Going through a deceased loved one’s clothing is not something people who haven’t grieved really think about. At least I never thought about it before I experienced significant, sudden loss.
It’s one of those many, MANY layers that grievers have to peel away. It’s hard. It’s sad. It hurts. It’s not fair. It’s traumatic.
My twin’s clothes (and mine) arrived back at my parents’ house in my hometown in several big, brown boxes. I never returned to our dorm room after she passed, so our belongings were packed up and sent to me in a van. The boxes were piled up in a room outside of my bedroom. I walked by those boxes day in and day out. It took me months (maybe even over a year) to have the courage to work through it all.
We were (are) twins, so as you can imagine, we shared everything. Therefore, “her” clothes were also mine. I sifted through everything, eventually.
It was really freaking traumatic. I can still vividly see those boxes in my mind. I remember they were wet because it had been raining when they were dropped off. The cardboard started to smell, but it didn’t affect my lack of speed to unpack them.
I could go into more detail of how horrible this experience was, but it’s not necessary because unless you have to do it, you won’t understand it. Just like my pain, I don’t need to prove the trauma I’ve experienced to anyone.
To non-grievers: There are countless things that grievers have to do throughout their journey that are so freaking hard. Going through clothes is only one example. I would suggest to try to be more aware of these tasks grievers have to endure after losing a loved one.
And again, don’t make assumptions or offer unsolicited advice. Grievers have too much on their plate, so just be more aware, which will hopefully lead to more kindness to grievers and more acceptance of the grievers’ behavior.
To the grievers: I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have to go through clothes or that you had to go through clothes. It’s not fair.
But you know what? You don’t really have to go through them if you don’t want to. You can leave them there. You can leave them in a closet or a storage unit. You can donate them. You can do whatever you want. Remember, there are no rules. You can also wear them everyday or make a quilt out of them.
Most importantly, what you choose to do with the clothes does not define your love for the one you’ve lost. If you don’t go through them, if you donate them, if you throw them away, if you wear them, if you save them all, if you make something out of them, whatever you choose to do does not define your love for that person.