Dazed, frozen, numb. Do these describe your grief journey? Me too. In the first days after my son died, I barely remember conversations and worse, decisions that I made. This is a very common grief reaction. It is not a lack of emotion that causes the daze but an overload of emotion that trips an internal circuit breaker so the person does not totally collapse.
My 25 year old son lived and died in Vancouver and we lived in the Toronto area. We had to move his things out of his rented home during the funeral time or fly back again later to do it. We still were in shock and numb and had no energy. Friends insisted on helping us and even offered to do it for us to save us extra grief. I thank God for the many helping hands but we decided that we had to do this, even in our dazed state.
I am so glad we did, it was like having one more visit with him. We discovered another fun side of Ben! He had paintball equipment and the coolest mask. On his crowed bulletin board there were pictures of us, his family! We discovered his ear-marked bicycle repair manual and admired his good taste in his brand new shirts. We knew he like working out but he even had his own George Foreman No Fat grill. He had a half package of encouragement cards. What 25 year old tells his mother that he sends out cards all the time to friends who could use a boost? I would not have known that tender side of him if I had not gone through his things myself.
Ben had no legal will, and so we tried to imagine his wishes: we gave his new leather chair to his dear friend who was just starting out, his car ended up with his sister, and his friends got various appropriate housewares, sport and musical equipment and clothes. When he died, some of his friends flew all the way from Rwanda for the funeral but lost his luggage. We gave him some of Ben’s things and I loved it when he wore one of those brand new shirts to Ben’s funeral to honour him.
Strange things like his rugby shoes, his car blanket, his teddy bear and that half a package of encouragement cards ended up in my suitcase and I am so glad they did.
Later, at home, I inhaled the smell of his sweaty things and it was like he was here and for a moment all was right in the world again. In fact, I sealed up his blanket and rugby shoes just to keep the “Ben smell” from airing out and snuck a whiff on hard days. That may sound weird, but as a grief coach, I can tell you it is very normal. Some have slept with sweaters and were devastated when they were accidentally washed. Those shoes and blanket helped me through the tough days but when the worst is over and I was okay.
In our dazed state, we almost let someone else clean up his things for us but I am so glad we did it ourselves. The things I brought back to Ontario stayed handy in my closet but then one day I was ready to put them in my storage locker. I have trimmed down the things in that storage locker now too. But guess what, because I saved his teddy bear I was able to give it to his niece, who wasn't even born when he died. He would have loved that, and his niece now loves that teddy bear too!
The moral of the story is: if you are not sure, don’t dispose of your loved one’s things until you are. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to thaw from the frozen state. God bless you with renewed strength and hope as you walk the grief journey.
How about you, did you feel dazed at first? Are there any favorite things that you saved?
If you are struggling with loss or grief, get the support you need. For more helpful blog articles scroll down. Included are Birthday Parties in Heaven, He is not here, Just tell Me What Happened and The Worst Nightmare plus helpful Renewing Resilience Tips. For additional grief and loss resources, including a 30 min. introductory session with Helga, click here.
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