Lessons of Grief From A Clay Cup

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Loss can be mysterious and unexpected. In this case, I learned lessons of grief from a clay cup. Click here for audio version. 

It wasn’t just any cup. My 23-year old son who moved out to Seattle two years before gave me this treasured gift. The unglazed belly of the clay cup made my coffee vibrant with flavor. The handle fit my hand perfectly along with indention for my thumb at just the right angle. 

The artisan-crafted clay cup held depth of meaning in ways I didn’t realize.

It was a daily ritual to write in my prayer journal drinking from my clay cup with a lighted candle by my side. While on my front porch rocking chair these tangible items helped me meditate and pray. My heavenly Father and my long-distance son were invisible, yet present. I felt close to both.

At the time, my younger son was getting married and my daughter and granddaughter had just moved across the country.

Adult children moving or getting married is not an easy transition for any mom. Click To Tweet

And then, while in the kitchen, the unexpected happened. I was totally caught off guard. It was like a slow motion movie clip when each frame passed by in focused terror! My beloved cup fell off the crowded countertop and shattered onto the wood floor; gone in an instant. The shock made time stand still.

A nauseous pit in my stomach screamed out. An uncontrollable floodgate poured out of my red splotchy face. My husband picked up the pieces to assess it’s fixability.

Nothing could be done.

My tears wouldn’t stop.

I woke the next morning missing my cup. The uncontrollable tears and gut-wrenching feelings came in waves like an ocean tide. It lingered for several days.

This is crazy, I thought. It was just a clay cup. Why am I reacting like this? What is wrong?

I scheduled a counseling appointment with my therapist.

She encouraged me to make a mosaic out of the shattered pieces. Although I’d never be able to drink out of it, I could make it a piece of art; something new and beautiful. 

My therapist helped me identify the meanings I attached to that clay cup. She helped me gain focus to my loss. I became more aware of what I was really grieving.   

Here’s what I’m learning about grief.

  1. Grief is universal and unique. We all experience loss and we are all affected by it. Loss is not only the death of a loved one. It’s the death of a relationship, a season of life, a dream, or an attachment.
  2. Grief is meant to be felt. Willingness to feel the sadness and cry the tears makes us more whole as human beings. Feeling depth of loss gives us capacity to live and feel fullness of joy. Click To Tweet
  3. Grief is necessary. It tunes us into the value of our relationships. It gives us clarity. It helps us let go and make something beautiful where sorrow existed.
  4. Grief has meaning. When we take time to face our loss and pain, we gain clarity. We appreciate others more. We’re able to hold the preciousness of “now”.

It’s been three years since the initial sting of my shattered cup. Waves of grief settled and joy came back. I can live in the “now” and embrace the emerging adulthood of my children. I enjoy this “empty nest” stage of life with my husband. It feels free and full.

My husband and I make our trips across the country visiting my long-distance children, cherishing the time we have. Tears still flow with our “good-byes.”

I now drink from another clay cup with more awareness. Whether it’s loved ones, relationships, seasons, or dreams; all are meant to transition and grow. Be thankful for now.

Questions to Ponder

What are you learning about grief?

What are things that hold meaning for you?

How has a loss become something new and beautiful?


About The Author

Judy Herman

Judy Herman helps leaders and families create connection beyond conflict through her counseling practice. She writes and speaks about how relationship messes are divine invitations for growing your true self.


  • Robert A. Phillips

    Reply Reply August 30, 2016

    Judy, You put a lot of emotions and meaning into the clay cup. I see the changes in our lives as writing another chapter in the book of life. You have the talant to put it into words. Beautifully described. Thank you for the insight. Barb Phillips

  • Robert A. Phillips

    Reply Reply August 30, 2016

    Wow great work Judy.

  • Nickole Moore

    Reply Reply August 30, 2016

    I have a special mug that I used as a meditation piece for a while. These symbols are rich in our lives. Thanks for making it tangible for us.

    • Judy Herman

      Reply Reply August 30, 2016

      Ah, you’re a woman after my own heart! Thanks for commenting, Nickole.

  • Carol Martin

    Reply Reply August 30, 2016

    I loved this Judy. Reading this allowed me to understand that I have been grieving over the “loss” of my grandson, my first grandchild, that used to love grandma as much as grandma loved him. When I was away he would ask his mom daily when I was returning. I was greeted by a “Grandma!” and a run into my arms when I returned. We played games and read books. So fun and so fulfilling. Then one day like Jackie Paper he went away; he grew to a big boy. At ten there is not much interest in Grandma. I know this is common and to be expected but I am grieving nonetheless.

    • Judy Herman

      Reply Reply August 30, 2016

      I’m not at that stage yet since my oldest grand child is 7. Your insight is preparing me to enjoy the “now.” We see the ebb and flow of relationships. I’m sure that bond you have with your grandson will always be special for him in his emerging adulthood. Yes, we grieve the loss of those little ones. Thanks for sharing, Carol. Your words resonate with me!

  • S Adams

    Reply Reply September 1, 2016

    Good story. Thank you for sharing. Grief leads us to sympathy and empathy. It’s similar to homesick feelings. Grief can be hidden or exposed. Healthy grief is sharing with a close friend or family. Grief can cycle through emotions: angry, sad, confused and frustrated

    • Judy Herman

      Reply Reply September 1, 2016

      Thanks for your insight! Yes, we can relate to those homesick feelings!

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