Grief & Loss with Hoarding

When I say hoarding, what comes to mind?  Do you think of the TV shows, someone you know, the person down the street or have you heard about a situation from someplace?  For the most part, you are probably aware of people who are hoarders.

By looking deeper into this situation, you will understand how emotional losses go hand in hand with hoarding and how the hoarder is not the only one affected by the actions of the hoarder.

Some ramifications of hoarding can depend on factors such as the degree of cleanliness, safety, amounts hoarded and emotional well-being of the hoarder.   As the “problem” increases other cause and effect scenarios dealing with family and friends may appear.

Sometimes, clutter, messiness, garbage, filth and smells can start to accumulate creating an environment family and friends no longer want to visit; which can gradually lead to isolation for the hoarder and those living this way.  Subsequently, grief scenarios appear.

The hoarder may have a perception of not being loved and perhaps accepted by others.  In many cases there are family and friends who want to be supportive, but the hoarder stops any attempt to make the living space and their lives more socially acceptable.

For the hoarder, emotions such as sadness, loneliness, despair, yearning, depression, anger, being overwhelmed and not understanding why family and friends no longer come to visit, can wreak havoc on their emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being.  In certain cases, these go unnoticed by others.

Chances are good the underlying problems may not be known by the hoarder.  Suffice it to say, most often without professional help the situation may worsen.  Do not force a hoarder to “get rid” of things, this may cause another serious problem for the hoarder that you are unprepared for. 

For family and friends, the decision to not visit the hoarder may be difficult.  Judgment, lack of understanding the root cause of the hoarding problem, not caring and perhaps feeling helpless, leaves family and friends with few options and many decide to stay away.

When family and friends make the decision to stay away, they may experience their own grief scenarios.  Sadness and wishing life were different for themselves and their loved one.  Endings may occur where the relationships are severed, contact lessens and life goes on differently.

You cannot force someone to change.  Can you love them anyway?

All my best,

Barbara Gillett Saunders

Grief Counsellor/Thanatologist