All the Stuff left Behind
The belongings of a person become much more than things once that person dies. They take a life of their own, their worth transcends monetary value, and their significance becomes much deeper. A shirt is no longer just a piece of clothing, it carries the smell of the body who will never again wear it. A piece of jewellery can become a reminder of special times when it was worn, or how much it was loved because it’s so worn out.
The shoes they will never again walk in, the electric shaver which won’t need cleaning, the notebook with too many blank pages left over. The mobile phone that holds their voice mail. Everything, from a favourite arm chair, to a scratched cd, to a drawer filled with bits and bobs, every little or big thing, carries the essence of the person who is no longer here to use any of it.
Some people may experience the urge to get rid of it all very soon after the funeral. Others may be very clear on what they want to give away and to whom, and what exactly they want keep. Many people feel like they will never be able o part with any of it ever, or at least for a very long time. Like so much of grief, dealing with the belongings of your person will trigger a myriad of emotions and memories. It’s different for everyone, and although there is no right or wrong way, nor a right or wrong time to deal with it, it’s important to remember that for the person closest to the loss, all the stuff left behind is soooooo much more than just stuff.
For me all that stuff left behind represented the man I loved and the life I had, even the stuff that annoyed me was a part of him, and I wasn’t ready to part with any of it. Parting with the smallest of things was like letting go of him, and I still can’t do that. What if he needed it? You know, for when he came back… Or what if I was just having a really bad dream, and I got rid of his clothes or his bunch of random keys, and then I woke up and he would need those keys? What if I gave away all his beloved truck magazines, which look so bulky and ugly in the pretty bathroom magazine stand, and he got upset with me…
It seem completely illogical, I know, but those thought were rooted in deep feelings and rationalising about the reality of Jason coming didn’t make any easier to deal with the reality of the feelings.
There were some specific things I wanted to give away to specific people very soon after Jason’s funeral. Those were intuitive decisions I have never regretted to this day. But there were some things I gave away because people asked for them, and at the time I didn’t know how to say no, or how to say not now. And a lot of it I do regret having parted with, not because they would’ve been off any use to me, but mostly because I wasn’t ready to do so. Not only that, it left a bad taste for me, and I have come to mildly resent those people.
Regardless if it were valuable, beautiful, ugly or simply junk, all of it belonged to my husband’s and all of it became holy to me because he had owned it, touched it, bought it, used it. For someone to come and ask if they can have it, even if it was rationally okay, made me feel disrespected, offended, invaded.
I always write from my unique perspective and personal experience, so I am very aware that others may feel and think very differently than me. So taking this into consideration, my suggestion is for you to have a conversation with the your grieving person and try to understand how they relate to this from their particular point of view. And whatever that point of view is, simply respect and honour it, even if you don’t agree or if the most sensible thing to do is the opposite from what they want.
Even if you have been coveting that collection of vinyls tucked away in the basement, or if you really would like the golf clubs no one else in the family will be interested in. Asking for the things that belonged to someone who is no longer here can cause the grieving person to be put into a tricky situation at at time when they are unable to make rational decisions. And not to mentioned that it may make you look like an opportunist, even if that was never your intention.
With time, each grieving person comes to a point when they are ready to re-home, give away or throw away the stuff left behind, but it’s up to them to decide when and how that is going to be done. What is up to you is to make sure you are there to support them when that time comes.