Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Letting Go

Question: When your parents and/or grandparents die, how do you add their stuff to your mix without being cluttered with things? I know I can’t keep it all, but it’s hard to make those decisions on what to keep and what not to.

As you probably know, getting organized and decluttering takes time and energy. Add grief to the mix, and you can become quickly overwhelmed. The first and most important step is understanding that grief will impact your ability to deal with clutter and make decisions.

Coping with the loss of a loved one takes time and is different for each individual. And so, going through a loved one’s possessions will be a very different experience for each person. According to Hospice Care Inc, an organization for patients and families dealing with life-limiting illness, “We will all experience the death of someone close to us, and along with it, the grief that is a natural and normal response to loss. Grief lasts longer than most people expect.”

They mention several points about grief. They are:

  • No two people grieve exactly alike, even if they live in the same house. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
  • There is no exact timetable for grief. It takes as long as it takes, often longer than we expect.
  • Children grieve differently from adults. They may be very sad for a short while but can maintain other normal activities. Their grief returns with each new developmental stage or life event.
  • Grief affects our ability to think, remember and concentrate.
  • Grief can affect how one expresses feelings and attitudes.
  • Grief from prior losses may resurface when someone we care about dies.
  • The stresses of everyday life can delay or worsen the grief reaction.
  • Grief is a natural reaction to loss.

Making decisions on what items to keep and to let go can be a trying process for anyone. Here are some points to aide you in your process.

  1. Give yourself time. Don’t expect yourself to be able to make major decisions immediately following a loss.
  2. Don’t do it alone. Rely on the support of loved ones. Call on a trusted friend for assistance, one who is not as emotionally involved. Hire a professional organizer who is experienced working with individuals who are dealing with loss.
  3. Take small steps. Break it down into doable portions and small time frames. One box at time, one drawer at a time, one closet at a time, one room at a time.
  4. Objects are objects. Possessions of loved ones often bring back memories and we want to cherish those memories and so letting go of items may feel like you are losing that person all over again. Remember, your memories are your own; objects do not control your memories. Of course it is wonderful to hold onto special things, but realistically, you probably can’t keep everything. Letting go of a loved ones’ possessions does not mean you are letting go of their memory or love.

HospiceCare Inc. provides specialized services to support individuals who are grieving. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.hospicecareinc.com/.

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