Relationship with your current partner

Losing a family member or friend is stressful on the relationship with your intimate partner. People suffering a profound sense of loss are more vulnerable to relationship conflicts at work and home.

Your partner may be uncomfortable with intense, physical sensations and making love at this time. When you desire to rekindle the feelings towards each other arrange the bedroom to reflect what you both want.

  • Make the bedroom a haven for your relationship.
  • Introduce warmth with exotic fabrics, lots of textures and patterns, romantic colours, and artwork.
  • Remove books and reports that relate to work and last year’s tax papers. Replace them with books like the Kama Sutra, love poems, romantic novels about healthy relationships and happy outcomes.
  • Include images of just the two of you. This could be a wedding photo or snapshot taken at a party looking at each other in a loving way.

Go for a picnic, take a drive in the country, have lunch together.

Be spontaneous. It’s okay to enjoy yourself and have fun. Many people believe they should be miserable all the time when grieving or after the loss of someone close.

 

Your deceased partner

When you have lost your life partner, the following suggestions may not feel comfortable at the moment. Please have another look at them again when you are ready.

  • Sleep in another room for a while.
  • If you find comfort in keeping the bedroom furniture as it was for now, then do so.
  • The wardrobe with your partner’s clothes may be challenging. Try moving your clothes into another room for a while. At a later time ask a family member or friend to help you reorganise the wardrobe.
  • Remove everything from the bedroom (except heavy furniture), spring clean, and as you bring each item back into the room, decide if it reflects your life in the here and now.

A difficult relationship

Relationships are constantly changing. Events happen and the two of you may have an argument, a clash of personalities. A rift can form between you, emotions escalate, you may be estranged for months or even years by the time they die.

A gentle way to reframe the connection you shared and not upset yourself further while handling their belongings is to acknowledge the bond as it was, whatever happened between you. You knew each other for some reason, perhaps to learn about a part of yourself that this person brought out in you.

As you recall events in the relationship, see if there is a lesson this person revealed to you.

New relationships

When you are ready to say hello to the next chapter in your life, you can have fun redecorating your home in readiness for a romantic relationship.

Many people are not confident about knowing how to change their living space from their previous marriage to make room for the new person. There are important considerations, for example, removing a deceased wife’s clothes from the wardrobe and cosmetics from the bathroom.

Create the space for your new partner to come into your life. Even though they won’t be moving in after the first week, set the bedroom scene symbolically to attract passion, playfulness, honesty, and all the qualities that represent a loving partnership. Indulge in a little luxury like a new doona, bed linen and a comfy bed with two bedside tables, a pair of lamps and paintings with a lush environment and blissful colours.

A few other things to attract the right person are pairs of items such as pink candles to represent nurturing, rose quartz crystals for love, heart-shaped items, an attractive essential oil burner, and sensual night wear. Live as if your new partner is already sharing your space.

These ideas help you to look at your bedroom and release the things that anchor you to your past relationship, allowing space for a new relationship to grow and flourish.

Breathing Relaxation Exercises

Regular breathing relaxation or meditation can lower blood pressure and release chemicals in your bloodstream to improve your wellbeing.

Ten minutes a day will change your life. Be selfish and turn off the mobile phone, music or the TV and take some time for you.

Read this to yourself and then have a go. There is no right or wrong way to practise these moments of peacefulness.

 

Sit or lie down in a quiet, comfortable and safe place

Loosen clothing, take off your shoes and wriggle your naked toes

Place a lightweight blanket over your chest. It can be comforting

Feel the surface supporting your body

Focus on something attractive or gently close your eyes

Take three slow deep breaths in … and … out …

Listen to the sounds close by, then those outside a little further away

Slowly breathe in … and … out …

Listen to the sounds in the distance and allow these sounds to deepen your relaxation

Allow your lungs to take in fresh air, as much as they want without any effort

Begin to exhale and count in your mind 1, 2, 3

Inhale fresh air … exhale 1, 2, 3 and empty your lungs

Relax into the rhythm of your breathing

Stay with this as long as is comfortable

When you are ready …

Notice the air temperature

Feel the surface supporting your body

Listen to the beat of your heart

Notice the sounds a little further away

Sense the blood in your toes, wriggle your fingers

Notice the textures on your skin and smells around you

Slowly open your eyes

Take a moment to be thankful

Enjoy this gentle silence for a few moments

Have a glass of cool refreshing water and stretch your body before driving a vehicle or doing any tasks.

 

After a long day

This can be done when you arrive home, after guests leave, or after an argument.

Arriving home is supposed to be a pleasant experience and something to look forward to. Sometimes your living environment feels hostile.

 

A gentle way to shift the energy in a room to a comfortable feeling is to visualise a place where you felt welcomed and at ease.

Close your eyes and recall the sounds, colours, tastes, smells, and even the air temperature on your skin.

Sometimes it’s just a vague recollection, the sensation was pleasant. Allow these sensations to transport you. Stay with them for as long as you like.

When you are ready, take in a deep breath and hold this awareness.

As you exhale, imagine that everything about this feeling is filling the room.

Enjoy this feeling.

Get rid of stress

My old family remedy for releasing stress

Splash your face with water.

Run cool water over your forearms and wrists.

It’s as easy as that.

 

Stress-relieving activity

This is from my interior design teacher and mentor, Peter Travis AM.

Purchase large pieces of project cardboard and coloured felt pens from the newsagent.

Just write what is on your mind.

Rant, rave, draw, and scribble whatever needs to come out.

Write about any resentment you feel about having to do this task.

Write or draw whatever you want on the cardboard, be it anger, sadness, or any other emotion.

When you are finished, take three deep breaths and tear up the pages and toss them in the rubbish bin.

Fresh Eyes

This section is all about the relationship you have with your home and its contents.

When surrounded with belongings you adore, you will feel lighter and be able to live life to the full. Altering the things you have on display will give your personal space a renewed feel.

At a time that is comfortable for you, complete the following exercises and activities. Your responses to these questions are for your eyes only, therefore you can answer them honestly and without considering anyone else’s expectations of what you have to say.

Use a couple of blank pieces of paper to write the first thing that comes to mind.

Engaging happy feelings

The following four activities help with engaging happy feelings. Physically writing them on the page is a stronger anchor than just reading about it.

  1. Describe your favourite place. It could be anywhere.
  1. Define a time you felt energised and ecstatic in your life.
  1. List two belongings or photos that recall cheerful times spent with your loved one.
  1. Write down an activity you have always wanted to try.

Creating your present life

The following activity, using your non-dominant hand, activates a different part of the brain. It helps get on the path of creating your life in the here and now, in your present situation.

  1. Describe how your ideal home would feel.
  1. Imagine your dream home. Draw a picture of the front entrance.
  1. What you are passionate about and want to create in your life.

Awareness and release of items

The following activity makes you aware of an item to release in the next part of the exercise.

  1. Are there items inside the house that recall a distressing memory?

The following activity helps to release things in your mind before doing it physically. It is less stressful this way.

  1. Do you have belongings that you want to keep to recall joyful moments?

Write down five items that come to mind, and then tick the column to keep or to release. This is an opportunity to recognise anything that signifies a happy or a sad event with your loved one.

Item Tick P to keep… …or tick P to release
1    
2    
3    
4    
5    

 

During the next ten days, it would be great if you can decide whether to keep or give away the items on the list above. Arrange for someone who knows you to help.

Working up to sorting out

Often, the days leading up to an event or activity involving sorting are more stressful than the event itself.

It is a good idea to get into the habit of some type of observance or procedure, routine, ceremony, practice, or ritual to start and end each session, whether the session is for an hour, half a day, or a whole day.

Go for a walk around the block, have a glass of water, light a candle, or say a line from your favourite verse before you begin – or any combination of these.

When you finish the session, blow out the candle, wash your hands, have a shower or a swim, or go for a pleasant lunch or cup of coffee at a café.

Letting go

Some people like to have a reason to do an activity on a certain date. Many cultures still plant and harvest vegetables by the phases of the moon. The full moon is also a good time to release possessions, anger, resentment, or sadness. The new moon is the time to manifest your intentions.

This exercise allows you to let go of any guilt, blame or personal history attached to inanimate items.

  • Go to an item that you want to keep.
  • Look at it from a distance or pick it up and hold it for a moment and ask yourself:
    • Do I love this thing?
    • Is this a happy memory?
    • Do I want this in my home?
  • Place it down either in the ‘keep’, ‘sell’ or ‘give away’ box.

Lifting your mood

Be thankful for your day. Shifting your awareness to a pleasant moment will change your mood, lifting your energy levels and releasing endorphins.

One way to be grateful for the times you shared with your loved one is to appreciate the small everyday things in life. Look around your environment. Thank the farmers who grew the food at the market place. The animal hides that went into your leather lounge or handbag. The bees that pollinated the trees that went into making the timber table at the local café. All the people who were responsible for transporting these goods by truck, rail and ship.

Different Types of Grieving

Bereaved by suicide

I know from experience how devastating suicide can be. It is a different type of grief. The sudden death of one of my family members, the attempted suicide of my boyfriend, and the suicide of my dance partner have contributed to my career path and the writing of this book. I have volunteered in rural communities with suicide bereavement and attempted suicide counselling.

Suicide is a difficult type of death to talk about. We more often discuss this type of tragedy when a celebrity takes their own life. It seems many of the idols we watch on the movie screen and television suffer from depression; perhaps if they talked about this openly they could show others that it is beneficial to seek professional help.

The book for children ‘Red Chocolate Elephants’, written by my friend and teacher Diana C. Sands (PhD) from the Centre for Intense Grief Therapy in Sydney Australia, can be used in your child’s healing journey.

It is also beneficial to go to group sessions, one-on-one counselling, or phone counselling with a suicide grief counsellor. Talking with other people who have lost family members through suicide may also be helpful.

Just listening to someone in crisis can help them immensely. Tell them you are there for them. Always, always encourage them to seek help. If you feel they are a danger to themselves, talk to a professional.

 

After sexual abuse and domestic violence

When the relationship between you and the deceased was not a loving one –you may have been in a situation where you had to do the bidding of someone who sexually, physically or emotionally abused you – you need to first allow yourself time to grieve, if not for the person, then for what happened to you during your relationship with them.

You may need to rest after touching their objects. Your body may react by excessive sweating, palpitations or a headache.

  • Make sure you allocate time for a walk with the dog, a gym class or to enjoy a meal with a friend. Hire some light-hearted movies; a few old favourites are ‘Here’s Lucy’ and ‘Lassie’, or rent a Bollywood movie to give your mind and emotions a break.
  • This person may have requested your presence as a final sign of control even after their death. Where there are unresolved issues with this person, seek professional help before revisiting the past.Ask your therapist to use revisiting the past as a rite of passage to transform your life. Working with a non-judgemental professional experienced with abuse can teach you a new level of self-acceptance and unconditional love.

If you do agree to take on the job of sorting the objects the deceased owned, with your continuing commitments at home and at work, do what is necessary to feel safe, protected and to retain a sense of personal power. Have a photo of you looking strong, vibrant and active. A stuffed toy, totem animal or pet can give a feeling of comfort. Take your favourite upbeat, happy music so you can feel confident and in control of the situation.

  • You do not have to accept this task.
  • This may sound a bit harsh but this person’s goods and chattels are not your concern.
  • What would happen if you were overseas? The executor would allocate bequeathed objects and sell the property and contents.
  • Consider taking a week of bereavement or other leave to allow your body to cope with the emotions this situation will bring up.
  • Walk barefoot in the grass, weather permitting. Have a long shower or swim at the end of the each day.
  • If the abuser was sharing your house, go for a walk outside before each session, meet with the person helping, and then return in a confident, triumphant state of mind. Now you are the person in control.
  • When sorting a room containing objects that may potentially be upsetting, have someone else do the work. This is like witnessing the event on a movie screen; you can see and hear everything, but are removed from the situation, sitting quietly. You can get up and walk outside at any time.

The deceased may have deliberately bequeathed you objects as a constant reminder of the control, abuse and mind games they played.

For example, if the marital bed recalls an abusive relationship, you will be reminded at every turn of the betrayal. By selling or donating the bed and bedding, you will feel more comfortable in your fresh environment, and your health will improve.

  • If bequeathed goods are of great monetary value, decide if you want to look at them every day. Send them to the auction house or ask your support person to sell them on your behalf. If you wish to, you could donate the proceeds of the sale of these goods to charity rather than keep the cash.
  • Be mindful of others who had a different relationship with this person; they may not be aware of the abusive behaviour of this person toward you or of any criminal record. This may not be the place or time to get upset. If need be, walk away from these people, leave them to tidy up and seek advice from your solicitor.
  • One way to feel some release from the past is to hire a trailer and use it to donate the objects this person gave to you. Selecting a couple of objects and smashing them to pieces or burning them in a safe area can be very cathartic.

I wish you well on your journey.

Namaste

Author’s note

This book came about after working as an interior designer for over thirty years, and noticing how peoples’ life stories were reflected in the possessions they gathered around them. I became intrigued with the reasons why people carried certain items with them for years, and began researching the connection between possessions and the individual’s attitude towards their environment.

After the death of my dance partner Brett, I became involved with suicide bereavement. My design work changed from major commercial and hospital projects to creating home environments for clients who had experienced the tragic loss of a family member or friend. I worked with clients to help them find the best place to display a loved one’s photo, or to design a room around a bequeathed item.

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Anne Jennings

Anne Jennings

Anne began her career studying interior design in 1973 and became interested in Feng Shui after designing a hotel, doctor’s surgery and private homes for a Malaysian client. She also has qualifications in eco-psychology, mediation and as a funeral celebrant. Anne’s passion for creating welcoming home environments came about after years working with bereaved families, finding just the right spot for the bequeathed items from a loved one. She has studied in Australia, Singapore and America, lectured for many years in Design at Hunters Hill and Strathfield Colleges, and worked as a professional space clearer in public and private buildings. Anne has also worked as a guide in the leading open range zoo in Australia supporting guests while camping overnight, and interacting with endangered native and exotic animals. In her fifties, Anne returned to country New South Wales where she trained as a jillaroo and completed a Certificate in Agriculture. She has worked on the family farm, for the RSPCA and as a strapper on an Arabian horse stud until 2013 Her new book 'Belongings' came about after noticing how peoples’ life stories were reflected in the possessions they gathered around them. She became intrigued with the reasons why people carried certain items with them for years, and began researching the connection between possessions and the individual’s attitude towards their environment. After the death of Anne's dance partner Brett, she became involved with suicide bereavement. Her design work changed from major commercial and hospital projects to creating home environments for clients who had experienced the tragic loss of a family member or friend.

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