Grief & Carving Pumpkins

November 5, 2020

We’re gathered around the kitchen table with bright orange pumpkins and assorted carving tools. It’s a chilly midwest night so we brought this traditional activity indoors. Before things get gross and slimy, we carefully outline the new existence of each pumpkin; eyes, nose, and mouth. We carefully select each element of it’s future glory before digging in and cutting pieces away. 

As we make the first slices, I can feel the cold insides of the pumpkin seep around my fingers. In the same moment it feels gross, it simultaneously feels comforting and familiar. I watch as my kiddos do the same. Each child wildly ripping the insides out, chunk by chunk, as they laugh and giggle at one another. 

As I watch, and participate, in the destruction and emptying of these pumpkins, I begin missing my mother. I begin comparing the hollowing, reconstructing, and remaking of these pumpkins to the elements of grief and loss. Is it odd that I am now lost in the comparison of my heart and soul to the insides of these carefully selected pieces of squash? As if grief is similar to the emptying and carving of these pumpkins. 

Yet, it is. It comes, quick and swift, ripping pieces of your soul away, discarded and never to be seen again. It leaves you raw and open, with visible holes and openings. It scrapes away things, some you never wanted to part with, others you never gave much thought to. Either way, you’ve been cut open and dismantled. 

Then, with time and love, and the immense support of those around you, you begin a reconstruction. Crafted in new and glorious ways. Repurposed and reformed. Still open and raw, but that’s what makes you unique. It’s what makes you interesting and delicate and authentic. 

Just as the pumpkin is still itself, it also becomes something else. Something with a new name, new existence, and new purpose. The same is true of grief and the changes that occur in you. Still your original self at your core, but also something entirely different too. A new you, with new purpose, new structure, and a new way of life and living. 

When grief picks you up, rips out your insides, and starts carving holes, let it. Acknowledge it. Honor it. Respect it. 

Then, wait patiently. Eventually you’ll see that in immense loss also comes immense purpose. In deconstruction and dismantling also comes the rebuild and resurrection. 

You’re not an empty pumpkin with holes and no purpose. You’re a jack-o-lantern! Your holes allow the light to shine through, and this light was created by the love and the influence of someone who helped shape this new version of yourself, even if they are out of reach and out of sight. Even if they’re gone. Even if they’re in heaven. 

With love, influence, and a lasting legacy, you’ve been transformed. 

Shine on, jack-o-lantern! Your holes are what make you beautiful! 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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