How do I handle my loved one's belongings after they have passed?


How do I handle my loved one’s belongings after they have passed?


If there is one aspect of losing someone that can take a long time to resolve, it is the process of determining what to do with the personal belongings of your loved one.  I don’t think there is a right time, or process for this. Some things can be dealt with easily, and relatively quickly. Some items may be kept, not necessarily for sentimental reasons, but because it just wasn’t something you are ready to deal with yet.  For the sake of the discussion, let us assume all probate, inheritance, wills, etc. have been executed… So what comes next?

I have many stories to share concerning this topic.  I have helped children who struggled with what to do with the empty urn tucked in the back of the closet.  I have witnessed families bury valuables within the casket, because it was impossible for them to determine to whom the articles would be passed on.

I hope the following thoughts will helpful:

You need not be in a hurry to dispose of anything.  Acknowledge that this is on your to-do list, but give yourself as much time as you need.  This process can be painful, or healing, and often both.  Because of the emotional nature of this process, it should be allowed as much time as you deem necessary.  Hastily made decisions may result in regret from missed opportunities for healing.

Articles that were deemed worthless prior to loss, may now have extreme emotional value.  For example, I have a leather box that belonged to my grandmother, and regret not having a keepsake by which to remember my grandfather.  Belongings can become endearing because of the context, history and memories that they represent.

I feel it is important to include others in this process, but be prepared for the squabble that this may entail, as well as some family members choosing to be left out of the process. Both of these aspects can and will contribute to the grief and healing process.

It may seem tedious to deal with items one by one, but from my perspective, when dealing with loss, just as those items were accumulated relatively one by one, it may be helpful to treat each one just as they were acquired, as an opportunity for healing.

What may have been basic inanimate articles before loss, may now become symbols of love and caring.  A children’s sippy cup, daily coffee mug, even the Flintstones jelly jar in the cellar, which was used in canning emergencies, now may have special meaning.

Stay in touch.

Respectfully, Ron A. Turner

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