The topic of “getting rid” of the clothing and items after someone has died or left a relationship is viewed from different perspectives.
Suppose your partner has died and you don’t know what to do with the belongings. You contemplate with thoughts of when to pack the items in a box or bag, then you ponder when and how to dispose of the items.
Do you make this decision alone, with other family members or is the decision made for you? Hmmm…do I have you thinking now? What if you are the person who made the decision for someone else?
How do you know when is the best time to let go of something? Do you get rid of everything or keep a few items? Consider for a moment a grieving widow, widower, child and more who needs to hold onto something that is familiar. Picture an individual who needs to wrap themselves in an old sweater their husband wore or a child who needs to smell mom’s scent one time or more.
How fast do you want to “get rid” of the belongings now?
Sometimes the best intentions may cause more harm than good. Perhaps, if you are helping someone who wants to “get rid” of everything, suggest they keep one or two items or set the items aside in case they are needed in the future.
I remember speaking with a widow a week after her husband had died and asked her if she had anything of her husbands, to which she replied “No”. With sadness in her eyes she said his children took everything (not her children, this was a second marriage).
I spoke with a man in his sixties and he shared how he has nothing that belongs to his mom who died when he was aged eleven; no pictures, items…nothing at all. To this day, grief is a large part of what troubles this man.
In many cases there is no need to hurry up and dispose of items. It is not uncommon for items to be left in the house for a few years or longer. There are some people who have to keep everything for fear of throwing the item out or giving it away too soon. In this situation I would suggest the first step of putting the items in rubber bins or boxing them up and storing the items safely.
At a later date the stored contents can be sorted through. Having said this, if items are left in storage for too many years another generation may end up disposing of everything after you have died.
There are also scenarios where items need to be dealt with as soon as possible. In cases such as this there is a greater chance of mementos being gone forever. I caution throwing everything out. If you have a sensitive side, perhaps consider if there is anyone who may want an item or two.
Look beyond the immediate family; often there are friends who are greatly affected by a loss and would appreciate a reminder of their special person if they do not already have something personal.
Grief is a process and everyone is unique in how they deal with loss. There are ways of remembering memories and using belongings or clothing pieces creatively can be a reason for keeping some items.
Clothing can be made into teddy bears, memory quilts and pillows to name a few ideas that can be shared for generations. Think before you throw. Barbara J. Saunders is a grief counsellor/Thanatologist
Next week’s article 7 is about “Pregnancy Loss Resources and Information”