Families who come to Sunset View Cemetery & Mortuary from all around El Cerrito, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond often tell us that one of the most heartbreaking moments of losing a loved one is returning to an empty home filled with memories – and possessions. Organizing items that have been collected over the decades is a daunting but necessary task, and we’re here to offer our advice on how to proceed. We understand this is one of life’s most stressful responsibilities, especially when you’re already copying with loss.
After all, giving away a loved one’s possessions can feel like you’re giving away a part of them. Keep reading for our tips on navigating the process:
- Who should help? The first step is to decide who is going to be involved in the process. If your loved one put their funeral arrangements in place ahead of time, they may have also specified who should handle the details after death in a will or set of instructions. If this is not the case, do you have family members or close friends who are good at organizing and making decisions? Enlisting the help of others will ensure that you face the task instead of avoiding it due to difficult emotions.
- Are there specific items for specific people? We’ve heard about many conflicts that arise when items are donated or thrown away that carry meaning to someone within the family. A possession that has little significance to one person may have sentimental value to another. If your loved one who died noted the intended recipients of certain items, start there. Then move on to possessions that certain people would like to claim.
- Prioritize what tasks should be addressed and in what order. Are there mountains of bills and paperwork to sort through that need to be taken care of by a certain date? Begin with those. Then you can move on to possessions. Some prefer to sort room by room, while others would rather address groups of items (clothing, kitchen supplies, knickknacks, etc.).
- If you’re able, take your time. Too often, we hear stories about families who hastily purge a loved one’s belongings after they die, only to regret donating or throwing away certain items in the months or years that follow. We hear other stories about family members who want an item only to turn around and sell it. Others may simply want as many items as they can get. These are not easy situations. If there are no external pressures, such as needing to sell the house or having to return to your home in a different city or state, wait until you have the strength and support you need.
Taking time to move through belongings with a level head is essential. If a conflict arises, you can enlist the help of a third party, be it a friend, therapist, or even lawyer. After a death, emotions are running high and this can magnify difficulties. Preparation and pacing can make a world of difference.
If you have lost a loved one and are having a challenging time, please reach out to us. Everyone’s path through grief is different, but one thing remains the same – you don’t have to bear your sorrow alone.