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Dealing With the Stuff

Monday, August 1, 2016
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Dealing with the Stuff

It took me almost a year to throw out Will’s toothbrush. I tried to throw it out multiple times, but I just couldn’t push myself to do it. Throwing out his toothbrush felt like acceptance, accepting that our relationship was really over, accepting that he was really gone. It was those little things about being a couple, things like sharing a toothbrush holder, that were the hardest part about being a widow.

I didn’t move out of the apartment we shared until a few weeks before the one-year anniversary of his death. I kept feeling like I wasn’t ready to leave, but when it started to get closer to the one-year anniversary I knew it was time.  And it wasn’t until I was packing up the bathroom, and it was time to pack up the toothbrush holder, that I all of a sudden knew it was time to let go of his toothbrush. And in that moment I was so glad that I hadn’t pushed myself to throw it out earlier. Moving out of our place was a big step towards moving forward and I knew that feeling ready to throw out his dusty-by-now-toothbrush showed how far I had come in my grieving.

Because of my own pack rack habits, and the dozens of boxes and rubber bins of Will’s stuff still filling my life, I was forced to move into a two bed room apartment.  I thought I would slowly take the year to go through his boxed up stuff, and I would slowly donate, discard or keep his many possessions. But every time I tried to open a box, I just couldn’t find the strength to get rid of anything. I might take things out to look at, but after I was done looking at things I would just neatly place them back in their boxes. After a year I had barely gotten rid of anything and I was forced to move all of Will’s boxes and rubber bins with me as I moved a second time.

This past year I have been living with my parents and all of Will’s boxes and rubber bins have been in a storage unit. Not being with the boxes has been nice, and not having pressure to open the boxes and sort through the stuff has been great. I had to give myself permission to let the stuff sit, out of site and out of mind. I knew that when I was ready, I’d open the boxes and get rid of stuff. Taking the time to grieve at my own pace has probably been one of the most helpful coping skills I have learned.

This coming week, however, I will be passing through another mile stone, again related to toiletries, and it’s helping to recognize how far I have come, and how the original bitter sting of his loss has subsided a little. At the time Will passed away, he had a few bottles of Suave Men’s shampoo. I had a few bottles of shampoo myself and once my own products ran out I started using his. It was a mild smell, not too manly, and it reminded me of him. It felt good to see his shampoo in the shower and it helped me to feel a little less alone. I am now nearing the end of the final bottle and I am amazed at how strong I have become since he passed. I remember those moments in our old apartment where I would look at his lonely toothbrush and wonder if I would ever feel whole again without him by my side. I remember picking up his toothbrush in our old apartment and thinking a sane person would have thrown this out by now, and then saying to myself, well you’re a widow, you have an excuse to be insane and then I’d place the brush back in the holder and think, maybe next week I’ll be ready.

And as I get to the bottom of his shampoo I realize that I might just be ready to open up his boxes of stuff and start to sort and donate and discard all those items I do not need. Too much stuff can complicate your life, and when that too-much-stuff isn’t even yours, it is probably a good idea to let go of it. This September it will be three years since he passed. Recently as I picked up that almost empty bottle of shampoo and wondered, is today the day it will run out, I start to realize that I am ready to let go of a little bit more of him. I know when that bottle finally empties I’ll probably cry, perhaps those deep sobs that shake you to your very core. And even though it’s hard to let go of this little bit of Will, I know I am excited to move forward with my life, while also holding on to the memories of the life I shared with him.


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