WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME?
I have the opportunity to facilitate many of the Grief Classes here at Circle of Life Hospice. As the participants process their loss ,inevitably someone in the group asked the question “Have you gone through your loved ones things? When is the right time?” The answers are as varied as the attendees of our class. This is a responsibility that everyone who has experienced the death of a family member or loved one faces, and it is one for which there is no time frame to complete.
When someone dies, there is stuff to go through, stuff to sort out, stuff to keep and stuff to pitch. Its pictures, clothes, notecards, family heirlooms and family items that conjure up memories. When someone we care about dies, we know there will come a time when we will need to go through all of the things we are left with. Today may not be the day, but we know that the time is out there sometime in the future.
As we process our grief and begin the journey following the death of someone we care about, going through the person items is an important part of the healing process. Each person will decide when it is the “right time” to begin to open the box, to go through the closet, to look at old pictures and other items that will need your attention. It can be a difficult choice when the decision is made, “it’s time now”. Some people want to do this alone, taking time to go through items embracing memories, reading a special card or letter, taking in the scent of the deceased clothing. This time can evoke strong emotions, tears, pain and also bring comfort. You might choose to have other family members or friends of the deceased assist in the process. I know of one family who used this time together, going through their mother’s things; remembering stories around certain items. It brought them comfort, laughter and a way to remember their loved one through their shared memories. And there are also people who do not want to sort through their person’s items. They choose to have someone, professionally, come and go through, sort, pitch and save any useable items for donations or resale.
All this is to say, the decision of “when it is time” is a personal one: there is no designated time frame, it is whatever is right for you. Just as we know the processing of grief and loss is individual to each person, based on relationships, circumstances and our own natures, coming to the conclusion that it is time to go through our loved ones things is individual as well. It may be something you do immediately or something you do years down the road. You will know, you will feel when “it’s time”. I hope it is a time of comfort and healing.
Bereavement and Spiritual Care Coordinator