Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Shopping Cart Find an NFDA Funeral Home Arrow Right

Blog

You are here: Home / Blog

Remembering A Life Blog

rss

Stories and inspiration to help you keep the memories of your loved ones alive

Parting With a Loved One’s Belongings

After a loved one dies we are often assigned the task by circumstance or desire of clearing out their home and getting rid of their things. The task can seem overwhelming: What do I do with all of this stuff? How do I know what to keep and what to get rid of?

How we remember a loved one is both a reflection and part of the grieving process. At a funeral or life celebration, our spoken remembrances are often shaped by social etiquette which dictates that only funny or touching or positive memories be shared. For those closest to the deceased, these remembrances can sometimes feel at odds with recent memories of the suffering our loved one experienced at the end of life, a suffering we may have vicariously experienced with them.

When someone we love has experienced a loss, we may struggle to communicate our support effectively. Often, my undergraduate students as well as attendees at workshops approach me with their stories of grieving loved ones, culminating with statements such as, “I didn’t know what to say to help,” or “I had such a hard time finding the right words.” It is unsurprising that many of us might feel stumped sometimes in verbalizing our support to grieving loved ones, because we ourselves may not have received helpful communication during our own experiences of loss. We might lean on “sympathy scripts,” such as “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “thoughts and prayers,” while recognizing, with a feeling of discomfort, how little support these scripts may provide to grievers.

I’m a longtime grief counselor and educator, and as you might expect, I talk to lots of people about all kinds of life losses. In recent months I’m hearing that COVID-19 has become a daunting challenge for just about everyone. Not only have stay-at-home and work-at-home protocols isolated people physically and socially, but the uncertainty of illness, financial jeopardy, and an unforeseeable future are making it hard for many to cope. Essentially, people are grieving. Anxiety and depression, especially—which are normal, necessary grief responses—are epidemic. While grief is absolutely natural in the face of these unprecedented circumstances and daily losses, it’s also something that demands compassionate, proactive care.

Digging Up The Roots

When we lose something that was very precious to us, whatever its nature, we grieve. Our grief may be short-lived sorrow or lead to a lengthy period of mourning. The depth of our grief depends on the nature of the relationship that we had with what we have lost, not on who or what that person or thing actually was. We might grieve more for the loss of a dog or cat than a person — it simply depends on the relative contributions made by each to our physical and spiritual well-being.

Finding similarities between your own grief experience and the experiences of others can help connect you in understanding to both the universality of loss, and uniqueness of your own grief journey. Sharing your story can help both you and others heal.

The pandemic has created unusually complicated death and grief circumstances for many people personally affected by COVID-19. If someone you love has died from the novel coronavirus, you have certain “rights” that no one can take away from you. This list is intended both to empower you to heal in ways that work for you, and to decide how others can and cannot help.

Over the past few months, the covid-19 pandemic has expanded the usual definition of anticipatory grief. Mandated sheltering-in aimed at slowing the virus’s spread collectively and individually took us from the flow, routine and rhythm of normal life and abruptly dropped us into an uncertain present and future. Now as we mourn the loss of thousands of lives and what once was, many of us are also anticipating and grieving pandemic-related short-term and long-term losses yet to come.

“Tell Me How to Grieve”

Humans have held funeral ceremonies since the beginning of time because only ritual feels up to the task. The death of a loved one is a life-transforming event, and ritual sacredly acknowledges that significance.

Creating a mandala when grief is present provides an effective outlet for expressing the pain of loss in an unspoken inner language of images, colors, shapes, forms and symbols that can bring forth insights often not found through words.