When Randy died, we were living with my parents until our new house was done. It was supposed to be done the week before, but an incorrect countertop measurement delayed it. We moved all of our stuff into the house, except for a few items of clothing and the essentials.
When he died, all I wanted to was hold something that reminded me of him. Everything was packed. We weren’t sleeping in our bed or with our sheets. We washed clothes often because we didn’t have much with us. He had one pair of underwear, one pair of socks, a pair of shorts, and one T-shirt that he had worn the day before. I wasn’t going to cozy up to his underwear or socks, so I grabbed the T-shirt.
I slept with that T-shirt every night. I held it tight when I cried. It probably was beginning to smell more like me than it smelled like him. It didn’t matter. It was his. It was the only thing I had left to hold besides a broken watch, a wallet, and a bloody $20.
It was about 3 weeks later we finally moved back home, into the house we had moved out of. We never moved into our new house. When you have a contract, with your dead spouse’s name on it, and he/she dies, the contract is null and void. I could have tried to do it on my own. I had a big decision, move to where I know we both wanted to be and hope people I didn’t know would rally around me to be a support. Which, I think they would have. Or, move back to the home I already owned. It was old, but it was us. We had lived there for almost 5 years together. It was our first house that we picked out together, decorated together, and shared with our kids. I knew I would have a good support system there. It’s a small, close-knit group. I figured my kids had been through enough, I moved home.
My family would help, a lot. In the beginning, they came over and watched kids so I could sort my thoughts or go to counseling. My grandma was the one who came over often. While she was there she often cooked us supper and cleaned my house, spotless. It felt so good to come home and know there were two less things I had to try to figure out how to do. It’s hard to get even the smallest things accomplished.
It was about 2 months after Randy died. Grandma had come over during the day so I could go to counseling. As I was pulling in the driveway from an emotional session, I was relieved just thinking about supper being done and the house being picked up. I walked in the house and saw she had even done my laundry. Wow. I was so lucky.
Until I saw something familiar in the stack of folded shirts. I immediately filled with sadness and rage. She had washed his shirt! I was so angry. I asked her why she did that. She didn’t understand what I meant. She didn’t understand how I could be upset over her doing something so nice. I explained that she washed THAT shirt. I had other things of his, but none that smelled like him. That was the only thing I had from the night before he died. I had it wadded up in my bed. It wasn’t like I left it in the floor or the dirty clothes. I mean, why would she look on my bed and take what was there. I felt like she had stolen from me. I felt like she had invaded my intimate space and stole from me. I also felt a little like an idiot yelling at her about my crutch. I was an adult, I shouldn’t have a ‘blankie’ to sleep with. But, I shouldn’t have to live without my husband either. I figured I deserved to have a crutch for awhile. I didn’t care what she thought about it anymore, I just kept yelling and crying.
She felt terrible when she realized what she had done. If she had known, she never would have done it. I did apologize eventually, months later, because guilt got the best of me. There is no one that has ever been there for me more than her. In that moment, I couldn’t calm down. We talked about it, she understood why I felt so bad. I still slept with that shirt, it didn’t have the same feel though.
Now, my oldest daughter has that shirt. She wears it to bed when she wants to feel close to her daddy.
We all have our stuff. Don’t feel pressured to give it up. Don’t feel pressured to clean out his/her closet or drawers. Or apologize before you’re ready for something maybe you wouldn’t have said if you weren’t sitting in a large tornado.
It was years before I could watch a video or go through boxes. I still can’t watch a video without crying. It took me about 8 years before I could go through a box of his–and even that hurt. Our stuff was already in boxes from the move and I just left it there. I just couldn’t do it. Just recently I went through some of this stuff that my mother gave me. I did it without crying. First time ever. I didn’t even feel like I needed to cry. It was memories and they were good.
Don’t feel stupid for having a crutch either. It’s important. You know, there is never going to be another memory made or another conversation had. If you want to hold on to the things you shared, the moments together, the conversations–do it. There is nothing wrong with it. Keep it in a safe place or don’t let well-intentioned, loving members of your support system in your house. And, if something happens to it, find a way to be at peace with it. As you have learned, life is too short to be angry over anything for too long.
Take your time. When you are ready to move his/her stuff, you will. When you are ready to pack up your crutch, you will. This is your journey and you need to do it your way.