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When You Lose a Loved One, When Is the Right Time to Let Go of Their Stuff?

As I let some of these things go, as I move forward into a next chapter without him walking next to me, I know without a shadow of a doubt that what matters the most is that I am carrying his heart within my own.
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Young girl outside-copyspace
Young girl outside-copyspace

It's time.

It's been over two years since my husband died and I know that it is time to let go of so many of the material items that seem to weigh me down and make my heart ache with sadness for what I have lost.

Everyone has their own timing, their own way of moving through the process of grief and the tasks that need to be accomplished. For me, I know that time has arrived. For some, maybe it never will. There is no correct or simple answer.

I've put it off, the task of making decisions of his worldly possessions for as long as I could. I didn't see what the rush was besides for the convenience of having less boxes around. But, that wasn't a good enough reason for this sentimental heart and so I tiptoed past them as if they just may reach out and startle me every time I walked by them.

And so they sat, quietly, not disturbing anyone except perhaps the shattered and loosely held together hearts of those who inevitably had to look at them.The air in that room a little less buoyant, a little less forgiving.

As the years have gone on I have organically felt less and less attached to these material items. The idea of something tangible holding as much value as what I now put into the memories and the unseen realm that seems to be all around me, doesn't make as much sense anymore.

So I have started the process of letting it all go. I know it will be an exercise requiring not only my emotional senses to be on high alert, but also my physical strength to carry out the seemingly endless task of going through a house full of stuff and moving it to where I feel it now belongs.

And so here we are, rather, here I am, because he is no longer standing next to me helping me make these grueling life decisions. Being the partner of the one who died leaves you the new heir or heiress of all major decisions, tasks, moments of despair and hope for the future.

You are now the one in charge whether you like it or not.

So I am taking control of the the process, holding my head up high and walking into the fire head on.

I am doing it.

The process is somewhat straightforward. It involves opening the boxes, taking inventory, making a pile to be given away, and being committed to a confident and expectantly small pile to be kept safely in my possession...

Or so is the sanguine goal in which I am committed to prioritizing in hopes that I will not continue to carry around the burden of endless material possessions forever, as can be the outcome of the easier route of skipping such a heavy task.

I dive into the undertaking and I am ready for what I know is inevitably around the corner, the relatively familiar land that we like to label as daydreaming. The inescapable other realm that has held many of my minutes, if not hours, of the days over the last two years.

The seemingly inexorable path of reminiscing soon takes over and I quickly prepare myself for the all too familiar feeling of despair that is laced with bittersweet aching and overwhelming vexation for what I cannot change, even if I give all of my strength to the cause.

But it was different this time.

I have found in life that first times for everything hold a special and priceless meaning and this one will also hold a special place in my heart..

I was standing in our basement holding a picture of our wedding day. The beautiful, artistic and perfect shot of us in our perfect attires surrounded by the most perfect love... If I was judging what my reaction to this picture would have been based on the visceral reactions I have continuously had to all things that reminded me of my beautiful husband over the course of the last two years, I would have known exactly what to expect as my reaction...

But it was different this time.

A feeling of pure joy and of sweet, somewhat lovingly and detached remembrance, came over me. I smiled instead of wept. I thought of that day and I felt the long lost feeling that I had once had before he died.. One of sweet, simple reminiscing of a beautiful day in our past.

It was in that moment that I knew that I am truly healing. It caught my breath and I understood at that moment that I could choose to lean into this soft glow of hope and light for the future, or I could choose to ignore the flicker of hope and claw my way back to the feeling of sadness that had become a comfortable constant in my life through the process of grief.

I instantly remembered what another young widow had lovingly shared with me right after he had died. She told me that one day, when you least expect it, when you think of him you will not feel this same grueling pain you now are all too familiar with, instead you will smile and you will feel tender affection for that time of your life and the sweet memory that is granted to your thoughts.

I smiled as I held that picture and thought of those words that were whispered softly to me so long ago. What now feels like a lifetime ago. How I wasn't sure that she really understood my pain, the amount of physical and emotional pain that I felt within the core of my being.

I just knew that she must be mistaken, there was no way I would make it through this journey of life without the other half of my heart walking next to me.

Going through his stuff I am realizing that I am, indeed, making it through. I am healing and I am growing. I still love him with a love that many may never know. The kind of love that moves mountains and changes something in this world, shifts the way this story is playing out. But, I am moving forward and I am continuing to live a life that he would be proud of.

Of course, the whole process of going through his stuff has not gone as smoothly as that sweet moment, but I am doing it. I am going through the motions to move forward without the burden of piles and piles of boxes surrounding me.

And I know he is here, all around me, as I touch the things that hold so many memories of beautiful and incomparable times of my life. As I let some of these things go, as I move forward into a next chapter without him walking next to me, I know without a shadow of a doubt that what matters the most is that I am carrying his heart within my own.

This heart, this one heart, now has the strength of twice its weight. With this one heart I will continue on with an endless commitment to love, adventure and beautiful moments.. And for me, that's all I need.

This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at