I am often asked by my clients, when is the right time to get rid of their loved one’s clothes? Some mourners do this difficult task shortly after the death, while others hold onto their loved one’s belonging for much longer and some never let them go. There is no right or wrong answer.
However, studies have shown that you should keep a loved one’s belongings for at least several months. The reason for this is that grieving people can feel shocked and numb for weeks and even months after a death, which means they may not in their best state of mind to make good decisions around their loved one’s belongings.
“When we give things away suddenly and impulsively, we (often) want them back. There is no getting them back. They are gone,” said Heidi Horsley, a Manhattan psychologist and co-founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, an online forum offering grief support.
My suggestion to grievers who want to give away their loved ones belongings quickly after their death, is store the items out of site. Then put some time between themselves and the impulse to release the belongings. Have a discussion with your children or family members, there could be an article of clothing or a belonging that is meaningful to them.
Julie’s son died unexpectedly in a motor vehicle accident. It was a long time before she could consider parting with an article of his clothing. A friend told her about a lady in the community that made quilts from a deceased person’s clothing. She contacted her and together they choose her sons favourite t-shirts (and boxers). These were woven into a beautiful quilt that Julie has on her bed, “I feel closer to him having the blanket on my bed.”. In the act of collaborating and making her memorial quilt she was able to release his other clothes.
A deceased person’s belongings and clothing are often tied to memories of events, big and small. This is an important step in grief work, by taking the appropriate time you will avoid regret.