When and How to Deal with His Things

Nov 27, 2020

One of the many challenges of life after loss is dealing with our spouse’s things. From clothing to vehicles, computers to keepsakes and all the little things in between, the weight of it all can be crushing.

We tend to have some unwritten rule about when we should be finished with this often overwhelming task. As if the timing is some measure of whether we are grieving “properly.”

Our brains often tell us that we need to make these decisions quickly so that we can feel that we are “on track” with some notion of how we should grieve.

Of course, some people must move immediately and therefore have no choice in the matter. But for those who do not, it’s important to be “on to” our brains.

When we are feeling the weight of his possessions, we have an opportunity to examine our thoughts. The thoughts your brain offers you can make you feel intense pain and dread or inspired and intentional.

When I thought, “I’m letting him go,” I felt terrible which prompted inaction. When I thought, “He would want this sweatshirt to keep someone warm this winter,” I felt inspired to take action on his behalf.

When I thought, “He loved this truck,” I felt like I would be failing him if I sold it. When I chose a different thought, “He wouldn’t want it to be wasting away,” I felt motivated to sell it to a friend who I knew would restore it to its original 1947 perfection.  

The trick, when you’re ready, is to “try on” various thoughts and decide how each make you feel. Eventually you will find the thought that will make the process tolerable at minimum.

My husband passed in 2012. I have given away some clothing, but not all. My first effort was around the 5-year mark when I boxed up some warm socks for the homeless. About a year ago I donated more clothing to the local shelter. His kids eventually picked out some things that they treasure. I had pillows made for his grandkids. I intend to have aprons made for his kids, thank you, Pinterest. (Also see Christmas tree ornament ideas.)

I still have an assortment of shirts and ball caps, most notably his Navy Seabees items that he wore proudly, many decades after a less than warm welcome home. It’s been little-by-little for me. If there were a race for the slowest, I’m pretty sure I would win. And that’s perfectly okay.

I don’t judge myself, and anyone who has walked in my shoes doesn’t judge me either. Anyone outside of that circle may have opinions, but they simply aren’t welcome. I get to decide, and I decide without apology.

You get to decide, too. Dealing with his things serves as both a reminder not to believe everything we think, and a reminder that thinking thoughts on purpose is our superpower.

Notice any all-or-nothing thoughts. For example, we agonize about whether or not to wear our wedding rings, as if taking them off is an irreversible decision. Similarly, we think of dealing with his possessions as dealing with every single thing, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

We can decide that there is no timeline: not for grief and not for sorting through his possessions. When we decide to box up some things is no reflection on us, no measure of grief, and especially no indication of the depth of love for our spouse. Our brains often want to make it mean something, when truly, it does not.

If you’re struggling under the weight of his possessions and need some help deciding when and how to get through it, my six-month private coaching offering called Life Reconstructed can help. Simply click here and we’ll see if it’s a fit. If not, I’ll share other supportive resources.

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

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