When my daughter died many years ago, I wanted to hold on to anything I had that belonged to her…forever, I told myself. But as the years go by, I have found a greater meaning in letting go.
First thing to do is take inventory of what there is, pick out items that you feel strongly about always keeping and put them aside.
I did this with my daughter’s stuffed animals. There were some I could never part with; others that I felt would be good to donate to a children’s hospital or even give to friend’s kids or grandkids.
Clothes are the same way. In my case, I could fit into a lot of my child’s clothing, but was it really my style? In most cases it wasn’t, particularly the dresses and sweaters, so I asked her friends if they wanted anything, then I sold what was left at a garage sale and eventually donated the ones that didn’t sell to local shelters.
I did keep a beautiful leather jacket she had bought in Italy, another casual black jacket, a few blouses and a few suit jackets. I found that the blouses and suit jackets I never wore. The shoes were not my size and they were given to Goodwill. I looked at them in my closet, liked having her things close to me, but realized I would never wear those particular items, so eventually gave them up also.
I kept most of the jewelry so I could wear it, but also gave some to her close friends. Her awards I have in boxes and don’t plan to dispose of them at all. I’ve incorporated her picture albums with mine, saved the good ones and the ones I knew with friends, but the rest that nobody wanted, I got rid of them.
Anything she bought while traveling sits next to my travel items. I loved her taste in knick knacks and enjoy looking at them, so I would never give any of those away.
When the day came to put many items on display in a garage sale, I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how hard. One dress I ran after. No, I couldn’t part with it. The money was given back. (Years later, I gave it to Goodwill.) Items she collected at school or from friends, I asked the friends if they wanted it back and if they didn’t, they was sold. Things she made in an art class or summer camp, if it was personalized to me, I have it. One year she made a step stool and to this day, I still find it useful and smile every time I see it in the kitchen closet.
It is a difficult and daunting task to go through everything and decide what one wants to keep forever, but finally after many years I, personally, was able to do it. Giving many of her things to others made me feel good and that I was doing something worthwhile for others.
Take your time deciding what to do with your child’s things. Don’t let anyone tell you “it’s time to let go.” And keep whatever has some meaning to you. Memories are all we have left of our child who died and if some items can put a smile on your face and make you feel good, then they are worth keeping as I have discovered. The rest can bring some joy to others, and our child will continue to live on.
Sandy Fox 2012
Thank you for sharing your story! The pain and hurt of going through your child’s things is much the same for any loved one you have lost. It is always extremely hard in the beginning, you are still wanting that connection to your loved one. Then one day you wake up and it does not hurt quite as much; you realize that these clothes or that trinket would be a benefit so-and-so more than me right now. We all know it is eventually we will have to weed down the things we have kept of our loved ones (the pain and hurt is so raw that it might not be emotionally and mentally possible to part with the things), but in the beginning it is O.K. to keep the things associated with the memories. People have to remember this when helping grieving loved ones.
Thanks for your sharing, Sandy. I went too fast. Now, looking back, I wish I had kept more of Katie’s scarves and one Irish cape from a trip we took together to Ireland. I hope that those to whom I gave them knows how special they were both to her and now, to me.
Why do we second guess ourselves? Grief. Grief makes us do things that under a normal circumstance we would never do.
Thank you for this honest article. Mary Jane says she went too fast, but we had to. After our daughter and her former husband died in separate car crashes, we became our twin grandchildren’s guardians. Our grandkids moved in with us and, since we couldn’t afford two houses, cleared out our daughter’s house and put it up for sale. Cleaning the house took a year and it was excrutiatingly painfu. The house was vacant for two years and finally sold. We still have our daughter’s purse and can’t seem to part with it.