through Loss

  1. Teary-eyed here, Ceil. And this photo is so beautiful…loving memories to be cherished and not forgotten. And it is so true that we sometimes don’t know what we had until it is gone. Warm hugs to you.

    • Hi Linda! I guess that old adage is really true, isn’t it. I’m so touched by your comment, thank you so much for each word. They mean a lot.

      Hug right back to you my friend,

  2. When Jesus was raised to Heaven, His disciples were distraught, they were at a loss, not knowing what to do next. Their Leader and Master had now gone; and emptiness was all that was left. They missed Him.

    When we miss someone who has gone, it is because their presence had a positive effect on our lives. We miss the good that their presence had on us, and now we mourn their absence.

    Your parents had a great positive effect on your life; and indeed you miss them. You loved them, and still do. And, they love you too. They would not have wanted you to feel sad and miserable at their departure. Instead, they want you to look forwards in hope for when you meet again.

    Of course, you’re sad now, and you will be often when you think of them. But let that be a reminder to pray for them, and to thank God for having such wonderful parents. And in turn, they will also pray for you.

    God bless.

    • Hi Victor! Thank you for your wise and comforting words. I know it’s hard because I loved him so much. Part of the hard stuff is knowing that he wouldn’t want me to be sad, just as you pointed out. He’s where he always wanted to be, with God. But as I said, the hole is still pretty darn big.

      I’ll be happy to know that he and my mom are praying for me. What more could I ask?


  3. Knowing my mother is with Jesus is the highlight of her death. Dealing with this kind of stuff was not. We pitched a whole lot more than we kept since mom didn’t have much. Dad left in 1976 and when 2004 came she was still by herself. But she was content. other than the multiple unopened clothes she bought “cause they were on sale” she really had very little. But I don’t want to ever go through that again. I could kick myself, however, because of our fatigue we threw away/gave away albums of lounge singers that would be priceless to have today.

    • Hi Bill! Rummaging through someone’s life is very weird, and so emotional when it’s a parent. I know what you mean about the fatigue factor. I wonder if we threw valuable things away? I was very blessed to have five siblings with me to help make those decisions.

      I am sorry for your loss, even though it was a long time ago. We’ll always remember and love our parents.

  4. Beautiful post, My Friend. Many of us understand exactly where you are coming from. It is hard–gut wrenching–agonizingly hard to loose our loved ones. I am praying for you as you mourn that God would comfort you with your warm memories and assurance that your dad’s legacy lives on–through you.
    Bless You, My Friend!

    • Hi Lulu! Thank you so much for your prayers, they mean more than anything. I know that so many know the experience of losing a parent, and all the feelings that come with it. Nothing can prepare you for it, that’s for sure.

      Thank you for your kind words about the post too my friend,

  5. Hello!
    All those memories are ones you can cherish till you meet up with them again. It’s still very hard to go through, though. My dads been gone for 9 years now and I still miss him like crazy.
    Loved the photos. So good to see you blogging again.
    Hugs, Amy

    • Hi Amy! How good to see you here today. Thanks for visiting.

      I’m sorry for your loss, and now I truly can say I understand the feelings of missing him ‘like crazy’. I think it means we were loved well, and we loved well in return. That’s a good thing, but of course, we are left with wanting to see them again. Of course we will in time 🙂

      So nice to see your name here,

  6. Oh my goodness, my friend….
    I didn’t know about your Dad’s passing. But that is my fault. I haven’t been blogging like I should have.
    No excuses for me.
    My heart is heavy as I think about how you must be grieving over the loss of your Dad. My Daddy is my rock. He turned 90 in August, and I think often of what I’m going to do when I have to say goodbye to him here on this Earth. I can only say that from one daughter to another, that I am so very sorry to hear of his passing, and I send my sincerest condolences to you.
    Gentle hugs to you from me…..

    • Hi Jackie! Thank you so much for your words and sentiments here. I really appreciate them. I know what you mean by your dad being your rock. You are a blessed woman to have such a loving man in your life.

      I didn’t blog over the summer, so I didn’t talk about my dad’s death until August, so please don’t feel bad. I’ll take your cyberhug anytime.


  7. Oh, dear friend! How my heart goes out to you! I have felt this…oh, how I have felt it. Losing that last parent is a pain that is just indescribable. That connection is just something that, as you said, is a void that nothing else can fill. EVER. Going through their stuff is just excruciating. I remember we had to go through my dear Mom’s stuff the day after she died, because she rented, and her rent was coming due. OH, my, I look back on it now and wonder how on earth I made it through, but I know Jesus was carrying me in His loving arms, giving me strength to take each step. He is with you, sweet friend, I know you know that and are feeling it every moment. I am here for you if you need to talk…sending you lots of love and hugs.

    • Thank you Cheryl, you know what it’s like. At least we weren’t under a time crunch as you were, we had time to coordinate most schedules. As it was, two of my siblings weren’t with us.

      It is helpful to understanding how real it all is, but that makes it hard too. I know that Jesus was with us the whole day, and beyond too. How else do we get through it all? I’m so grateful for my brothers and sisters.

      Thank you for your kind offer to talk, and your cyber love too. I feel it.

  8. My mom has been gone for 12 years and I so often think of things I’d like to tell her, or ask her… My Dad is still living so we haven’t had to go through dealing with taking care of stuff, but I can only imagine how hard that is.
    I love the photo of you and your Dad. I’d say you were both blessed to have each other!

    • Hi Mari! I don’t think it matters how old we are when we lose a parent, it’s just hard. Thank you for your kind words about the photo, it’s one of my favorites. Actually, I was still using a walker at that time, it was about two months after my broken leg surgery.

      We were blessed to have each other, you are right about that. It was a great thing to live so close to him.

  9. Ceil, having lost my father, I can so relate to what you are going through right now. You are so right that no one “thing” can ever replace the person whom we miss. There is sadness, pain and tears when we least expect them, and our grieving continues despite knowing our loved one is in heaven.
    I pray God surrounds you with His love and comfort, my friend.

    • Thank you so much Martha. I know you understand. The tears and feelings just keep coming, and I really didn’t expect them to last this long. I guess it’s just a testament to how much I loved my dad.

      Thank you for your prayers, they are the most powerful thing in healing. May they continue to heal us both.

  10. Grief can never be timed as well as pain measured. Your love for your Dad in your grieving of his loss resonates today, here and now showing a heart that loves very deeply, as Christ calls us to love. I’m sorry for your loss Ceil. Suffering is definitely hard! It sounds like he lived life fully, and well, touching many and has passed that to you.

    • Hi Lynn! I know you’re right, and that my dad really did live a full life, full of love and family. His dedication to us and to his patients is what really lives on in me. I hope to mirror that love of life!

      Thank you for your supportive and prayerful words, I really appreciate them.
      Have a wonderful Monday,

  11. I’m so sorry, Ceil. I understand what a difficult day that was. It’s so hard to go through our parents’ stuff. It makes it so final and the grief so raw. And what are things when what we really want is the person? I love the photo of you and your dad. It does sound like you have some precious memories to treasure in your heart, and I’m so grateful for that. I wish I could pop in and give you a huge hug, my friend! May God give you strength for each day!

    • Hi Trudy! Thank you so much for your supportive words, I wish you were next door too.
      I do have really good memories of the last few years with my dad, it was a blessing to live close to him. But I think that’s why his death was so hard too. I’ll keep all of them in my heart, remembering most of all how important family was to him, and how he loved to see his children having fun.
      Thank you for your prayer especially. I know that God is with me.

  12. Dearest Ceil, My heart understands your loss and pain. Loved this touching tribute to your dad and to your siblings, going through all that surrounded him in his home-so hard. I remember that after we cleared out my dads belongings, it seemed like such a small house-just an empty shell. Time will ease the pain of grief, but it is then that it sneaks in unexpectedly and wallops us hard. I so remember hearing a Bing Crosby Christmas song that first year, while shopping in a store, and totally breaking down in sobs and having to run out. May His peace and comfort cover you in the coming days, months and years. Sending hugs and love your way.

    • Hi Noreen! This really is a universal experience, and hearing about your own feelings with the death of your dad helps me to see that. Thank you for being so generous with your memories.
      I wonder when I’ll be walloped? I’m not sure about Bing Crosby, but I’m sure it will be something that will trigger some sobs. I’m so sorry for your loss my friend, I know exactly what you are feeling.
      May God send both of us his peace, with assurances of his saving grace, holding both of our dads forever.

  13. “Grateful because the crater means someone made an impact.”

    Ceil, it took me a while to bring myself to read this one. It sat in my inbox waiting patiently. I know what you mean. I was the designated house-cleaner outer for my Dad. Fortunately, he was the opposite of a packrat and I had sensible boxes and file folders to go through. Not to mention his wonderful fiance who was keeping the things like furniture (all fairly new, our childhood things having long been distributed to us “kids.” That made it easier.) But as I packed…I have no words…like you said a crater that I had not fully seen the depth of until I was standing in it. It’s a milestone. A difficult thing. Life-changing. I think every platitude fits here. But it is supposed to be all of those things. Death changes us. We’re not really supposed to do this. It wasn’t the plan. So, we do it like this, with grief and memories that reappear whenever they choose, sometimes with a smile…sometimes not.

    Somehow packing those boxes helped me. Putting his paperwork in order helped me. Somehow.

    Peace to you, friend. It’s going to be okay.

    • Hi Sandi! Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. What really hit me was your saying “We’re not really supposed to do this.” Wow. That’s really something for me to meditate on. It rings so true and deep to me.

      I’m so glad that packing everything helped you put things in perspective, doing something like that alone would be very hard for me. As it was, I was confused a lot, and I had siblings with me! I suppose it helped me, but really, writing about it here was very cathartic.
      Thank you for letting me know that it’s going to be okay. I think it will too, it’s just going to take time… And maybe even then it will be hard, but I’ll be better adjusted.
      I so appreciate your thoughts here. I’ll be sitting with them later tonight…

  14. That is a great photo of you and your dad, and I can see how packing everything up in his house would make your loss even more real. The hope of heaven is comforting, but it doesn’t change the sense of loss now at missing a loved one. Praying for you and sending hugs!

    • Hi Lesley! I love that photo too, it brings back good memories of visiting my dad in Florida before his diagnosis. I had just gotten my walker, so I wasn’t getting around very well, but I wanted to be there for his birthday.

      Thank you so much for your prayers and hugs. I need those both, and I know they will help in the days and weeks ahead.

  15. Hi Ceil, Thank you for sharing this meaningful post. It’s never easy to go through the belongings loved ones leave behind. There are memories attached to “things”. Yes, people do leave holes in our lives when they pass away (simply move away/disappear from our lives). Oh what a glorious reunion we’ll have one day when we see friends and family that have already gone ahead of us.



    • Hi Kim! You bring up such a great point about the reunion in heaven when I die. I wonder what that will be like? I know I’ll see my father again then, and he’ll show me all the sights I’m sure. That is a good thing to hold on to when I’m feeling down.

      People do leave holes in our hearts…but I think my dad left a really big one in me.
      Blessings right back to you,

  16. Ceil, first accept my deepest sympathy for your loss As I shared before we just lost my father-in-law 4 July of this year. Kind of ironic the date he passed from death into eternal glory to be with my mom-in-law. He definitely gained his independence.

    The family met for the second time this past Saturday. As I read through your process when you met with your siblings I could TOTALLY relate! We’d already roughly gone through the house when we met the first time, but because winter is approaching us here in WV we wanted to come very close to the end of this job in one day. We started in the kitchen, going through cupboard by cupboard, and I thought I was going to need to step out on the deck for a bit. Here we were taring down or taking apart what Dad and Mom had spent their entire married life building together. My brother-in-law saw that I was having a hard time and came to me and reassured me that we would get through this.

    I just wanted you to know, Ceil, that I understand that ache in your heart that the crater has left behind. I will be praying for you.

    • Oh my gosh Diana, it sounds like we did exactly the same thing. It really is hard to see it all go…as you say, a lifetime of stuff, some of it so memorable, some of it not. But it gets awfully confusing and overwhelming, I really get it. Thank you for sharing your story, it really is a universal experience, isn’t it? We all go through it in differing ways, but we all have to do it.
      Thank you so much for your prayers my friend, you will have mine too. It’s going to take some time to absorb all of this, and come to peace with our craters. Knowing I’m not alone helps.

  17. I have to be honest, I could not finish reading after the “Anarchy” moment. 🙂 It brought a lump in my throat because I dread the day my mom will pass. With Dad gone, I know I still have one thread left.

    But know that I understand that empty hole, even if it is a little smaller than yours. I get it. And again, I pass along my deepest sympathies. Lots of loves and hugs!

    • Hi Patty! I understand your not being able to finish the post, it’s ok. It was hard for me to write too, but actually very therapeutic.

      Thank you for your words of sympathy and understanding. I’m so glad you still have your mom, and I know she comes down to visit you. I know she has as much fun with you as you have with her. May you have many days of making memories with her and your family!

  18. Your last line sums it up for me. We can never know the emptiness while they are still here with us. This is a tough cycle for sure. It was harder with my dad than my mom. I saw men that looked like him. I dreamed about him. And you’re right, the stuff doesn’t fill the crater. I took the photographs too. I found solace in my siblings, still do when I miss him. We joked this past week how he would have loved to see his Cubs playing right now. How faithful he followed, even at their worst games. May the Lord comfort you on the weepy days. Bless you.

    • Hi Mary! That has been my experience too, it’s harder with my dad. I think that’s because when my mom died, he needed us all so much. I didn’t really have much time to grieve for her.

      My dad was a big Cubs fan too. I have a photo of him listening to the TV in the hospital two days before he passed. It’s a great memory, and I hope the Cubs do him proud. But if they don’t…there’s always next year!
      What would we do without our siblings? Mine are a lifeline for me too.

  19. Hi, my dear friend!
    This post so touches my heart and takes me back to 1995 when each of my parents died exactly three months to the day apart. Your words reminded me especially of the long process I went through of going through all their things to prepare the house for sale. It was largely just my husband and me working at it since our adult children live hundreds of miles away and my mentally handicapped younger brother could do nothing to help. Each item I picked up seemed to have a story or a question. I still have not finished sorting out all the unlabeled photos I brought home with me!!! Love and hugs to you!!

    • Oh Pam, your experience sounds so much more pressing than mine. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to lose my parents within months of each other. What a shock…
      And to wade through all those memories by yourself would be very hard. Each thing having it’s own life, it’s own memory. Ugh. It’s so hard. We had piles of things that were so hard to part with, but really, no one wanted them. It’s not so much the ‘thing’, it’s the memory that’s attached to it that is hard to part with.
      Good luck with all those photos. I remember the frustration of not knowing who half the people were in my husband’s parents photos. They were unlabeled, and my husband didn’t know who they were either. Oh well.
      Love and hugs right back. Thank you for your generous comment,

  20. Dearest Ceil: Dismantling someone else’s home is difficult. I had to help my mother do my grandmother’s back in the 1980’s. I had to help my stepmother’s sister ‘do something’ with my stepmother’s clothes and personal items in 1998. In 2000, she came and helped Hubby and me go through my dad’s belongings just after we had to put him in a nursing home. It is never easy to do.

    * Please note, I changed my e-mail address.

    • Hi Cecelia! Wow, you’ve had a lot of experience in dismantling, yet I know it doesn’t really get much easier. It’s amazing how small things become so important, the memories are so fresh.

      What an impact our loved ones make on us…
      Thank you for your new email address.

  21. oh my so beautifully written and expressive. That last line – wow. Your words brought back memories of this exact same type of thing my brothers and I endured after mom died. I mostly remember the weight of fatigue as we went through the items. Guess I didn’t realize the heaviness of that task until I read your words. And amazingly, I am a person who doesn’t have a strong memory yet that is deeply engrained in me. One I won’t forget. My heart and prayers are with you, dear friend.

    • Hi Jean! Thank you so much for your comment about the post. I think this theme of losing and missing our parents really hits home with a lot of us.
      Going through everything with my family was truly tiring, overwhelming too. I think that’s why I was roaming around so much. What can possibly remind me of my dad or mom? Everything had a memory attached. I absolutely think you would remember that heaviness. So much going on inside of us.
      Thank you for your prayers my friend. I will take every single one.

  22. Oh my sweet friend, reading your post brought back memories from 2010 when my siblings and I had to do the same thing…one huge difference though…Mom was still with us, for as short a time as it was. You see, we had to sell her home in order for her to afford to be able to live out the rest of her days in a nursing home, something none of us ever wanted for her. All 8 of us kids sat around in the living room reminiscing with Mom about our life there and then like you, started going through the things, some of them already promised or intended to one or the other of us. It was definitely bittersweet and after we had gone through it all, took our final family photo on the front porch. The few items that I took are precious to me even though their value is quite minimal…but they are like treasures to me! I get great blessings from using these things as often as I can and whenever I do, sweet memories of my precious mother warm my heart. We never stop missing our parents after they are gone from this earth and yes, it does get easier with time and through the grace of our Lord.

    Prayers and big hugs to you, Ceil and thank you for sharing. ♥♥♥

    • Hi Debby! It sure does sound like we went through a lot of the same things. It really is a hard time, but precious too. It’s funny you should mention that the things that mean the most are little. I took one of my moms stainless pieces, a knife from her table set. Just the knife. I can’t explain it, but it really reminds me of my parents, I saw it many times when I was visiting, or setting the table for guests.

      Just the smallest things…they can be really big in our hearts.
      Thank you for sharing your experience with your dear mother. I’m sure finding a nursing home for her was not a fun thing, and nothing you would have even dreamed of ten or even five years before.
      May God bless us both in our memories and love for our parents,

  23. I’m sorry for your loss. MY heart goes out to you.
    Oct 1st market 8 years since my dad went to heaven… while I’ve made peace with it, I still miss him.
    You’re in my prayers.

    • Thank you TC, I appreciate your kind words.

      Maybe making peace with it is all we can hope to do. Nothing will fill that void, and that’s as it should be. No one can be my dad.
      Thank you for your prayers, that’s the best thing. You have mine too.

    • I know you understand the pain and hurt in loss, you’ve had your own burden of that in this past year. Grief is such a universal feeling, but it still hurts.

      I will pray for you as you continue to face your losses. God will be with us as we stumble to peace.

  24. I’m so sorry to stop by here so late after you had shared such a difficult experience. Oh my heart was just hurting with yours as you shared the difficult moments that no one ever wants to have to do..grieving is hard enough, but then having to sort through their possessions perhaps even harder. You have, once again, eloquently shared a moving post that was heartfelt and moving to the core. Praying for you dear friend, that the Lord will continue to comfort you, and heal your heart. Many hugs to you today!

    • Hi MM! Thank you for being here my friend, I appreciate your comment so much. You’re right, losing someone is hard, then sifting through their lives harder still. But I know everyone has to do it, so we are all bound together in knowing that sorrow.
      Thank you for your prayers, that’s what will help the most. Well, cyber hugs are nice too…
      Blessings and hugs to you too,

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