Are you faced with the challenge of sorting through items left by a loved one’s death?
This can be one of the hardest things to get the motivation & courage to do. And you wouldn’t be alone if you packed up the stuff & then let it sit for a few years. Or maybe you closed the door on a closet or room & find yourself avoiding this space because you are not ready to face what’s inside.
You might feel some guilt or shame that you haven’t been able to work on this stuff earlier, and maybe you are beating yourself up over how many times you have tried to start the sorting & clearing, but can’t follow-through.
Whew… Heavy stuff.
But let’s shift the narrative away from the shoulds & shame.
I want to share compassion, and hopefully some relief, by letting you know it’s okay. Those strategies, that probably haven’t felt like strategies to you, are exactly what you needed to do in the midst of the the change & grief that this loss created.
Grief is a powerful, individual journey & no one can offer the roadmap or timeframe that will predict when YOU will be ready to deal with the stuff left behind. And forcing yourself to “power through” may get the job done, but the process will likely feel harder & more overwhelming than it needs to be.
So if you are grieving and wondering when and how to tackle this project, I want to offer a few thoughts that might create a little light in a space that can feel dark & hard.
First, work to let go of comparison
We each deal with grief & loss in our own way & in our own time, so commit to go at your own pace without judging your action or inaction based on someone else. There is no need to rush the process or feel guilty if you haven’t been ready.
Recognize that this physical stuff seems to hold a lot of memories, but the memories are actually inside of you
You get to keep the memories regardless of whether you hold on to the stuff. The dusty wine bottle from your first anniversary or the shoe box of old baseball cards are reminders of your time together & the person you love, but they don’t tell the story. The stories are in you.
Create new avenues that will cultivate your favorite memories
As you come across pieces that spark positive stories & happy memories, you can take a picture to create a visual reminder of that event. Or use a journal or voice dictation on your phone to collect the feelings, thoughts & images that come to mind. Keeping the physical item will become less important once you have created alternate ways to trigger the memories of those good times with your loved one.
Allow the letting go to happen in stages
There will be some things that are easy to sort & clear and those are the first areas to tackle when you start the process. This easier stuff will offer you practice & build your confidence. And remind you that letting go creates a feeling of relief & lightness.
As you dig into the stuff that feels harder & you are faced with a tough decision, you can offer yourself permission to put this in a “maybe” pile or keep it “for now.” It’s ok to go slow & keep more during your first sort. You can come back after you have taken a break. Once a little time goes by & you get more practice letting go, then those hard decisions might not feel so heavy.
Honor the items you keep
If it feels right, place the items that you keep in areas where you can enjoy them. Allow those good memories to resurface every time to notice the item. And if you aren’t ready or it doesn’t feel right to wear, display, or use the items, then dedicate a tote or bin that will keep them safe from deterioration.
Feel proud of each step you take on this journey
It may feel like slow work and you might get frustrated that you aren’t able to move through things faster & make decisions quickly. But, there has been a lot of emotion wrapped up in this stuff. Remind yourself that each decision moves you one step further. You are moving ahead & you can be proud of the courage & strength it took to start this work.
Sending you love & encouragement.
If you’d like to share something that you have found helpful or would like to tell me more about your situation, I’d love to hear from you. Share it below.