This post is written by CJPW member Rachel Kodanaz. Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences of all sizes for over 20 years, addressing the change, growth, and acceptance that come with life’s transitions. Learn more at www.RachelKodanaz.com.
Our personal possessions tell a beautiful story of ourselves and those of our family members whom we have shared our lives and legacies with. Their presence conquers explicit emotions and memories that are truly priceless and should be cherished from generation to generation.
For those who are tasked with sorting through a loved one’s personal belongings, there is no set time to begin the process. Knowing the task will produce an array of emotions both endearing and daunting, the right time is when you are ready. I believe there is truly nothing more special following a loss than feeling the continued connection to our loved one through the items they have touched, worn, purchased, and embraced as well as the memories created through the engagement of these items.
When my husband passed away, I found comfort in leaving his belongings exactly in the same place and manner of the last time he touched them. I found peace in the placement and positioning of these now cherished items, and needed to feel his presence even though he was no longer physically with me. As the weeks turned to months since his passing, I found comfort in a collection of specific items that brought warmth to me. Those items became the keepsakes that provided me daily comfort as I stumbled through my new relationship with my husband.
The timeline for sorting, thinning and re-purposing our loved one’s belongings vary based on our own personal desires, family dynamics, and circumstances outside our own control. For most, the timing coincides with a trigger, possibly the need to locate a misplaced item, a pending sale of a home, the re-purposing of a room, or the yearning to provide a legacy item to family member or friend. Regardless of the reason for tackling the challenge, once the process begins there are a variety of approaches to use in supporting you as an individual or the shared responsibility with family members.
• Define your individual expectations
• Set reasonable boundaries for yourself and family members
• Build a team to help with boxing, selling, distributing and researching items
• Identify friends or family members you would like to share special items with
• Determine appropriate recipients of donations
As you work from room to room or drawer to drawer, establish a connection to your loved one as you touch each item. Search for your own peace in the resting place for the item, keeping those items that provide warmth and are a special addition of your loved one’s story. If you find yourself hesitating on a particular item, I suggest you save the item as the feeling of regret can hamper your success of finishing. The item can be revisited later.
The are no rules associated with sorting through belongings. In fact, the process is very personal and only you can decide what is right for you. As you sort through the possessions — finding your own peace and re-purposing the items into future use for yourself or others — create a lasting memorial and connection to your loved one.