Sorting through the belongings of someone who has died is so final. It means facing the fact that the person has really gone. Yet sooner or later, it needs to be done, and there are some things you can do that will help.
Learn the Grief Recovery Method
Get yourself a copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman and work your way through all the grief recovery steps.
There are many books about grief. This one is different. It guides you through the process of becoming emotionally complete with the person who has died. It helps you to resolve your feelings and heal your broken heart. It won’t take away all your sadness, but it will ease the pain and allow you to move on.
When you have done these steps and feel ready, choose a day to start sorting through your loved one’s belongings. It’s best to find a friend to help you, or hire a clutter clearing practitioner you feel you can work with – someone who is comfortable with emotions, and knows how to hold a heart space for you.
It’s a good idea to make a list before you begin so that you can cross each item off when it’s done. Be sure to do just one small area or category of things at a time, and take breaks as you need to, to refresh your energy.
For clothes, I recommend you follow the Pile Plan described in Chapter 13 of The Grief Recovery Handbook, and repeat as necessary until the job is done. It may take a few days, a few months, or longer in some cases. As long as it’s progressing, that’s fine. Proceed at your own pace. If you get stuck, get help.
For other items, use the box system I describe in detail in Chapter 16 of my Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui book, with the addition of a Memento box if there are treasured items you want to keep. Feel free to use the Dilemma box liberally rather than forcing yourself to make a quick decision you may later regret. As the title of my book suggests, this system was designed for clutter clearing rather than sorting through the belongings of someone who has died, but it will work equally well for both.
Feel your feelings
Another word of advice is not to attempt to “be strong” or choke back your tears. Let them flow as they will. Sadness is a natural part of grieving and if you don’t allow yourself to feel those feelings, you close down your ability to feel joy and happiness too.
In The Grief Recovery Handbook, the authors ask the question, ‘What do we mean by recovery?’ and they explain it this way:
Recovery means feeling better. Recovery means claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness. Recovery is finding a new meaning for living, without the fear of being hurt again. Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of regret or remorse.
This process may bring up many emotions, but it will also bring an added level of completion to your relationship with the person who has died, opening the door to a new phase of your life. If you have any questions specific to your own personal situation, post them in the comments section here, and I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can.
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