My mother has recently gone from taking care of my great uncle to handling the paperwork and selling his house. He was meticulous and spartan, but we found his wife’s perfume, his grandfather’s pistol (an antique more than a weapon), and other small sentimental items tucked away in his bedroom.

Most people have more personal items than he did. It took months for us to sort through my other great uncle’s things (some of which are still in boxes in my mother’s basement, nearly 15 years later). Bob wrote about the process of going through and finding new homes for Annie’s things and it got quite a reaction.

Going through people’s things after they’ve died or become completely incapacitated can be a very emotional process. Here’s what our community had to say:

Holding on

Very unexpected things become extraordinarily precious. The surprising nature of grief takes getting used to. – Susan G.

It has been 6 months since my husband passed and I still cannot bring myself to go through his things. – Susan B.

[It took] 7 years [to go through belongings] here. My mom collected so much and she had items from other deceased relatives. Finally going through it all. Started with 92 boxes. Down to 20ish. One day at a time. – Diane D.

It’s been 19 months yesterday since my husband passed and two tears since my daughter passed. Still can’t go thru the clothes and personal belongings. I have donated his bed, wheelchair and numerous other things to charity. – Marie D.

My son passed 4 years ago, I still have all his belongings, except his wheelchair and hospital bed, that was donated to someone who needs it. – Trish M.

I have what I call the ‘Abby closet’ for my daughter. Moving everything into there was difficult, but necessary. I open when I need to, but it’s still pretty painful. Still have all of her meds, and even the backpack that hung on her wheelchair still has the belongings in it. Have no idea when I will go through all of it, not anytime soon. It’s not even been two months, so I’m sure that’s normal. – Carly L.

We all deal with a passing in different ways…personal to ourselves. Everybody directly involved or not should allow one another to take their own time with dealing with a death. Rushing or being forced to part with special belongings may cause irreparable personal damage. We are all different. We all need to show one another some empathy and wait until all persons concerned are ready to part with belongings. If that day does not come… then we need to accept that that is how it is going to be. – Janette C.

I could give away most of my husband’s clothes except his favorite t-shirts and hats. His other things are still waiting for me to let them all go. Final goodbye to everything that was connected to him is the most difficult. Getting there very slowly. – Elaine W.

One year since my favorite uncle passed and I still have his stuff…can’t bear to let it go. – Kathleen S.

Too busy

My house is full if boxes of my mom’s stuff. I even have a storage unit i pay for every month. And she is still alive. She had to move to board and care. I had to keep working to take care of her. In the meantime I feel like I am living in a storage unit. – Karen G.

Feeling guilty

I lost my mom 6 months ago, I am having trouble bringing myself to go through her stuff, everytime I try I feel as if I’m throwing her away. – Rebecca S.

Couldn’t bear the loss of a parent more so a spouse. I still keep their things and place as they were to this day. Feel like i’d lose them completely if i disposed or hid any of their things… – Renato T.

A source of comfort

Justine made a quilt out of her husband's clothesI think that whatever comforts you is ok. If your husband’s things stay where they are forever, it’s ok. It’s about what you need, not what anyone else says or thinks. – NC L.

It has been 5 months since my husband passed…I still wrap myself in some of his shirts for comfort. – Linda H.

I lost my husband in January and I still have to keep his clothes in the closet so I can put my face in there, smell and feel his clothes. – Susan K.

I had quilts made for my brother and me made out of my father’s clothes. – Linda S.

Justine made a bracelet out of the buttons from her husband's shirtsSome ideas I found to be quite therapeutic. I had a quilt made out of my husband’s clothing. Another idea is to make jewelry out of the buttons. – Justine C.

Family complications

I think what makes it harder, is a family member, who has not been around to help with the caregiving, decides they want and deserve to have whatever they want, out of the personal belongings of the deceased. – Leslie J.

When my mom passed away all H— broke loose — after spending all my time going through the rest of a storage container and boxing up her things for auction (she lived with me her last 4 years), some of “my family” decides they don’t want anything to do with her personal things — they didn’t know mom at all. Although not how should be, her things meant the world to her (and also her family meant alot to her, too) — hopefully soon everyone will get their share and they can move on with their lives. – Sherry L.

Some people want to get everything over with quickly and forget. They think that will be easier. – NC. L.

Helping others

If you donate the items she “lives on” thru the person using it. Clothing can be a “gift” to a homeless shelter, salvation army, etc. – Elaine D.

Finding your own way

Whatever is in your heart is how long it will take. Be kind to yourself. The heartache does not go away. It does not get easier. You just gain coping skills to accept and move on as they would want you to. In your own time! – Diane D.

About Cori Carl

As Director, Cori develops our comprehensive global communications and development strategy. She’s constantly tweaking our services based on data-driven marketing metrics and feedback from caregivers. She works to grow our community and build the reputation of The Caregiver Space by amplifying the message on social media, cultivating relationships with experts, creating organizational partnerships, and earning media coverage. She’s an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for Caregivers.

Cori joined The Caregiver Space after a decade of serving as a communications consultant for a number of nonprofit organizations and corporations furthering sustainable energy and urban planning solutions.

Currently, Cori is finishing up her MA in Corporate Communications from Baruch College at CUNY, and has a BA in Media Studies from Eugene Lang College at the New School University. She divides her time between Flatbush, Brooklyn, and downtown Toronto.

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