Lesson 3 of 7 - learn how to grieve well


A Tangible-loss Inventory

What prized physical things
are gone from your life?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/grief/physical.htm

Updated  01-19-2015

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      This is one of a series of articles supporting Lesson 3 in the Break the Cycle! self-improvement course. This lesson aims to educate readers to healthy grieving basics so they can spot and complete unfinished mourning of major losses.  

      Many unaware adults and most (all?) kids associate "loss" and "brief" with death. The reality is that we all form strong bonds to many physical and invisible things across our lives. When those bonds break, we need to grieve.

      This loss-inventory assumes you're familiar with...

  Purposes - This worksheet aims to help adults and older children:

  • Identify the specific tangible (physical) things they've lost,

  • Identify how the losses occurred, and...

  • Judge whether these losses have been, or are being, well mourned.

      Here a loss is a broken psychological bond with (attachment to) something of value. That is, a loss is a mental, psychological, and perhaps spiritual reaction to some precious thing, relationship, activity, dream, or situation that will never be experienced in the same way again.


  • Decide if your true Self is directing your personality. If not...

    • expect skewed results from this loss inventory, and...

    • decide if you're ready to use Lesson 1 to free your Self to guide your other talented subselves. If so, begin.

  • Print one or more copies of this inventory, and have extra paper and a pen on hand

  • Get in a quiet, undistracted place, and allot plenty of time to meditate as you fill this worksheet out,

  • Remind yourself that healthy grief helps you accept many kinds of loss, not just death; and...

  • Expect to learn something useful from doing this.


Make notes or symbols on this worksheet, and add items to fit your unique situation as you go. Note comments or feelings, and hilight with colored markers. Make this inventory work for you!

When you're done, go back and rank-order the most impactful losses (e.g. "1" = most impactful, "2" = next, etc.). Alternatively, asterisk or circle the most significant losses without ranking.

Before using the inventory below, pause and reflect on your life. Identify the most important physical things you've lost across the years, starting with childhood.

Use a copy of this inventory to guess what precious physical things another person (like a child, mate, or parent) has lost.

      One value of these two inventories is in becoming aware of how many things you or another person has lost. Another is becoming more aware of how you or they have reacted to those losses. So - get quiet, take your time, and note your significant physical losses (broken bonds).


  Pick a starting point - e.g. early childhood or a key change in your life.

      Choose a non-distracted time and place, and allot at least 30" to do this exercise. Print this worksheet, or make your own.

      In the Loss column, circle, hilight, and name the cherished physical things you've lost.

      In the "Lost How" column, use a symbol for what caused your physical loss - e.g.

"G" for growing up

"L" for leaving home

"M" for marriage

"Co" for cohabiting

"R" for a relocation

"B" for child-conception
and birth

"D" for separation or divorce

"H" for illness

"X" for death

"N" for natural disaster

"O" for other reasons. 

      Get clear on your criteria for judging if grief is "done." One way to judge this is whether the person demonstrates (vs. says) they have genuinely accepted a loss on mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. Incomplete acceptance causes behavioral clues like these.

      Use your criteria to decide if you have (or someone else has) grieved each loss "well enough," and put "Y(es)," "No," or "?" in the Grieved Enough? column for each tangible loss.      

      If useful, fill out copies of this inventory for each major life event that caused significant physical loss/es for you or another person

      Note that significant life changes don't necessarily cause losses (broken bonds) - and all losses result from major life changes.

My (or someone's) Tangible Losses

How Lost?

Grieved enough?

1) My home (for ____ years)


2) My own bedroom / bathroom / closet / bed / bureau / phone / window / desk / chair / rug / sheets / towels /  My den / workshop / study / cottage / tree house / garage / rec. room / lake / studio / tools / fort / hideaway /




3) My kitchen / microwave / plates / dishes / silverware / counter space / freezer / cupboard / space / pantry /




4) My garden / patio / fireplace / attic / basement / nook / tree(s) / swing / porch / skylight / hot tub /




5) Special furniture (what? )



musical instruments



6)  My neighborhood / church / school / library / yard / park / pool / gym / office / path / shoreline / view /




7)  My favorite restaurant / theater / cleaners / store / pet store / grocery / deli / bakery / beauty shop / laundry /




8)  My pet/s, named _______________________ (for ____ years)




9)  My car / van / camper / cycle / camp gear / stereo / camera / piano / TV / boat / computer /




10)  Special mementos: pictures, jewelry, decorations, keepsakes, ornaments (what?) / 




11) Other key physical things I've lost:




Notes / Thoughts





      Pause and reflect: what are you aware of now? What did you learn from this exercise? Is there someone else - like a child or mate - you'd like to inventory and/or discuss this with?

      Recall: the purpose of these two Lesson-3 inventories is to...

  • raise your family adults' awareness of major losses (broken bonds), and...

  • help you decide whether grieving each loss is "complete enough," and if not...

  • motivate you and other family members to study and apply Lessons 1 thru 3.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect: why did you read or fill out this inventory - what did you need? If you got what you needed, what do you need to do now? If you didn't, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise resident true Self, or ''someone else''?

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