Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Even Deeper ....

 ....  purging.

Last week I told you that I was purging my home and attic and getting things organized.

What I didn't tell you .... was how deeply I was purging.

You can see that there's a lot of "stuff" in my garage, but you most likely can't make anything out (due to my fabulous skills as a photographer).
But there's something there .... on the right side, close to the middle.
Something that is symbolic of how deep this purge is .....

Jim's hiking boots.  (and no, the man didn't hike much, as you can probably tell by the years-old boots that still look new.)

It's not the boots themselves that are the topic.
It's all of his stuff.
Mostly .... everything.

At almost 3 1/2 years out .... I'm down to the last things to purge.
And I am hugely surprised .... by how it went.

Just a month or so after Jim died, I boxed up all of his clothes and put them away.
I hung all of his suits in the back of the coat closet, where I wouldn't see them.
See ........ that was key.
I couldn't see his stuff.
The pain that sight caused was too much for me to handle.

Thus, after only one week .... I cleared all of his "stuff" out of our bathroom.  Off of the counters.
Yes, even his toothbrush.
And his cologne.
I have yet to meet anyone who's done it this early, so sometimes, in the beginning, I felt I had to defend my decision. (I don't any longer.)
The pain of walking into that bathroom every day ..... several times a day, and seeing his toothbrush .... sitting in the cup by his sink, right where he left it ..... was like a knife in my heart.
Every single time.

That toothbrush was not only a painful reminder of Jim's absence, it also felt as if I was being mocked by the universe .... as if it was saying to me, "Hey!  Look at his toothbrush!  Guess what?  He's NEVER coming back!"
And so I removed it.

His closet was the same thing .... only a million times worse.
If I opened the door, which I sometimes felt myself being drawn to do ..... I just crumbled onto the floor and cried.
I couldn't take the sight of all of his clothes in there.
And more .... I couldn't take the scent of him in there.
But .... as I said .... sometimes it seemed I had no power to avoid opening the door.
And so .... I had to clean it out.
And then put other things in there.
So it wouldn't be "his" anymore.

As the days turned into weeks, months and then years .... I would notice that one of Jim's jackets was being worn by shoulders that were not quite as wide.
His cowboy boots were worn on teenage boy feet .... feet that were not as long as Jim's, but being worn the same.
I've noticed a couple of his hats being worn.
And a couple of his ties.

I think I've just mostly watched this quietly .... not saying anything to the Sons, but noticing.
And being ok with it.

And then, the urge to purge hit.
And so the boys cleaned out the attic, bringing all of Jim's stuff down.
And they looked through those things.
I have no idea what was saved.

I thought that was it.
I thought that part was done.
Until I hit the coat closet last week.
The last thing I have purged.

I brought his suits out and then remembered that there were several huge boxes in the back of the closet.
I had forgotten.
I brought all of the boxes and and then sat down on the floor among them.
I opened one box at a time.

Those boxes held all of Jim's more personal clothing.
His t-shirts, jeans, socks, shorts, caps, etc.
I had indeed .... forgotten.

I opened up one box at a time and braced myself for the meltdown.
But .... it didn't come.
The waves didn't hit.
There was a slight amount of undertow going on .... but nothing so big that it took me down.

I went through every single item in every single box.
I chose some items to keep for myself.
I set some things aside to give to the Sons.

I picked each piece up, held it, remembered him wearing that item .... and smiled at the memories.
I brought many of them up to my face, breathing in deeply .... to see if they still had his scent.
They didn't.
My heart was beating pretty quickly .... yet I never lost it.
I just .... remembered.
In a good way.

And I was .... stunned.
In a good way.

I've cried since then from missing him, so I know those moments (hours) were no indication of my sudden "healing" of grief (I don't believe that's really possible).
But I think it is indicative of how much stronger I've become.
Of how much easier it is for me to carry my grief, without being brought down by it.

Because .... really?!
Who would've thought that I would one day be able to do actually go through my husband's things ....
my dead husband's things .... and not have dark, painful thoughts and millions of tears blinding my vision, making the task impossible to complete.

I purged.
And I didn't drown.

I just ........ remembered.
In a good way.


  1. I can relate to this post. I am a year out and I think I am ready to purge some of my husband's belongings. I was able to give a lot of his clothing to his brother who was about the same size. As children that had not lived with each other. They resembled each other so much! Th first time we met him, I felt like I was looking at my husband with black curly hair ibstead of his straight blonde hair. Early on I was able to give some of his things away to people that he loved knowing they would use them and remember him at the sametime. The latest purge will not be like that, but it is time
    his things got used by someone else. I too can look at his things most of the time now and remember.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. I haven't been able to purge anything yet...still waiting for the day it just "hits" me that it needs to be done.

  3. I'm at the same point right now. Most of my husbands things are in storage but I just got rid of his shoes last week. A couple weeks ago I noticed a change in me. I had a spoon with a broken handle, he had broken it. I never used the spoon but have held onto it for years now. For weeks I looked at that spoon and thought why would I keep a broken spoon that I don't even like or use. One day I got mad at myself for letting that spoon remind me of what was missing in this house and I threw it away. Since then I have been getting rid of everything and I feel great. Now that the snow is gone and it's starting to warm up the storage unit of his things will start being emptied out. I am so ready to let go and start fresh! This spring is all about new beginnings for me.

  4. So good to hear that you are doing so well. Bless you and your Sons.

  5. 2 weeks after Steve died, a friend gave me a Stairmaster, I put it in our room in front of his closet. It had to be pulled away from the door to get in the closet and I wasn't moving it. Was a good excuse to stay out of his closet. My mother came to stay with me and her "stuff" around the house bothered me, so I cleaned out 3 dresser drawers of his, putting this stuff in a plastic bin-then placed the bin in his closet. There are 2 drawers I can not bring myself to clean out. One of them being the drawer where kept his shorts. He LOVED wearing shorts. Could not wait for it to be warm enough to put them on. As a matter of fact, he and a customer of his had a friendly wager as to who would wear them first and who would hold out the longest to take them off...usually sometime in November! I have since cleaned out the closet except for a few items I knew he loved to wear and most of the pictures I have he is wearing one of these items. I gave the stuff to my son and brother-in-law.
    My biggest challenge has been the larger items, his truck, his boat and the shed. I'm selling the boat as it is a mechanical item that needs to be used or it will become a very large lawn ornament-the truck comes in handy and I'm going to keep it for now. My uncle and brother-in-law have cleaned out the shed so I can get the lawn mower out-only to discover that it is quite possible Steve was a secret hoarder (lol) of all things relating to tools!
    Feel ok with my progress as of now regarding his things. We were and I still am working on a master suite that was to be our special space, I suppose when it is complete and I move into it, I will have to address his stuff again.
    Thank you for this post. I have found great comfort here knowing I am not alone

  6. Oh Janine, I needed this today. I am getting ready to move from "our" home to "my" home and was just looking at all the things that I needed to purge. I think I will try to just remember as I go through so many of these things that just have to go - I can't keep everything nor should I try.

  7. Good job, Janine! Good for you!
    Right away, I gave away my husband's coats and boot's to family members who needed them. But most of his things I left for about 2 years. Little by little, I cleaned out his drawers and closet, but I kept one of everything-a pair of jeans, shorts, favorite shirt. I could hear my husband telling me, "Jean, give those clothes to someone who can use them." So I gave them all to the Goodwill. I think because I waited until I was ready, that it was fairly easy to do. God bless all of you who are struggling.

  8. I have purged a little at a time over the past 3 1/2 years. Just sold our home. Pain. Even in my little apartment I keep his bottles of cologne on the bathroom shelf. I kept some sweaters and shirts. Some hang in my closet... some I sleep in. I've moved on with my life. I've let go to some degree.. a great degree even... but I don't EVER want to completely let go. I simply can't. And selling the house feels like letting go.... letting go of too much all at once. Lots of tears to come in the next couple of weeks.

  9. Oh Gina, that's a big step - I'm also going through that and am moving in a few weeks. I'm trying to look at it as a good thing - a sign of progress on this journey. There are a few things that I will not part with but the majority will need to be dispositioned. You will be in my thoughts and prayers in the next few weeks.

  10. It's 10 months for me (tomorrow) and with spring finally here I know it's time to consider purging at least some of his stuff. I've given away very little so far but it's time. Dave's dresser, his closet, assorted boxes in the basement and biggest of all his garage. Where to begin?
    I used to pester him occasionally to do his own purging but it never happened and he didn't want me doing it for him. Ironic that what I was begging him to do a short time ago I'm now dreading doing myself.

    Life is not fair.

    I miss him so much.

  11. It is so interesting to read how others have done this. I too had to get rid of his toothbrush, the very first week - it was so personal it made me ill to think about it being there and how we started and ended our days in the bathroom. It took me five months to do his closet and two days to complete it and I sobbed so hard the first day but I had to do it, like others, looking at those clothes there without him was soul bashing - i touched them a thousand times, cried into his shirts, held his slippers in my hand, slept with his favourite sweatshirt - but none of it brought him back in the way I wished it would. Eventually those things ceased to be a comfort and began to be a painful, terrible start to the day - empty clothing. So I filled his dresser with all the things i will keep, the rest shared with family and to donation for others. I still go into that dresser, always hoping what I find there will give me a piece of him - a scent, a memory, a way back to him. I dont know if I will ever give those things away, I think i need them - some things to say - yes, he lived.
    The things i really cherish are any thing in his handwriting, his pictures, his watch and wedding band - but -
    it is important to move on . . . to edit . . . in some ways this too makes the loss real and in coming to a newer understanding of that - we step slowly into the future.

    we are not alone - we are out here supporting each other in this painful journey

  12. Just another reminder that you can't take ANYTHING with you to heaven!! It just amazed me especially at first when I see all these articles left for me that I had absolutely no use for, but was so useful and necessary to him. I have been able to "recycle" many item into other things that are useful to me and I've enjoyed that. Just wished I had more time to do it between working and raising the young ones alone.

  13. I also got rid of his bathroom stuff the first week. Then several weeks later I went through his clothes in the closet and dresser and donated them. I went through his clothes because it was too painful looking at them. Plus we were living with his parents and had everything in one room. I was eager to go through our storage unit after he died, but then I realized I was using it as a distraction. The storage unit was my way of getting out of the house. Now that the weather is getting warmer I have no desire to go through storage. Sure I could sell some stuff and organize it better, but its hard to look at 7 years of stuff and make decisions about it. Especially every time I go get something from storage I cry. So I will wait to do that later.

  14. I moved out of what was our home; I still own it but my son lives there now. I remarried recently and have to make a decision--do we move into it or get something new; more ours? The economy doesn't make that decision easy.