The Residue

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult and challenging tasks. Losing a loved one to death taps every resource we have available – mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and relational. Learning to grieve and mourn in ways that foster healing, reconciliation and wellness stretch our limitations. This process is especially true around special times – Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and developmental milestones. Our capacity to cope is often pushed beyond measure.

Memories of our loved come from triggers in our environment. At other times we open our personal memory books on purpose. I have found that very often our memories find expression in one of two arenas. They come either as expressions of The Absence of Their Presence or conversely, as the Presence of Their Absence. Allow me to give a few examples of each.

  • The Absence of Their Presence occurs when:
    • We see their empty chair at the breakfast table.
    • We punch in their number on our phone to give them a call.
    • We expect to hear the garage door open at their usual arrival time home.
    • We look in the stands or audience to see if they are in their seat, watching us.
    • We roll over in bed expecting to feel their warmth in the middle of the night.
  • The Presence of Their Absence occurs when:
    • We find ourselves facing difficult financial decisions.
    • We awake in the middle of the night, burdened by distress or anxiety.
    • We sit alone in the early morning drinking coffee before the day begins.
    • We go on a drive or trip or eat at a favorite restaurant.
    • We feel the weight of challenges meant to be handled as a team.

So very often, these two types of experiences leave us feeling sad, lonely, angry or abandoned. I would like to propose an alternate way to remember our loved ones. I call it Embracing the Residue.

By definition, residue is “a small amount of something that remains after the main part has gone or been taken or used.” When we apply this concept of Embracing the Residue of our loved one, we are talking about exploring and remembering and employing all that they left behind, in and around us.

You see, the Residue of our loved one is spread in memories of their voice; in the values they followed; in the lessons they taught us; yes, even in the mistakes they made. The Residue of our loved one seeps into the crevices of our hearts, minds, souls, spirits. The Residue invites us to laugh and cry; to ponder and contemplate; to plan and act; to give and receive; to live and love. The Residue of our loved one resides in every part of our lives.

I encourage you to begin adding time in your life to Embrace and Explore the Residue of your loved one. Extract those lessons worth living, the advice worth following, the value worth sharing. I believe that as you pay attention to the Residue, your life and the lives of those you touch will be forever enhanced.


Mark E. Hundley, M.Ed., LPC-S


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