Purging After A Death In The Family

Cemetary statueLike a lot of people these days, my sister is a bit of a pack rat. She’s got Venus in Capricorn which does incline a person to stock up on things.

Since her husband died, she’s been preparing to move by throwing away…everything.  She’s given things to her neighbors. She also left scads of stuff out for homeless people and made many trips to Goodwill.  She’s been getting rid of everything over these last weeks.

It didn’t take her long to realize that her apartment was full of food that her husband liked – stuff she doesn’t eat herself.

Eventually she realized that most everything she owns, she owns because of him.

“None of this stuff matters,” she said.  “I had all this stuff so he’d be happy. Now that he’s dead, I have no use for it at all.”

I admire how fast she’s been able to process this. I think I would sit around and amongst my husband’s things for years…for a long time.

She may be quick about this, because she has to. She’s moving. But I don’t think that’s it. If I were her, I don’t think I’d be able to move. I’d be more apt to shut myself up for very long time.

What do you know about purging after a death in the family?

21 thoughts on “Purging After A Death In The Family”

  1. My mom passed in May and she lived with us, but had her own apartment. At first I was going through her things just for comfort, and I was able to give mementos to family easily.
    Then I shut down, and couldn’t bear to look at anything. After a few weeks I started a massive clean out, donating her clothes to charity, giving personal possessions to relatives. Then I shut down again and have been this way for over a month. I’m gearing up to go through what’s left. It’s so emotionally draining for me and my kids too. Sometimes I laugh at what I find, she saved plastic bags everywhere, in every closet, bin etc. She was a child of the depression and there’s just stuff everywhere. I know I need to take breaks to help process the grief, not just for me but also for my girls, who miss her terribly.

    (((((Massive hugs))))) to your sister and to you and your family..

  2. Cleaning out a house after a dear-one’s death is to say the best awful. You have to give things away that probably they dearly cherished and you have no idea of this…what physical things make up memories? It made me realize that attaching yourself to things rather than trying to create memories from feelings and deeds is really not a big deal. My Mum would have held much dearer more “I love you Mum” than the expensive things I sent her trying to make up for the fact that I was so far away. Amen.

  3. My dad was something of an organized hoarder. (He threw nothing away; I found homework from when he was in elementary school, as an example.) We donated or threw away almost everything, but I still have boxes of stuff that I couldn’t part with yet, both in my place and taking up SO much space in my mom’s garage. I’m planning to burn some more stuff on the one year anniversary next month. Hoping to eventually part with everything except pictures.

  4. Our wealthy 43y.o. neighbor had a massive coronary leaving an alcoholic wife & 6 kids, 12 to 2. The kids were in our house all the time for something to eat and my mother kept in touch w/her weekly, but never entered the home. (Mom believed good fences/good neighbors.) Several months passed and Mom did enter the home as the kids seemed more neglected (dirty clothes/not bathed) and found the remains of his last [moldy] meal in the refrig and the sheets had not been changed since he last slept in them-they were very grey. The house was a mess – the poor woman could not cope; the kids were left to grow like weeds.

  5. I finally got my bookshelves done and was unpacking and arranging books all day yesterday. In one of the boxes I came across this little door that was supposed to hide the valves on my steam radiator in one of my college dorm rooms — long story short, the radiator broke and when the maintenance guys fixed it, they didn’t replace this little door. But it amuses the hell out of me, this door! 😀 It’s, like, a magical gnome door or something and I’ve always said I’m going to find something to do with it. Build a cubby in the wall and hide it with this door. Something!!

    And I found this door yesterday, in a box of photo albums and other mementos, and realized… If I were to die tomorrow, there’s not a single person in this world who knows what that door represents to me or why I’d keep such a thing. It would probably be one of those, “What a weirdo, why in the hell…?” and *shoof!* door gets tossed in the trash.

    That’s kind of sad and humbling, in a way. *smiles*

  6. Shortly after my great-grandmother’s funeral a few years back, some of us went to sort through her home. Certain family members had been trusted with the upkeep while she was living out of state with my grandparents (she had dementia).
    We walked into…..an episode of Hoarders. Rodent feces mixed with heirlooms and paperwork, all piled on the floor. Crayon drawings on antique lamps and her beautiful wallpaper. The house was TRASHED. I could go on about how nasty the house was, and how horribly it was treated,

    How did I feel about it while we were cleaning up? I felt as if a large piece of my childhood had been stripped away. :'( My family spent many holidays and vacations at her house. She kept it pristine–you could do surgery on her kitchen floor. Definitely a Norwegian! Her home was full of pretty knickknacks, some of which came from her travels overseas. Great-Grandma took great pride in her home and enjoyed entertaining us all there when I was growing up.
    Now…….that part of my life is dead. All I have are memories–and hard feelings between family members. Mom did repurpose her dining room cabinet so it can be enjoyed for many more years. But it burned her up to see her grandmother’s home treated like garbage by our own family!

    My birth father had died just a few months earlier, so for a year I watched helplessly as my childhood was slowly destroyed. The Gulf Coast oil spill of 2010 intensified that loss for me. I felt shaken to the core. 🙁

  7. When my grandmother passed away, her children divided the jewelry among themselves and any of them could take any clothes, trinkets, or etc. that they wanted. My mother (with Scorpio Moon conjunct Saturn) decided to keep gold teeth that my grandma kept. I’m pretty sure my grandmother’s clothes are still in the house she lived in.

    My neighbor, also an old lady, passed away 2 months ago. Last weekend, her children had an estate sale. Sold the car, jewelry, etc.

    I’d probably keep a few things and purge the rest.

  8. My dad and I are both pack rats. Not really at the level of hoarders, but…we are sentimental types and we keep crap. Cancer, much? I don’t even want to think about what it will be like to clean out his house when he passes away, or what it will be like for my loved ones when I go, for that matter.

  9. There was stuff that was determined as having saleable value. Family members could purchase, and what they didn’t was advertised. I think the house sat for about 3 months after the death until we were ready to deal with it all. This is where my obsessive compulsive sister comes in real handy. She is an organizer extraordinaire. She went through everything and arranged it in aisles of furniture and boxes of stuff. The siblings went through first and took what they wanted. And then the grandchildren went through (that was really fun, what they found memorable) and the the rest got trucked off to a charity thrift store.

    I took some stuff. Things that reminded me of my mom and I looked at the stuff and played around with it for a couple of months and then I got rid of it. However, I am still wearing some of my dad’s socks, long underwear, flannel shirts, and overalls for yard work. Probably my favorite things are his knife and compass. And I scored some of my mom’s kitchen cutlery which is of great use.

  10. My grandma cleaned house after grandpa passed-on. She was kind of an angry Sagittarius. Mom, a Capricorn, has taken a measured approach since Dad passed-away. She’s taking her time going through things, giving some away while keeping what’s important. She’s sentimental, like me, so it is hard for her to part with memories. I like having family mementos to remind and inspire me. They provide an anchor to the past and my heritage which helps me not get blown adrift in this weird new world.

  11. my husband’s family is going through this right now. My husband’s father is in the hospital, and it’s been a rough month. Doctors say that death is near, probably this week or this weekend if he’s lucky.
    This saturn in scorpio is tough this year. Earlier this year he looked happy and healthy and was going on vacations. How strange the fates just changed like that. I dont know what’s going to happen the rest of the month or next month. We were hoping against hope he’d be here for christmas but then we’re just being so selfish. My mother said that the best thing to pray is that he doesn’t suffer not pray he keeps living while suffering. We just feel so sad and hopeless.

    1. it is very emotionally exhausting too, because everyday there’s tears. And the year isn’t even over yet, and saturn in scorpio isn’t over for awhile.

  12. It’s been since 1998 that my mother passed, and I just can’t part with the last sample of her pretty handwriting in an out-dated address book, plus a whole collection of decorative plates that I, the nomad child in the family, lug around with me every time I move. I also have a big sweater of hers that I still wear. Odd, I know.

  13. I did a massive sorting through my moms stuff 3 months after she died. It hardly made a dent. I took a bunch of pictures and clothes and little things that remind me of her. Something about closets, they are like portals through time and space.

    It was fun and sad and then I couldn’t do it anymore. In fact, I don’t know if I can ever go back. I know my dad doesn’t have long. And he is a full on hoarder with multiple properties full of valuables and junk. Piles of papers and massive metal file cabinets full of receipts dating back to the 60s. He would never think of downsizing or hiring someone to organize the stuff. He just wants to hold onto it all. Some day soon, he will die and it will be a huge burden to deal with all the stuff.

    Frankly, even though I could deal with it, and everyone expects that I will, I won’t. I figure if my siblings want his money so bad, then they can do all the work. It’s not worth it to me.

  14. I found out (after my sister’s death) that all of the stuff we think is important and so dear to us really means little to anyone else (as I watched my other sister shovel the contents of my dead sister’s storage unit into the trash without even looking at what she was shoveling). I also learned that holding onto stuff to maintain a tie to a certain person is an unnecessary crutch (for me). The appreciation and love I have had for that person is there with me in my heart all the time – whether I have that physical momento or not.

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    I’ve recently had a death in the family. Someone very dear and close to me, who helped raise me when I was growing up. I ended up living with her again after college. While having some major Scorpio Saturn transits, I did my best to get along, understand her pain/mental burdens of the past, rally the family for teamwork, and stay strong enough to take care of myself, while all while restarting school. So many challenges.

    The night she went to the hospital, I was told to go home, not to stay. So, I left. The house was so quiet, so empty, so I slept in her bed to feel close to her, and woke up to sun streaming beautifully into the house. In that moment, I understood why she did not want to leave this house.

    A few days later, she passed. And, I decided that after all the family left from the funeral services etc, I would continue to live at her house. I remember her vision for the house for what she wanted for the family. It may or may not be a possibility, but I knew that in order for the house to hold warmth, to be a home, a house must be lived in. Each room must be made to be kept up, not abandoned due to grief. Clothes need to be worn or given away. Flowers must be watered and nurtured to bloom. These memories need to be organized for future generations.

    It’s odd. Living here alone, I still feel her love and protection. And, because she also lived alone, but also lived so vivaciously, working hard to be strong, and generous to others for many years, I am still learning from her example now. For her, keeping up the house, kept her going; taking care of the house, was one way of taking care of herself. She left me much more than “things” or a house. She gave me lessons in how to live. Even in death, she is still teaching me about life. She always pushed herself to walk forward, despite all barriers. And she had made her life, as she wanted it to be, through sheer will and confidence. It may have been tough to be living with someone so strong-willed, who later grew to have some cognitive difficulties, but it made me tougher as well.

    Just sharing my experience, all this happened after my Saturn Return. I am very lucky to have had that time with her.

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    As for purging, I know that it’s best if we let many things go, including the loved one. We can wish for memories and love to stay, but to wish the best and give blessings for that person’s soul, I have to heal for their sake, and I have to heal, in their memory. And, if we do have to opportunity to treat these things left behind with respect, out of love for that person who passed, we need to use them and take care of them. Or let them be used and be taken care of by others. Most things should not be sealed up forever, but enjoyed and appreciated.

    Basically, though this property, these things do not equate our time with them. We could lose them in a second. What we received was so much more everlasting. Love, understanding, generosity and forgiveness is at the center of this.

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