Love, Loss, and Letting Go 

“It is often said that a human being is remembered until the last time someone speaks his or her name. We are ephemeral creatures alighting briefly on the earth, all of us careening in the same direction. We leave behind all that we once were and become – what? Air? Sky? Stars? Do our souls, the essence of our being, travel in swirling patterns of light and color in the corners of the universe we cannot comprehend, only to circle back and touch others lightly in the heart?”

  • Excerpt from Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go 

 Love, loss, and letting go …  are they separate or continuous and connected like the waters of rivers and streams flowing to the sea?  Air, sky, and stars are inseparable in the vast cosmos we gaze up at. Love, loss, and letting go are joined in a eternal dance with one another. 

When we love we become attached, we put down roots in a relationship, and our lives intertwine, deepening with time. Accepting one another for who we are, not some imagined fantasy, we grow strong in the relationship we create together. Love is bringing in, being close, taking the risk to open our hearts to another’s heart.  We take the chance to become close knowing all the while the losses that will eventually come and take us away from all that we have known and loved. Yet, it is these roots, when deep, that hold us through the ravages of grief, through the darkness of winter, throughout the long nights into a new day. 

 Loss is the inevitable price we pay for being alive. Still, loss will take us to the outermost realms of our souls and into a timeless, unrecognizable territory. A kind of wildness comes over us in the torrents of grief that wash over us.  How do we feel someone after they are no longer with us? Sometimes a familiar voice in our heads, a light touch on the shoulder that has us turn around half-expecting to see the person. We still carry them within the weave of our being, we feel the roots ourselves even though the person is no longer with us. In this way, love hasn’t disappeared, it has just transformed into new, unexplored dimensions. We speak their names, remember them as we knew them, all the while wondering how they have transformed.  We wish that they were here to see how we’ve transformed …

Letting go changes with time. There is a metamorphosis of the experience of loss. Thoughts and feelings show up in surprising moments in unexpected ways. Letting go isn’t the end of love, it doesn’t signal the forgetting of loss, it’s just the inevitable movement forward in our lives. We might want to hold on so as to keep our losses close to us but that’s not the nature of life. Time does not stop, the world goes on.  There can be expectations, both from others and ourselves, that loss gets easier with time. There can be a pressure to “get over it” or “aren’t you through this by now?” This is simply the discomfort of those who do not understand the layers of grieving and letting go. We whirl around in a dizzying dance from darkness to light and then light to darkness and back again, our lives explode but we are carried along regardless of our limited ideas and plans. The shadows of the departed continue to visit our dreams. Grief has no finish line, no real conclusions. We get dealt a hand we didn’t want and have to play the cards we’re dealt, you gotta play it as it lays. In the end, playing your hand and going on is something you do because it’s the right thing to do, even when you don’t feel like it. Maybe especially when you don’t feel like it. You change, your grief changes, your life changes, and still you continue.

“In an inner world so full of sorrow and uncertainty, there are small triumphs of healing; these are the wings that carry us until we find a place to land.”

  • Excerpt from Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go 

Small triumphs of healing occur in the moments of our lives when we are truly present within ourselves. Meditation, visualization, expressive arts, movement, time in nature are just some of the ways in which we can bring ourselves into the present. Being with friends and family rather than isolating ourselves provides contact and comfort. Giving to others opens up our hearts allowing us to experience purpose and meaning. Healing doesn’t have to be complicated. Indeed, simplicity may be exactly what we are needing.  When we discover, explore, and honor the small triumphs of healing, we allow ourselves the space to lean into our own authentic experience of love, loss, and letting go. We find solace and a depth of understanding that brings us to a deeper place of balance and peace within ourselves.  

Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go begins with the sudden death of Cheryl Krauter’s spouse. Five months later, in a stroke of irony and magic, her husband wins a long-desired guided fly fishing trip in a raffle―and Cheryl decides to go in his place, fulfilling a promise to scatter his ashes by a trout stream.
Part I of this memoir is an account of the first year after Cheryl’s husband’s death, where she becomes an explorer in the infinite stream of grief and loss, a time traveler between the darkness of sorrow and the light of daily life. Part II concludes with stories of the poignant and humorous adventures she had during the ensuing year. Tying it all together and woven throughout is Cheryl’s account of the creation of an altar assembled during the three-day ritual of Los Días de los Muertos.
Poetic and mythological, Odyssey of Ashes is a raw story of loss and the deep transformation that traveling through darkness and returning to light can bring.

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or order from your local independent bookstore 

Cheryl Krauter, MFT an Existential Humanistic psychotherapist with over 40 years of experience in the field of depth psychology and human consciousness. With her background in theater arts, working with performing artists, visual artists and creative people has inspired her. She works with people who have been diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, their partners, family members, and caregivers. She has published two books: Surviving the Storm: A Workbook for Telling Your Cancer Story (Oxford University Press 2017) and Psychosocial Care of Cancer Survivors: A Clinician’s Guide and Workbook for Providing Wholehearted Care (Oxford University Press 2018).  Her book Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go (She Writes Press 2021) was released on July 20, 2021.