Sorting through the belongings of a loved one can bring up many issues: pain of past hurts, sadness of hopes unrealized, anger over decisions made about an inheritance or a cherished item. Dealing with the stuff becomes a responsibility for someone after each person dies. Perhaps in this case, that person is you.

Take your time. Remember that each loved one has a different way of grieving and coping with this difficult task. This is why taking time to determine the guidelines for cleaning out the home is so important. It is important to listen to your own feelings and to communicate clearly with all those involved in making the decisions. Take the time and emotional energy to work through it now; you’ll feel much freer later because of it.

Get some help. Many people say they want to help when someone dies. This is one way to take advantage of all those offers. Great comfort can result from both the friendships shared as well as savored memories of an image or object. A friend can keep us from getting overwhelmed, by helping us remember that while all the stuff is important, it may not all be a task for today.

Give yourself permission to let go of things. Give yourself permission to hold onto things that you really don’t intend to keep forever, until you feel ready to let them go. That time will come, and when it does, you’ll know it.

Use physical stuff to work through emotional stuff. To eventually heal and go on with life, sometimes we have to let go of more than objects—there also may be unfulfilled expectations and disappointments that those objects will remind us of. For many people the emotional stuff and the material stuff are deeply connected; working through both helps us heal.

Find the gifts in the stuff. As we grieving persons learn to see the memories brought forth by the stuff left behind as a blessing and gift, we can begin to feel less lonely because of the death of our loved one.. During these times we can choose to enjoy a special item from the stuff and use it to remind us that because God is always with us we are never really alone.

When we’re left to deal with the stuff, no matter how difficult, complicated, fair or unfair the situation, our challenge is to seek God’s grace in the responsibility before us. If we take our time, get some help, and persevere, we eventually begin to see that indeed, it all serves a good purpose, in ways that only God and time can reveal to us.

Excerpt from “Dealing With All The Stuff After a Loved One Dies” by CareNotes.

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