Your bowl of grief

Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher

“Everybody reacts different to something like this — some people cry buckets, other folks store it up inside. When someone you love dies, you get a big bowl of sadness put down in front of you, steaming hot. You can start eating it now, or you can let it get cool and eat it bit by it later on. Either way, you end up eating the whole thing. There’s really no way around it.”

I haven’t been able to get this bit of words out of my mind since it was shared with me…  It is so true. Every persons bowl will be different…different temperatures, different thicknesses.  And everyone will consume it in their own way, in their own time. Whether they sip, they slurp, or spill. You WILL eat the whole bowl, but how long will it take? Will you rush through it to get it over with?  We all know what happens when you eat too much too fast… when you take that route, you may end up eating your bowl over again, hopefully learning form your mistakes.  Will you designate a time and place or an amount that you will eat? And if so, will controlling your intake ever let you actually taste it? Or, your may be eating continuously and feeling like you never see a change in the amount you are consuming. At what point do you realize that when you are not moving forward, you wont have enough room in your bowl for other emotions.  No room for happiness, no room for giggles.  You could literally spend the rest of your days with that same bowl, never experiencing anything other than that same taste.

Aiden’s bowl is a small deep bowl. It looks very deceiving. He wants to savor each bite.  The circumference is small, but to look from the side, you can see the many layers.  Some smooth and understanding.  While others are chunky with big pockets of flavors.  He surprises me everyday with how deep his palette runs and how he explains the different tastes.  He loves to talk about and reminisce about his memories.  He knows how much soup is left in his bowl and he knows how far he has come. He has a burn from that initial bite, but he knows the mark that was left behind is a part of him… forever. When we first told this kids about Curren, Aiden immediately wanted to collect all of his favorite things.  He wanted to do something important for his baby brother.  So that he would have his prized possessions with him for all of time.

Isabella’s bowl is very fragile.  She is always angry at her bowl and pushes it aside when she wants too.  Her reactions are from one extreme to the other..  She can be completely devastated one moment and will pull her self together the next.  She was the first one to grasp what happened with Curren.  The first one to have her heart shattered.  I remember her seeing the fox interview and crying so so hard.  Then she ran, ran from her bowl and literally hid in the pantry.  We just saw her little toes peeking out of the crack at the bottom of the door.

Hayes has a translucent bowl.  It is crystal clear.  You see every emotion that little boy has.  He wears it proudly on his sleeve, for all to see. He has a very unique sweet broth.  I see  everyone sitting around the table looking into our own bowls, but we all inhale the healing aroma from his bowl.  I will never get the picture of Hayes eyes brimming with tears and wrapping his little hands around Jakes face and telling him… “Don’t cry, daddy. Curren is happy in heaven.  He will be in our hearts forever”, while carefully wiping his daddys tears away and leaving his own.  Or of the hugs he gives me when he can tell that I am sad.

Jake was served first out of the pot. Its piping hot and even after he suffers the pain of each bite, there will be that last inedible piece of bone that will be with him, that will always be there with him.  He seems to take tiny bites in secret, but carries the after taste with him at all times.   He doesn’t like to talk about his bowl and can be angry that he even has one. We were talking the other day about how much we missed the Joy and Happiness that Curren always had.  We were talking out the Halloween decorations and costumes and came across Currens costume from last year.  The stickiness was still there from the multiple lollyyyyys (lollipops).  Little things like that can make taking his bites even harder.

Finally we come to my bowl, which I see as a melting pot or meeting place for all of the other bites to come and play laugh or cry with.  It is mixed with all of the other flavors, but that bottom layer is a spicy bold bisque that is always there with me.  The spice is constantly reminding me to do more. Im always coming across a bit of flavor that can set me back. That little surprise that can be a complete delight or can taste horrible and bitter. I feel the action of Aidens bowl.  I taste the anger in Bellas.  I smell the healing aroma of Hayes’ and I understand the piece of bone at the bottom of the bowl in Jakes. Have you ever really thought about eating something you don’t care for?  I mean, can you pinpoint the reason? Is there an aftertaste that just does not sit well?  Or does a certain flavor bring you back to a point in your life that you wouldn’t want to revisit? Some times we have to swallow the bites that we dont like.  Whether it be holding your nose to bypass that taste or to suck it up and understand that you just need to do it.  This is the bowl that you have been given.  You need to taste and experience each bit of it, in your own way and your own time.  Some peoples bowl can look awfully similar, but magnify it and the differences will be astounding.

I can’t believe I just wrote over 1000 words about a bowl of soup! lol


  1. Deb Topka

    Once again you capture so many thoughts and feelings so well Jackie. I really appreciated your description of each family member’s bowl. Though Katie died before my other girls were born they each have a small bowl of the soup too. Jessie has said how she doesn’t like being the oldest and she wishes Katie were here to be her big sister. Each of the girls has mentioned her in school projects. She appears in those family trees, in spanish “Day of the Dead” projects and in drawings and stories. They imagine life with her though they life it without. I didn’t know that the grief Zak and I feel and the desire to keep her memory alive would end up giving them their own soup but it did. I think her loss became more clear to them when my grandmother died and when Curren died because they understand now what it is to loss someone you know. Keep sharing your journey…I know it is helping others as much as it helps you. HUGS!

  2. Sarah

    I understand this so well Jackie now that I also have my own bowl of grief. I drank hard and deep immediately after my father’s death but now life goes on and I take little sips here and there. Sometimes I try to forget about the bowl but then it is shoved in front of me at the worst times and I am forced to eat a little right then.

    This is so beautifully written. Your children are so beautiful. I am so sorry to think of the pain they have had to endure in their short little lives–the pain of losing a beloved little brother. It is so heartbreaking. But I am so glad they have a mom like you with whom they can safely grieve.

    I am dreading this Thanksgiving…this Christmas…a new year coming-a new year that will leave our loved ones behind. Do you feel this dread too?

    Much love to you Jackie!

    1. JackieCollas (Post author)

      I too worry about the holidays and memorable moments. Currens birthday was especially hard, but I definitely got knocked for a loop when we went to the pumpkin patch. I found my self staring at the pumpkins and almost seeing the shadows of him frolicking happily from past years. It was a really hard to be in the present without him. I could really feel the missing link. The “what ifs” roared to the surface that day. The wondering which pumpkin he would pick or which animal would be his favorite. Which new personality traits would be surfacing. I went home that day and decided to make a collage from previous “Pumpkin Patch” outings. As I went through the pictures, bawling my eyes out, I felt so incredible lucky to have all the pictures that I do. I remember an argument that Jake and I had last year at the haunted house/hayride that we brought the kids too. He was upset that I kept asking him to take pictures. he said that we are missing what is in front of us by stopping to take them. I had said, what happens when our memories fade? That these moments will be preserved, by taking the couple seconds to click that picture. I was so thankful that I didn’t give in and stop taking them.

  3. Derrick

    Stay strong!!

  4. Sanne Ottogreen Sejrbo

    Hi Jackie,

    This is beautifully written, and thank you for sharing with the rest of us. I came across your facebook page in memory of Curren at random, months ago, and have read just about everything you have decided to share. Your loss often makes me cry, because of the unfairness of it all, and the thought of why should this happen to anyone. In spite of how terrible this loss is, i am amazed at you and your family, there is so much love, and so much undestanding of eachother, and to put it mildly ( you all remind me of what is good in this world <3) Curren reminds me and my friends, and their friends to anchor our furniture and take the time to ensure our childrens safety in a world that doesn't always leave too much room to take that time. I think of Curren as a beautiful little boy who will always be part of an amazing family, and with his life and his story he is taking care of all the other beautiful little children in the world, and make sure that they are safe. Lots of love from Copenhagen

  5. Karen Lehr Lawley

    Jackie, your words are so beautiful. As your former writing teacher it makes me so proud and humbled to see you write with such eloquence, grace, and insight. Keep writing. It will help in your healing while honoring little Curren. I pray for you and your family every morning. Much love

  6. Rose

    Thank you for sharing your family’s story so that others know to protect their children.


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