Death Mask

John KeatsWe also took a terra cotta bust (actually a death mask) of John Keats by arguably the best female sculptor of all time, Malvina Hoffman.  The Antiques Roadshow appraiser not only didn’t know who John Keats was, he tried to fake  it on his knowledge of Malvina Hoffman.  His face broadcast a puzzled look when we told him who the sculptor was.  When he asked us, “during what period did she do her work?”, we knew he hadn’t a clue.  Malvina Hoffman studied under Rodin.  So, while most of the appraisers impressed us favorably, not all the appraisers are experts.

Egyptian Figurine

I don’t know where my brother acquired the little figurine.  It was in a small wooden box.  The appraiser at the Antiques Road Show looked it over and told us it was from approximately 400-500 B.C.  Wow!  That was a surprise.  He told us it was a brass depiction of the Egyptian God of the underworld – Osiris (  I have no idea what to do with it.  I’m not crazy about keeping a brass image of the god of the underworld in the house.  Although it is not especially valuable, perhaps there’s a market for stuff like this somewhere.

Another item we took was an ugly oil painting of a lily pad and blossom on a black background.  It hung on my brother’s bedroom wall when he died (1987).  My brother, Nick, was an art dealer, among other things, specializing in Southwestern U.S. art.  This painting had no artist name on it and was in an ugly frame.  We could never understand why Nick had it, but we kept it all this time suspecting he knew something special about it.  The appraiser of that piece delicately told us it was a poor quality painting in a poor quality frame – not worth much of anything.  It was a little humorous.  We guess it must have been something his girlfriend painted or something he thought he needed to hang up.  Anyway, now we can dispose of the ugly thing!

Published in: on August 22, 2009 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Antiques Roadshow

What an experience!  It was way hot in Phoenix, but it was cool inside the convention center where the event occurred.  Once we got in the main hall, the fun began.  Lines!  Long lines.  After snaking our way through the main line into the event, we were assigned other lines to join – depending on the items we wanted to appraise.

We took four items: (1) a Terra Cotta bust of John Keats, (2) a painting that hung on my brother, Nick’s, wall when he died, (3) a ring Zoe’s grandmother gave to her Granddad back in the 1940’s, and (4) a small (approx. 4″ long) brass Eqyptian figure.  We had the little Egyptian appraised first, since that line was short.  More about that in the next post.

Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Processing My Grief

loss2To transform my unprocessed grief, I chose to plan a grieving ritual for each loss I have not fully grieved. First, I created a list of each loss in my life, listing the losses in chronological order from oldest to most recent. Under each loss, I listed the additional resultant losses. Then I verbally acknowledged the significance of the relationship and the impact its loss and the additional resultant losses had on my life. Simply beginning the process proved to be cathartic.

Next, I utilized the suggestions of Imber-Black and Roberts (1993) for creating a ritual:

  • Relating—acknowledging a significant relationship that impacted my life
  • Changing—acknowledging a transition or change in that relationship
  • Healing—being open to healing (or growth) over time
  • Believing—discovering “What I really believe”
  • Celebrating—honoring and celebrating the role and impact the former relationship had in my life (pp. 129-130).

Beginning with the first person on my list, my former brother-in-law, Glynn, I acknowledged each of the losses related to Glynn’s death and spoke aloud how they had impacted my life. I spent some time in silence, meditating on our relationship and the losses I sustained by Glynn’s death. Next, I invited healing to come into any voids those losses had created in my life. After silently pondering, then speaking what I believed about those losses, I chose a celebration ceremony to commemorate the losses. Even this small beginning produced a feeling of liberation.

Far from being free of the baggage of unprocessed grief, I now move to the next loss on my list. I know grieving is a journey, a process. Completion of the process for each of the losses on my list may take months or even years. I am in no hurry, but I will not procrastinate. I sense this process to be important to me as well as to my spouse, extended family, friends, and colleagues. I expect to be changed, transformed as a result of healthily grieving my unprocessed grief.

Fulghum, R. (1995). From beginning to end: The rituals of our lives. New York: Villard Books.

Imber-Black, E., & Roberts, J. (1993). Rituals for our times. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Jason Aronson Publishers.

Published in: on August 8, 2009 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rites of Passage

riteChange, loss, or death all involve leaving someone or something, passing across a threshold (the liminal stage), and going to a new place or situation. Therefore, most change needs to be grieved. This means not only leaving the old but entering the new. Robert Fulghum (1995) suggests a meaningful rite of passage helps with this transition. Rites of passage may include, but are not limited to, such things as:

  • A meal
  • A memory holding object of value (only to you)
  • Candles
  • Smells
  • Special utensils
  • Special dress (attire)
  • A blessing
  • Letter writing
  • Creating a memorial [plaque, pile of stones, a planted tree(s), etc.]
  • An outdoor activity (long hike, backpacking, camping, etc.)
  • Journaling or writing  memorial prose
  • Achieving something you never did before (in memory of the person, experience, or thing lost)
  • Creating a memorial piece of art or craft

Fulghum adds, “A successful rite of passage must leave room for the eloquence of silence” (p. 247).

Fulghum, R. (1995). From beginning to end: The rituals of our lives. New York: Villard Books.

Compound Loss

lossTo demonstrate the complications that a solitary loss creates, Deits (2004) recommends grievers write the name of their most recent loss at the top of a piece of paper. Using that as a heading, grievers are encouraged to list the additional things lost as a result of the primary loss and to make the list as complete as possible. Each loss usually causes a series of additional losses, and each additional loss may require grief work, possibly including a rite of passage.

Published in: on August 8, 2009 at 1:45 pm  Leave a Comment  



One type of grief frequently easily overlooked is pre-grieving. Pre-grieving can also ease the pain of a loss. When we know that a loss is coming, we sometimes pre-grieve it.  For example:

  1. knowing a geographical move is coming
  2. knowing a loved one has a terminal illness
  3. knowing a job will be terminated soon
  4. knowing foreclosure is coming

A couple of years ago my wife moved temporarily to Virginia to begin work on her doctorate. I fully supported this decision; we had discussed its pros and cons thoroughly. Providentially, we bumped into people who had successfully endured similar separation for a period of time (people with spouses in the military, for example). We knew we could do this. Still, the impending separation produced some pre-grieving in me. I went through all the stages mentioned above, most of them subconsciously. I knew I would miss not only her presence, but other things as well.

Published in: on August 6, 2009 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment