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Their Things

Once the initial shock is over and we begin the grief journey, we begin to look around at all the stuff around us. There is so much of their things surrounding us. It can be comforting, confusing, overwhelming, and bring up a myriad of other emotions and feelings. All of which are natural, normal, and ok to have in this grief journey. 

Please keep in mind that you don’t have to make any decisions immediately. You get to choose the pace you deal with their things. You can wait, and there’s no urgency. It was all ok to be there when they were here. It is ok for it to remain until you are ready. Sometimes, waiting is just what you need, and you’ll know how best to handle the stuff as time goes along. You will be able to decide whether to keep items or to give them to someone else who would appreciate and want the items. 

We share our stories about the stuff below so you can see how we struggled with this in our journeys. Also, we want you to know that this is YOUR process and journey. You are the one who gets to say what happens to the items that are left behind and when it will happen. While we all need to let go of some of the stuff, we can do it when we are ready.

Jeni’s story about Bob’s Things:

At the beginning of my grief journey, I couldn’t bear to get rid of ANYTHING. Letting any of his things go was like letting him go all over again. It was like losing another piece of him. For the longest time, his clothes remained where they were. Even moving some of his stuff was difficult. They were a part of him. A part of him that I didn’t want to lose.

My husband was a hunter, and I hated the deer head that he had. Even so, it hurt when I watched it leave my home with a family member. I can remember feeling like he was leaving all over again. I was almost physically ill watching it go. Outwardly, I agreed to the deer head leaving; inside, I was a mess.

There were some who helped me with clearing things as I was comfortable and others who took it upon themselves to assist in ways they thought best–even if it did not fit with my comfort level and sometimes without my knowledge. I was grateful for the ones who worked with me and somewhat hurt by those who worked against me.

Eventually, getting rid of those things that didn’t hold meaning for me or serve a purpose for me became easier. I could give some items to those who would treasure them. I could donate or get rid of some of what was no longer needed. I was no longer getting rid of him…I was getting rid of what no longer served any of us well. Some of it happened in the first year. Some of it happened later. Some of it still has not happened.

This is not to say that I have completely gotten rid of everything or shared everything that he had. I probably still have more than others think I should have kept. Truly, I no longer care what everyone else thinks about it. As we have stated all along, this is YOUR journey. In my journey, I will keep what I feel is important and remove what I think is not. YOU can do that as well. 

Time has made me a little stronger and wiser in my journey. I now have the ability and strength to say no when I feel uncomfortable with removing something. I also have the ability to remove the things that serve no purpose in my life now. I hope that you will find the same in your journey.

Teresa’s story of Kris’s things:

I was too shattered to even consider doing anything with his things. I might need them, and the boys might need or want them. I think I yelled don’t touch anything at the start to friends and family. As if this would remove the fact something had to be done, or he’d be back to use his stuff. So his dirty socks and shoes sat at the end of the couch for months. No one touched them or even sat by them. I even talked to them and begged him to come back. I was no longer irritated at his mess. Eventually, I threw the shoes and socks out in a rage of grief and loss. 

Well-meaning friends and family were helping along the way. We do sort and clean days for a few hours. Many helped out on the ranch and outside. I might have said, “Take what you want”,  but things, mostly his tools, were disappearing. That hurt and I wished they had asked if it was OK to take this or that. I am forever grateful for the friends who were helpful and thoughtful and who sat beside me and helped sort the things into save, give, and trash piles. Their love and time were the biggest blessings. I couldn’t have done it without them.

I don’t remember how long it was, but eventually, I think about a year in I was ready to tackle some of the things on my own. I wasn’t removing him but moving forward in my new life. I schedule some time on a weekend and work in an area of the house and set a mini goal for myself. I would sort into the keep for me, keep for the boys, donate, or trash piles. 

During the sorting, it was bittersweet to travel memory lane and remember. There were a lot of tears and boxes of tissues used. Sometimes, it was mundane items and easier. I was surprised a few times to find things I had no idea he saved or had. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. 

It was over three years before I sorted his closet with the boys. That was the last of his things and the chapter of that life was over. I had a boyfriend, Bill, my now husband; it was time to sort the closet. We did it together, and the boys did most of it while I had a massive meltdown and watched. We ended up donating a lot of old clothes and shoes. The boys kept some of his clothes, ties, outdoor camping, and fishing things. It was a special time, and when we were done, it was as if the door of that life slammed shut. I realized I had done it; I had survived and was starting to thrive. 

I kept the remaining things for the boys until they were ready to take them as adults. I still have a box or two of momentos I’ve kept for the boys and grandchildren. I feel it’s time to sort them again and see what, if anything, needs to go to the kids now that they’re adults, and it’s been almost 15 years. 

We could each write much more on this topic as it is filled with swirling emotions and events even now after years have flown by. Just know that it’s not easy. Do what you can when you can. Enlist the help of trusted people who will do this with you and alongside you. Acknowledge and celebrate the mini milestones every time you make forward progress. There is no right or wrong way to go about dealing with their things. Trust yourself in the process. 

No matter where you are on your grief journey and dealing with their things, know you’re doing the best you can. We wish you peace and comfort as you journey down the path of dealing with their things.

Peace & blessings,
Jeni & Teresa

PS: For additional support, you can download our free copy of 10 Ways to Move Forward After Loss

The First Days: Coping with Life After Loss is a resource for the first days after a loss – available on Amazon in paperback.

My Journey as a Widow: A Widow’s First Journal  is a follow-on journal for processing complex emotions and moving forward with hope available on Amazon in paperback.

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