Letting go of a loved one’s belongings
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Recently there have been many deaths among my friends and their families and friends. I am trying to be there for them, and help them with the physical belongings of their loved ones who have passed. They say that everywhere they look they are reminded of their absence, and it makes them sad, yet they are reluctant to let these things go. What is your advice?
I know how difficult it is in life when challenges happen one after another, yet when these challenges come in the form of losing loved ones, it is even harder. What a great question. I actually had quite a few of this same question come in all at once.
I am often asked how to “properly” weave a deceased loved one’s things into daily life. What is “right” when it comes to keeping the gifts, possessions and photographs of those who have passed? Cultures around the world have various customs and rituals that friends and family participate in to publicly honor those who have passed, but what does one do when they get home and have to privately decide about the physical things?
Where to start
In regard to personal items, if they haven’t done this already, it’s wise to remove personal items as soon as possible. Things like toothbrushes, shavers, brushes, clothing, etc., serve no purpose in the environment except to remind them of the void, and immediately removing these items will be helpful. If they are unable to bring themselves to do this, you can possibly be the trusted friend to do this.
However, having them get rid too many personal things before the grieving is completed can trigger more pain from the loss than inspire joy from the memories. If it’s too soon to decide what to let go of, help them put some items away in a box or out of sight for now, and have them go through them after some time has passed.
Next, tell your friends, as they are healing from their grief, rather than feel guilty about parting with the possessions, to remember that his or her memory is in their heart and not in the items.
How much do you keep?
Because something like this is so personal, advise them to do what feels right for them. Maybe they can consider keeping a small number of special things, carefully choosing items that embody their loved one’s spirit and remind them of his or her innate essence and personality, including items that carry special memories. In this case, less is always more. Any remaining items can either be shared with other s who might find them meaningful, or donated, if they are still in good shape and can be used.
Do you have a question for Alice? If so, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alice Inoue is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Happiness U, a friendly educational establishment, where you’ll find inspiring classes geared toward personal growth and self-development. Visit YourHappinessU.com.