One of my sweet relatives is moving to a new house this week, and it also happens to fall on the year anniversary of her young husband’s passing. She said she had not touched his clothes even once during the past year, but now she has to touch and move everything all at once. I’m so glad she has help from family and friends to move and to face this day. It seemed like a good time to bring out the issues faced when dealing with clothes and personal items—each which carry such special memories.
Every single person faces how to handle this in a different way. There is not a right or wrong way—just what works best for you. Some people do not want to change the pillow cases for a long time because they want to smell their loved one’s lingering fragrance as long as possible. Some choose to sleep in an old shirt that they can barely bring themselves to wash. Others cannot bear to look at or move clothes or other important items for a long time. The toothbrush is still in the bathroom, stuffed animal still on the bed, robe hangs on the door, the book they were reading is still on the nightstand…
If you are the type of person that needs to remove their clothes and personal items as soon as possible, you may want to consider packing them up until later. I have seen more than one who later wished they hadn’t been so hasty in getting everything out of the house. They realize they or someone else in the family might have wanted to keep something. For some people, the photos, clothes, toiletries, their loved one’s personal stuff is simply too painful to deal with. They feel they can’t function with all the reminders right in front of them.
There can sometimes be friction or disagreements between surviving family and friends when there are differing styles of dealing with these items. Extra patience is required with each family member as they come to compromises about how to handle this touchy subject. It needs to be talked about and allowances made so it doesn’t cause hard feelings. It should not be assumed that because one wants to take down photos, give away clothes or other items that they did not love as much as one who wants to hold on to these things. It also should not be assumed that those who hold on to their loved one’s items are not working through their grief fast enough. These are very personal ways to grieve.
When it comes time to depart with clothes and other precious items, it often makes it easier to give them to someone who truly wants or needs them. This blog does not dare to tell you how to handle these important decisions. Making these choices are all part of your unique way of coming to terms with your loved one’s absence. Find more about this subject and some ideas for working through this issue in the book My Forever Memories of You: The Story of Our Relationship- Discovering Eternal Hope in the Midst of Grief.
Love and Prayers,
“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raise imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”
1 Corinthians 15:42b-44