The Comfort of Linking Objects

Giving away linking objects is part of my story. Linking objects are things that belong to the deceased person, such as a watch, a bread knife, woodworking tools, and more.

As soon as he died, I slipped John’s wedding ring on my finger. Wearing the ring made me feel like John was still with me. I touched the ring and remembered the years we shared. Wearing John’s ring comforts me every day.

Linking objects could comfort other family members. I gave John’s black leather medical bag with gold letters on the side that read, “C. John Hodgson, MD,” to my grandson. When my grandson looked at the contents of the bag, he said, “You don’t see these things anymore.” The bag contained a knee hammer, a dated stethoscope, and other medical tools. Looking inside the bag was looking at medical history.

Gifts to Next Generations

I gave my daughter the handcrafted mug John used to keep pencils and pens in when he was a child. The relief on the outside of the mug depicted the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

I also gave my daughter John’s winter Air Force coat. The coat was about forty years old, had a broken zipper, and needed to be drycleaned. My daughter wears her father’s coat when she plows snow. The coat keeps her warm and makes her feel close to her dad. She thought about having the coat cleaned but changed her mind. “I didn’t want to wash Dad off,” she explained.

I found more of John’s linking objects, including three NASA passes from the days when he was a flight surgeon at NASA Houston. Without the passes, John wouldn’t have been admitted to mission control. The passes were part of John’s history and our family history. This history needed to be shared. I gave a NASA pass to my daughter and the twins.

Linking Objects Keep Loved Ones Close

Breaking out of the grief bubble didn’t mean I forgot my loved ones. Every day, I thought about them and remembered them with “action memorials,” the words I used to explain my actions. The idea for the memorials came from Dr. Therese A. Rando, and I’m grateful for it. One way to keep a loved one in your life, Rando writes, is to identify with the person. “It is a way in which you can keep him with you.”

How could I keep my loved ones close? I thought about the qualities of the people I had just lost: my daughter, my father-in-law, my brother, the twins’ father, and John. Each one had special qualities, and I chose one quality that represented each of them. Helen’s humor. My father-in-law’s ethics. My brother’s love of reading. The twins’ father’s love of nature. John’s love of medicine.

Linking to a Daughter’s Laugh

In memory of my daughter, I decided to laugh more. The first laugh happened in a Twin Cites restaurant. A year after Helen died, John and I took our youngest daughter out to dinner. While we waited for our food to arrive, we swapped stories about our trip to London and the Isle of Man.

The stories became funnier and funnier, and our laughter got louder and louder, so loud I thought we’d be thrown out of the restaurant. I hadn’t laughed since Helen died, and my laughter was as rusty as an old hinge. As laughter poured out of my body, I said to myself, “Helen, these laughs are dedicated to you.”

Excerpted from Winning: A Story of Grief and Renewal: Hodgson MA, Harriet: 9781608082919: Books.

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Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit

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