I was reminded yesterday about my friend passing 3 years ago this past January. I was also thinking about a few people I know who are still grieving the death of a loved one. A child, a spouse, a friend. My daughter and I were talking last week about when my sister, her aunt, passed away and we had to tackle the dreaded job of going through her things.
That job – going through a loved one’s things – is awful. It’s just awful. I’ve done it 3 times now. One time heirlooms had already been given out, so what was left was not precious and could, therefore, be donated. Another time, the person had not made decisions about anything and didn’t even have a will. Nightmare! And the third time, the person had given out some things, but there were still very precious things being left to a spouse who didn’t really think about other people in the family and just got rid of it all. Sad.
It’s a difficult job. It’s a painful job. It’s likely to incite a riot among family members.
So, for whoever is out there in this cyber-world who may stumble across this tiny blog and need to hear this: give yourself time. If you end up being responsible for making decisions about another person’s belongings after they pass away, take all the time you need. Pack it away in storage until you feel ready to go through it. You know I preach against paying for storage, but this is different. You need a minute.
In each of the cases that I was involved in, for some reason, there was a time crunch. There was a house to be sold, a move and deadlines to meet. If you have to meet a deadline, don’t pressure yourself to get it done today. Store it for later.
I know there’s a temptation to just get to it and get it over with because it’s so painful. A lot of people attack the dreaded chore like ripping off a band-aid. But I think you might regret it if you make hasty decisions. You might say, “I want to do it now while I’m in pain so I don’t have to relive it later.” Let me tell you something about grief, it comes in waves. It flows over you at different times. At first, it’s like a crashing wave that you fight and fear you might drown. Then as time passes, the waves roll over you and you hold your breath but it’s not as scary. Even later, it’s just like a gentle rise of emotion, of tears that swell up and then moves on. So, no matter if you take on the chore of going through their belongings now or later, it will be painful.
A gradual attack is good. Going through items over a period of time without pressure can give you the space you need to more freely let things go. Stepping away and coming back when you feel stronger is a good strategy.
So, for whoever is out there, I just want to give you the gift of time. Ignore what others say you should do (even me) and do what your heart tells you to do. And if you need a minute, take it.