Grief is often a foreign feeling for most until they are faced with it head on. When you lose a loved one, it can be hard to do much of anything, but life must go on. From the heirloom furniture passed through generations to old love notes, choices are thrust into your lap whether you are ready or not. Decisions are immense or can be something as simple as what to do about the food in your loved one’s cabinets.
For some, settling an estate and sorting through the items left behind brings closure. For others, it can make a difficult time even worse. Here are five tips to honor your loved one and yourself during this difficult time:
1. Take a moment.
After the initial loss, grief is forefront to other emotions and life feels chaotic. Advice comes from every direction whether you ask for it or not. Many will tell you to hurry through the sorting and delegating of items. Personally, I advise clients to take a moment, and a deep breath before you make hasty decisions. This will prevent future family arguments and possible regrets.
If finances and circumstances allow, give yourself a good 30 days before jumping into any major decision-making in the dissolution of your loved one’s legacy. Also, you need to use this time to move through your grief and find healing. If you push it away or ignore it, grief will manifest in disruptive and painful ways. This is your time to process it in its freshest state.
2. Don’t do it alone.
If your family works well together, use this time to revisit old memories. Choose what physical talismans of those memories you wish to hold onto.
If you find yourself explaining and justifying your choices to your friends or family, they are not the right ones to assist you during this time. Look for someone who is empathetic. Try to involve individuals around you that allow you to make choices without judgment.
Ideal supporters at this time are organized and show up with an open and clear mind.
3. Honor their memory.
Of the items you will keep or distribute to friends and family, there is likely to be a surplus of belongings that can be useful to someone not in the immediate family. Not every member of the family even wants to take your loved one’s items. But who should get these items?
Focus on local organizations. Small non-profits and thrift organizations can thrive from your donations. Make choices that feel good and honor the wishes of your loved one. Think about organizations that were important to them, and their beliefs. If they did not have a connection with any organization, what charities are important to you? Through selecting organizations that resonate with you or your loved one, the entire process can be a healing one that benefits many.
4. Keep track of your decisions.
Six months to a year after you dissolve your loved one’s material legacy, when the dust clears from the darkness, different individuals might inquire about particular objects. How about dad’s golf clubs? Mom’s crystal glasses? The family photos?
This is where your helpful, empathetic friend comes into play again. Have them help you keep track of your decisions. You are then able to look back and know what decisions you made. Knowing what went where will be incredibly efficient in the long run. List each item and assign it a number, then add the location the item came from and who/where the item is going. This offers peace of mind, and prevents future arguments.
5. Take care of yourself.
This process is difficult, but you need to prioritize your needs, too. Your basic needs such as hydration, nutrition, and rest are essential during this period. You might not feel like doing much of anything, but covering the basics will preserve your future well-being and health. It is easy to be distracted by the emotions and the intimidating amount of work that lies ahead.
Sickness is common in this period, as your body responds to the grief and stress. Don’t neglect your health, job, friends, other family members and the need to grieve. Taking care of yourself not only honors you, but your loved one as well.
Laura Olivares is founder of Nothing Forgotten, Inc., which guides and manages all aspects of the downsizing or dissolution of a loved one’s material legacy. It is the first and only after-death service that repurposes, recycles and resells up to 95% of the personal belongings back into the community. www.nothingforgotteninc.com