Exploring Grief & Possessions: A Conversation with Charlene Lam

interviews Aug 20, 2023
Exploring Grief & Possessions: A Conversation with Charlene Lam

Grieve Leave founder, Rebecca Feinglos, recently sat down for a conversation with Charlene Lam, Certified Grief Coach and the Curator of The Grief Gallery (@curating_grief), on Instagram Live — and it was the therapy session none of us knew we needed! In case you missed it, you can catch the replay of this conversation on our Instagram. Don't forget to give us a follow while you're there!


Our conversation with Charlene took us into the world of dealing with the tangible when that intangible grief hits us. We delved into the emotional layers tied to the possessions left behind after a loss—whether it's the belongings of a deceased parent or the earrings gifted by an ex-partner three years ago. Our exploration unveiled the influence these items can have on our thoughts and emotions.

To watch the complete interview, check it out HERE and read three of our favorite takeaways from the conversation below:

“Generations before us, who have experienced [poverty and great scarcity], that kind of desperation, how they relate to stuff will be very different.”


Charlene highlighted the generational divide in our approach to cherished possessions, reminding us that significance is often subjective. What might seem trivial to one person could hold deep sentimental value to another, shaped by their personal history. Rebecca shared her late grandmother’s experience surviving WWII was probably the reason she found so many pairs of pantyhose hidden throughout her house—while her nana saw these items with emotional attachment, it’s OK that Rebecca did not.  It's crucial to bear in mind these different perspectives when sorting through the belongings of our deceased loved ones.


“[Do I want to keep this item] because it represents a past version or a vision of me? Is it something that I see carrying forward, taking up space in my future life, in my current life? I can see that same kind of curatorial question applying to anything. What is the role that this object plays in my life now? What’s the role that I want it to play in my life moving forward?”


In moments of grief, whether from the loss of a person or something else significant, we often find comfort in holding onto objects that link us to them or to happier times. Yet, it's important to stop and reflect: are these possessions helping me, or holding me back? Taking the time to confront these emotions is vital, allowing us to decide the role these items play in our lives. You may end up keeping that pair of earrings from three years ago, or you might realize that letting go of this item is a step toward your personal growth!


"When we talk about things taking up space, usually we're talking about physical space. There's volume, there's dimension, there's weight. But there's also emotional space, and things that take up head space."


It’s not just physical objects that take up space: there is a digital footprint of our losses, too. Charlene illuminates the importance of recognizing the space that these digital items might take up in our thoughts and feelings, even if physical space isn’t constrained. Are those thoughts and feelings comforting, or is it time to make some mental space for the stuff that really matters?


Our conversation with Charlene serves as a reminder of the significance of acknowledging grief within the context of possessions and memories. Sometimes, we might cling to every reminder of what's gone, while other times, we might want to push it all away. No matter how we choose to handle these memory-filled objects, take the time to pause and let yourself feel.


To stay connected with Charlene Lam, explore her work as a Certified Grief Coach and the creative force behind The Grief Gallery!


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