Dealing with the material objects that decorate our lives is a huge challenge, under ordinary circumstances. Often we seem to be either in an â€śacquiringâ€ť mode or a â€ścleansing/clearingâ€ť mode. But there always is â€śstuffâ€ť in our lives to deal with, isnâ€™t there? Add the extra weight of the loss of a loved one to it and figuring out what to do with â€śstuffâ€ť can seem insurmountable.
â€śStuffâ€ť matters. But it matters differently to each one of us. To some, big things have meaning. To others, little things have meaning. The most valuable reminder of a loved one may be a letter or a handkerchief.
Iâ€™ve been going through the few boxes of items left to me by my own mother, who died three years ago. I didnâ€™t even remember some of the things I brought home when we four â€śkidsâ€ť sat with Mother as she so kindly began her gradual process of â€śdownsizing.â€ť So, itâ€™s like unwrapping lots of unexpected gifts.
Mother always loved earrings. Thereâ€™s a colorful pair that I remember her wearing a lot. Thatâ€™s now tucked away in my jewelry box in its own special place. Another treasure is an invitation to my parentsâ€™ wedding. Thatâ€™s especially meaningful for me, because I was born on their wedding anniversary six years later.
For spouses, one of the most difficult things can often be letting go of the clothing in the closet. Some have shared that they simply couldnâ€™t even look at the clothes till several months had passed. Then, little by little, they would let this piece then that piece go to family members, then eventually to a thrift store.
Others are anxious to clear out clothing, boxing it up, perhaps moving it to a different room right away, symbolically taking a step toward letting go of one more physical reminder of the loved one that is no longer present. There may be a shirt that still retains the scent of their beloved. I know that many have shared that they will wrap themselves in a garment, imagining one more embrace.
Weâ€™re all different. And we all have varying degrees of connection to â€śstuff.â€ť There is no magic timeframe or steps to sorting and clearing away of precious possessions. Many possessions may have been precious to your loved one but not to you. Thatâ€™s okay, too!
So, as you face this task yourself or if youâ€™re an observer of a friend or family member trying to figure out what to do with it all, please withhold any judgment (of yourself or anyone else). The choices we make after a loss may not make any sense at the time. Take a deep breath. Donâ€™t hesitate to ask for some help. And if you are a friend or a family member, feel free to offer to help, but also accept an â€śIâ€™m not ready yetâ€ť as a sincere response.
Itâ€™s something folks cannot and need not be pushed into doing before they are ready. Sometimes there are life circumstances that force choices: the sale of a home to resolve debt, a move to another location for safety reasons, etc. Itâ€™s all a process. And a very difficult one. Such decisions may involve â€śjust stuff,â€ť but itâ€™s their stuff.
And figuring out when and what to let go of is all a part of the grieving process.