Getting over losing a prized posession
December 6, 2018 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I lost something of great sentimental value to me, and I'm quite sure I'm never going to be able to find it. How do I train my brain to understand that's it's not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things?

A few weeks back, I lost my most prized possession. What it is probably isn't relevant to the question, but if you're curious: A David Bowie concert ticket from when I saw him live. I had the concert poster framed with a really crappy plastic frame, the bottom part of which fell off and caused the ticket I'd placed inside to slip out. My boyfriend and I planned to reframe the poster, and in the meantime, we placed the ticket in a "safe spot that we'd be sure to remember."

You can guess how that went: Fast-forward a week or two later, and sure enough, neither of us have a clue as to where that safe spot actually was. We both agree that it was probably my wallet, but it's not there now. We've torn apart our apartment inside and out, but we haven't had any luck. My mother lost a folder containing some of my old Kindergarten school works around the same time, and everything I told her to console her didn't mitigate the distress that losing it caused. I understand why a bit better now. Losing that ticket is bothering me more than what I feel is reasonable, and I can't seem to shut it off.

To get to my question: Let's assume it's lost to the ages. What coping mechanisms could you recommend for me to get over it? If you've lost a physical object that had great value to you, what perspective helped you realize that it's not that big a deal, or at least put a less-negative spin on it? Existential "the world has so much real suffering within it" type thinking hasn't been a very effective salve; it just makes me feel selfish for worrying over it (which, to be fair, is probably valid). I would love to know if the hive mind has has had any better luck navigating something this silly before.
posted by kryptondog to Religion & Philosophy (39 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Accept that you feel bad, and that feeling is legitimate. That was your prized possession! It is ok to mourn that loss.
posted by triscuit at 9:22 AM on December 6, 2018 [17 favorites]

I lose things a lot, and for me the way to deal with this best is to diagnose the reason that item was so important to me. It's never really just the thing, it's the memories that it brings back, times in your life lost that can't be regained. I lost something of my grandmother's recently, just a silly note that she had sent me, but it really caused me great pain. Why is the thing valuable? Is there some grief there that you haven't addressed, or any self-care you can work on that will help you to move forward?

Also for me, and this might be different for you, but when I lose things, I get very angry at myself, because I see it as a personal failing. I was stupid, careless, and not paying attention. But no one can be perfect, and sometimes things just get lost. It doesn't reflect badly on you, or mean that you're not smart, careful and good at keeping up with your life. Don't try and look outward here, and diminish your feelings - there can be a lot of emotional stuff that happens when you lose a part of your memories. It's not silly or selfish, but it can be a good time for introspection and healing.
posted by backwards compatible at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

Speaking as someone who had a computer mishap which wiped out tons of drafts of writing from ten years of life - this isn't "silly". And in fact, I think that going ahead and giving yourself permission to be upset will help. Telling yourself that you shouldn't may paradoxically be delaying you - this may be an "the only way out is through" situation, and trying to suppress those feelings is making them dig in and stay.

Feel sad that you lost this. That will burn the sad up and you will move on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on December 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

We’re far more likely to misplace, lose, damage, have stolen, give away, etc. a prized possession that also happens to be a small piece of paper than not. It might be a concert ticket or a photograph or whatever but regardless the unusual scenario would be that you managed to hang onto it for the rest of your life. The loss you’re feeling now was closer to being inevitable than it wasn’t and there’s a good chance this would have happened no matter what you did save for maybe locking it in bank vault or something equally drastic and inaccessible.

Let yourself grieve for this the way you would for a person or a pet or anything else in your life that was never going to be there forever.
posted by griphus at 9:27 AM on December 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

I literally dropped my wedding ring down a sewer.

Accept that the ticket is gone and give yourself some time, and eventually there will just be a pang when you think of it. But you need both acceptance and time.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:29 AM on December 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

Take a moment and write out all the memories and feeling associated with the ticket.
Maybe draw a little picture of you with the ticket on the day you got it and, maybe another picture of you, today, remembering that special day.
If you want, print out the memories and put the memories and the drawing in an envelop that you tape to the back of the poster.
It's not the same, not trying to be, but just a way of respecting what was lost before you try to move forward.
posted by metahawk at 9:31 AM on December 6, 2018 [21 favorites]

I was just listening to a podcast about acceptance. The one thing that they talked about was, if you can’t accept, adapt. Somehow that shifted things for me quite a bit. To adapt to life without the ticket rather than accept life without the ticket. It’s kind of a mini step that eases you into eventual acceptance, so you don’t have to force acceptance before you are ready.
posted by MountainDaisy at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

This is probably the opposite of what you are supposed to do, but when I lose something and can't stop thinking about it I buy myself some kind of new "treat" that replaces the old thing in some way. I wonder if there is some piece of Bowie memorabilia on ebay or something that could help get you over this. (I know it is probably terrible to use consumerism to avoid feelings of loss, but I pick my battles.)
posted by Mid at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

It was always lost.
“You see this goblet?” asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. “For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”
For me, it was a cheap yellow repurposed cassette tape that a close friend had used to record a mix tape. I must have played it hundreds of times during one of the toughest years of my life, and I can still imagine the tape hiss and flutter and recording noises before and between the songs. I left it at work one night like I had many times before, the next day the door was chained and padlocked. I got stiffed on a week's pay, got my knife set and whites back eventually, but the cassette was never seen again.

It was in my life for about two years, and I actually grieved its loss without understanding why. Years later, I read the above meditation, and it clicked into place. That two year period is in the past, and there, the tape will never be lost. And I'm free to remember how much that physical object meant to me, while living here in the present.
posted by disconnect at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2018 [165 favorites]

I would deal with it by recreating it in photoshop, using whatever references I could find, and having it professionally printed. Probably not what you're looking for, but that's 100% that's what I would do.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 9:50 AM on December 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Perhaps this quote from Vladimir Nabokov can console you:

"The lost glove is happy."
posted by Desertshore at 9:52 AM on December 6, 2018 [21 favorites]

For me it was a ring my father gave me that I put in a pocket somewhere and maybe it fell out and maybe it is still in a pocket somewhere. I wrote a little story about it for a series a friend was doing about Lost Objects. There are some other great stories there. Maybe one of them would prompt you for a direction that will work for you. I do try to photograph some of my favorite current significant objects, in case one day they return to their lost state (i really like that idea by the way "It was always lost")
posted by jessamyn at 10:07 AM on December 6, 2018 [10 favorites]

I lost a huge number of possessions I loved deeply--nearly everything I owned--that people had given to me or that I had other profound attachments to, things I'd had for years or practically my whole life, in a bad breakup several years ago. I could almost be sort of okay about if I knew some of the stuff was out there somewhere making someone else happy but as far as I know it all ended up in the trash.

It was devastating. It's okay to feel awful and devastated about it. I haven't gotten over it, in the same way I haven't gotten over the death of people I love--it's a loss, and a part of me will always feel sad about it. I can't let myself dwell on it because it's too overwhelming. I have coped with it by focusing on valuing what I have now, attaching new memories to new possessions, and reminding myself that there's nothing unique about my situation; people lose everything in fires, or because they have to flee their homes during a war, or whatever. (I know you said "the world has so much real suffering" thinking doesn't help you, which I get, but it might help to think that you're not alone in this?)

I dunno. It sucks. It's okay to feel like it sucks! I think you might be working it harder to get over by telling yourself it's silly. I don't think it's silly.
posted by tiger tiger at 10:25 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

This is a low-stakes opportunity to practice acceptance of conditions that you don't prefer, feeling those feelings and then moving on.
posted by bleep at 10:28 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mother-in-law lost a generations-old heirloom in a burglary. We suggested that she write the story of that object, its meaning and its journey. She did, and emailed the story to family. I don’t know if she realizes, but with that story, she gave me the gift of some important family history that I didn’t know.
posted by the_blizz at 10:31 AM on December 6, 2018 [12 favorites]

Also, in these situations, I tend to remind myself of some worse things that didn’t happen. This is not an exercise in counting my blessings, because eff that, but rather a celebration of pain avoidance.
posted by the_blizz at 10:38 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your concert ticket is now part of a collective of lost artifacts. All of the best things in this world are now, or will be lost. Wherever the ticket is, it is in a place of honor. Better, it has been lost when it can yet be missed. If you had held on to it to the end of your life, what would have happened to it? Sooner or later it would have been tossed out by somebody who didn't care what it was.

Seriously, go down a Wikipedia hole of legendary treasures, cultural artifacts, prized relics, etc. Most of them were looted, destroyed, melted down, abandoned. The ones now in museums? Their day will come. For an inanimate object, your ticket is in the best of company.

Recreate the concert setlist on Spotify or something and pour one out for your ticket, for David Bowie, and for all lost things everywhere.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:49 AM on December 6, 2018 [10 favorites]

I found a horseshoe once when I was hiking. I am not particularly prone to believing it held luck, but I had it over doorways in several homes, but lost it in a recent move. I specifically remember taking it down in my last home, and now ... it's gone to the aether.

Losing things like this is grief. I think there are only few items that ever actually achieve this level of value to us; the "why" doesn't matter, they just do. Grieving is a process. As to "what to do", like with other grief, you just have to give it time, and the feelings slowly recede, but they don't fade entirely.
posted by annabear at 10:54 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I lost 20 years of my own diaries and sketchbooks in a flood. That was a long time ago and I still feel the pangs. I dearly wish I still had those books!

My way of coping is to think of all the objects that I currently have in my possession -- things that I love. My Mom's jewelry, my trusty old car, cooking equipment, souvenirs, gifts from friends. It's really the good old "gratitude list". This is what I have now, and I am blessed.
posted by valannc at 11:00 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Think about why it was special to you. Maybe looking at it made you feel happy because it reminded you of the concert, which was a special experience for you. The ticket itself was incidental to the experience. That experience is not negated by the loss of the ticket; it is still a real thing that happened and you still remember it. You can lose all the objects you've ever had and still have that memory.

Maybe writing down what the ticket meant to you would help you feel connected to the experience again.
posted by beandip at 11:07 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I view lost things as a trade with the universe. I have given this thing up, and by letting go of it as gracefully as possible, I am giving the universe space to bring something else into my life. Being anxious or worked up over the lost object means that it will be harder for me to find or accept what the replacement will be. Does the universe really work like this? I have no idea, but it definitely helps me maintain perspective and cultivate optimism.
posted by August Fury at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2018 [19 favorites]

This answer assumes things about you that may not be true, and is not something I imagine I'd do, but you could get a tattoo of it. I say this because it is, in effect, a two dimensional image. Barring very unusual circumstances, it would be a way to carry it with you the rest of your life. Anyway, I feel your pain. I'm very sentimental about certain objects and actively fear losing them.
posted by Smearcase at 11:23 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would draw a picture of it and frame it, or spend some time telling someone about why you loved the concert. I remember once taking a roll of film on a trip, rather than using a digital camera, and then accidentally exposing the film and losing all of the pictures. When I got back, I described the images, as I remembered them, to a friend. It was actually a great experience and ended up meaning more to me than the photos themselves.
posted by pinochiette at 11:44 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

The ticket is not who you are. If you are using it to enhance yourself in some way this is why you are suffering.

On your deathbed, and presently, you will know that you once attended a David Bowie concert. Nothing true can be destroyed. A piece of paper does nothing to enhance or diminish who you truly are, or your memories. Who are you with or without the ticket or attending a concert? The same person.
posted by loveandhappiness at 11:48 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

You didn't lose a thing, you misplaced a trigger -- an object that reminds you of an experience. But the experience is still as fresh as it was last month, right? You still remember buying the ticket, and getting ready for the concert, and seeing David Bowie on the stage, and going somewhere after the show, and the sound of the ringing in your ears and the smell of the sweat and the taste of the drink and the rasp of your throat the next day? Did you think about all that every now and then when you saw the ticket?

Draw the ticket. Photoshop a duplicate. Hell, write "Ceci n'est pas une billet de Bowie." on a napkin, and put that in the frame. And then, not only will you remember the sound and the smell and the taste and the rasp, but you'll get to remember looking for it with someone you love and the bitter tang of thinking you'd lost something, and the relief when you remembered that you still have that concert, as much as anyone in the world -- more than anyone in the world, because no one else was standing right where you were.

You didn't lose a thing.
posted by Etrigan at 12:02 PM on December 6, 2018 [42 favorites]

The series finale of Adventure Time dealt with this feeling, there’s a song about how what happened in the past is always happening back then.
posted by rikschell at 12:09 PM on December 6, 2018

The MOST PRECIOUS THING I ever lost was the handwritten diary my mother kept the first three years of my life. The loss was 75% my husband's fault and 25% mine. I'm fortunate that I read it so many times that I can quote much of it and see her writing in my mind's eye (her handwriting itself often conveyed her mood). She wrote about the day the U.S. landed on the moon and what my reaction to that was as a very young toddler. She wrote about missing my dad when he traveled for work. She wrote about me saying "shit" as a toddler in line at church to shake the pastor's hand when I dropped my Sunday school papers. "I wonder where she heard, THAT, Martha?" her friend asked. I heard it when my mom dropped a glass jar of mayonnaise in the kitchen earlier that week and the mayo and glass went everywhere. So many wonderful handwritten memories, gone. GONE. GONE!! I was so angry. It took a long time for me to forgive my husband and I still cry a little inside when I think about it. What gives me comfort is the memories. Hopefully, you'll take comfort in the same over time. (((Hugs)))
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:11 PM on December 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

Everything will be lost.

Your childhood is lost. Your great-grandmother is lost. The blue coat you wore when you were a teenager, that you have forgotten about completely, but will remember suddenly with an astonished pang of love when you see it in a photograph; that too is lost. Your father's toys are lost, the trust you had in someone you thought could protect you is lost, the pleasure you used to take in cheap candy is lost.

You will lose everything you have. The small things, like the mug you like to drink out of, the bus route that will be changed so you can no longer easily get to the mall with the good store, the woman you are used to seeing on the corner will one morning no longer be there, the hinge will break, your toenails will grow thick and yellow, you will realise with horror that loosing the people who are now old will be nothing to the pain of losing the people behind you who are now young. You will one day, if you are lucky, have a body that will never be free of minor pain, and never be able to lift your arms freely above your head again.

It happens every winter. Snow will cover the grass and there will be no more green. And then Spring will come and the medieval poet looks back at his life and cries, "Ou sont les neige d'antan!"

Everything will be lost and this is unbearable and this is good.

Anything that is permanent is hard to love. Things that we can take for granted are hard to love. If you never get to see a new street you don't love the street you live on, but feel trapped by it. If you can't lose something there is no need to cherish it. You don't need to feel protective or to appreciate it. When you can't breath you appreciate oxygen. When you are shut up into a building with stale air you long to go outside.

If nothing every changed nothing good could ever happen. If we were immortal then we could not have and would not have children. We would live forever, doing repetitive things for millennia with nothing new to experience. There would be no new crocuses, no children taking lurching first steps, no new movie to settle down and watch on the battered old couch that is so comfortable but beginning to fall apart. There would be no new food to try and no new person to fall in love with, no discoveries and no epiphanies.

Of course, you want things to live, just a little bit longer. You weren't ready yet! Not now, but when you downsize to move into a senior's residence would be the right time to get rid of your ticket. Not now, but when you die, you will the ticket to your niece. Not now, but when?

The ticket is gone and you can no longer in a single glance remember such things as were most precious to you, the way you could move back then, the rhythms that made you bob and sway and feel so right in your skin. You lost the ticket and you lost the memory of anticipation, of hope, of ambition and of potential.

You can bring up the memories - but not so easily, not without the ticket. It matters. It matters so much. Losing the ticket is your reminder that you will someday say, "I used to listen to...what was that name?" And someday you will say, "Didn't he write this song about a rocking horse or something, when he had his kid, he made a rocking horse and the paint wouldn't dry? I haven't listened to that song in..." And when you are about to say years, you will realise the word that fits now is decades.

And that is okay, because you will love the people you love differently now that they have aged, grown up or grown old. You will only love them differently and there will be new music that you are listening to, a link that you followed, a new rhythm. That kid you knew will be an adult now, not even a young adult and they will share some new music with you and you will be intrigued. And if you still love your life you will listen and bob your head to that rhythm. It doesn't mean that you won't adore those special Bowie songs, it means you will have a new song you associate with a new time and new things you love.

Loss only happens with love, and love is always worth it. You can't love the ticket without risking losing it, the same way you can't love anything without knowing that it might outlive you, but even so someday it will no longer be something you see, or feel or remember.

Loss exists like pain, for a purpose. Loss exists so that you will hunt for the loved thing, so that the most loved things bring a smile to your face when you see them because seeing them reassures you they are still here. The pain of loss exists so that you remember to be careful with people and with things because they - we - are all vulnerable. The pain of loss exists so that you hold that coffee mug you love with two hands, carefully when you you dry it. The pain of loss is what made you stay in touch with some friends and divest yourself of others who would have tainted your memories as they changed.

Your ticket was. Nothing will undo that. It was and you cannot but remember such things were that were most precious to you. It brought you so, so much happiness. It just couldn't go on forever.

Read this story by Connie Willis, a story about loss. She expresses it so much better than I ever could. It's called Firewatch.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2018 [71 favorites]

I just want to sincerely thank everyone who's responded - the perspectives have genuinely made me feel better about it and given me some new lenses to view this through.

Besides all of the great insights people have shared, reading about the lost objects of value that everyone has recounted in this thread really helps put it into perspective in a constructive way for me too. Thank you for everyone that shared such stories; I feel for you all too. These very personal accounts of loss over things like family heirlooms or reminders of loved relationships gets me to the place that "the world has so much real suffering within it" couldn't - not because it's not true, but because that abstract sum will always feel infinite compared to any crummy thing that happens to any one person, much less losing a little slip of paper. It's a mental game without a useful point and with no winners in a case like this.

Obviously still stuck between "this is incredibly important to me" vs. "it's incredibly silly for this to be so important to me," but I appreciate everyone who posited that those warring impulses might be making it worse, and that the sense of loss I feel over it is valid. I think that helps get to the heart of it.

Love the tattoo idea, Smearcase! I've wanted to get a Bowie-themed tattoo for ages; perhaps now's the time to do it.

I'm marking the wonderful responses that moved me to tears (in a good/cathartic way, promise!) as best answers, but I mean it when I say that every answer in this thread deserves to be marked as such - they've all been thoughtful, helpful, and very much appreciated. Thank you, each and every one of you!
posted by kryptondog at 12:25 PM on December 6, 2018 [15 favorites]

Shoulda took a picture
Something I could keep
Buy a little frame
Something cheap
For you.
- David Bowie - Everyone Says Hi

I don't have my tickets for the many Bowie gigs I attended but I do know that for a few hours he and I occupied the same space together, and you'll always know that too.
posted by merocet at 3:35 PM on December 6, 2018 [12 favorites]

I'm going to recommend that you follow the steps on this incredibly corny webpage. Not only because it has helped me find pretty much every single object I was sure was well and truly lost within my home that I have endeavored to find with it, but because it also can help you feel emotionally sure you've done your due diligence if and when it is time, truly, to let go. Most of the advice is about staying calm and searching systematically--the opposite of what it sounds like you've already done (and what everyone always does when they search, namely increasingly emotional, frantic, house-destroying searching)--and it also has advice on what you can do if you can't find something.

And just nthing it's okay to be sad. I recently accidentally destroyed a cassette tape containing the only recording of my dead dad's voice. I am very sad about it. Of course I am. There is nothing wrong with that sadness.

Hugs to you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:11 PM on December 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

My mother, who loved throwing things away, threw out my carefully curated collection of about 20 mixtapes that I made as a teenager. They had all kinds of music on them, clips of commercials I thought were funny, parody sketches, and just general randomness. To me they were the soundtrack for my life at the time, the stories I wrote, drawings I made. I loved them and was sentimental about them.

But, I didn't love them enough to tell her not to throw them out. I didn't love them enough to keep them somewhere where they wouldn't be thrown out. It's not like I didn't know she had a relentless yen for expelling stuff from her house. And she would have kept them for me if I asked, even though it would have irritated her. So, in the end, I came to the conclusion that though I miss those tapes and still wish I could reference them, I didn't take the steps to protect them that I should have, as I do for other things.

And since that is so, I have accepted that they are gone. Not what they meant to me, though.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 5:09 PM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's not lost. It's just with Bowie now.
posted by Jilder at 2:50 AM on December 7, 2018 [15 favorites]

Could you buy some nice piece of Bowie memorabilia online? It would also remind you of that concert. I see signed photographs on EBay, not all of them expensive.
posted by w0mbat at 10:17 AM on December 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm going to recommend that you follow the steps on this incredibly corny webpage.

You could throw in a prayer to St Anthony, patron of lost objects and restoration of peace of mind, if you're really desperate!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:55 AM on December 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

grief worksheets

If you go to page 18, (it’s module 7 I think)and do the exercise, it might help
posted by yodelingisfun at 9:43 PM on December 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Every single comment in here is wonderful and it is absolutely heartbreaking to lose something with so much importance to you.

Something that may be helpful to do is active creation (to counteract passive misplacement) - maybe make a sketch of the ticket to the best of your memory, color it in, ink it up, and put that in a small frame to remind yourself that even though that first ticket may be gone, you 100% remember it and it is still with you.
posted by amicamentis at 6:19 AM on December 11, 2018

I've moved my house cross country more than once. Things - even enormously important things - get lost.

1. Sadness is an appropriate response. It sucks.
2. It's just things, and you're going to lose *all* of them at some point.
3. If the memory of when you got the thing was what you loved, every time you think of losing it, remember the time you *got* it. The original memory will then last you longer, for sure.
posted by talldean at 3:30 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

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