There was a time soon after Melanie ran ahead to heaven when I realized I had no choice but to push pause on my grieving. Unfortunately, the reality is when a person dies there is a myriad of important details which need to be handled. Funerals to be planned, people to be notified, insurance companies to deal with, notifications to be made. The list is endless.
The thing we really want to do is lay in our bed with the covers pulled up, and give in to the heavy ache in our heart. Unfortunately, there is a business side to death that doesn’t easily allow us to simply stop and truly grieve our loss.
It’s after the funeral when everyone has gone home that the real grieving begins. It’s then that we begin to wonder, how do we begin navigating life after loss? I think this is a million-dollar question and the best answer I have come up with is one day, one moment, one breath at a time.
One day you wake up and the reality of it all hits you. Your loved one is no longer here, and you begin to realize you’re on the grief journey. A road you so desperately wish had an exit where you could get off, never to return and have life go back to the way it used to be. If only…
Even though I will never understand why my daughter had to die so young, the one thing I remain strong and steadfast in is my faith in God. His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). Faith continues to allow me to stand firm on the only solid ground I know and that is Jesus – my Cornerstone.
Navigating life after loss is an ever changing, forever winding, bumpy road. There have been numerous days when I sat back and reflected on another time when life was simple, lighthearted, and good. Worries were few, or at least not the life and death kind. I still long for those days.
When grieving, our mind begins to go into overdrive with the number of questions that bombard our thoughts. What is the right thing to do after your loved one dies? During the early days of grief, we may look at our lives and all we see are remnants from the world that has blown up before our eyes. It’s like being in a war zone. How we handle some of these things is different for each one of us. Some of the most common questions I’ve been asked are:
• When is the right time to clean out their closet?
• Do you give their clothes away or do you keep them?
• Do you keep their room and things “as-is”?
• When is the right time to stop wearing your wedding ring?
• When should I return to work?
• When can I begin going out socially?
These are all such great questions and ones that I’ve asked myself. I’ve talked with many parents who do all of these things and some who do none of these things!
Some parents keep their child’s room exactly as it was the day they died. After a period of time, that only the parent can determine, they sometimes begin to put things away and often times will donate to an organization. Navigating life after loss has no formal blueprint. Let peace be your guide and go with what you feel in your heart is best for you.
I know of some wives who keep their husband’s clothing hanging in the closet because it makes them feel as if they are still there. It’s the same thing when a spouse continues to wear their wedding ring. They still feel married and doing so makes them feel connected to their spouse.
Melanie was not living with us at the time she ran ahead to heaven, so I did not have to face some of these decisions. However, I was able to get all of her belongings after she died. About a month later I went upstairs by myself and went through every single item, piece by piece. After inspecting each one and holding it to my face, slowly inhaling her scent, I carefully folded the clothes and packed them away in storage boxes which I have kept. Every once in a while I will carefully open the boxes and breathe in deeply. Even after all this time they still smell like her. It’s all I have of her, so I doubt I’ll ever give them away. Today, I still have her backpack with all her favorite perfumes, lotions, and personal items which I wrote about here in Memories in a Bookbag.
We each have to travel our own path, navigating our loss in the best way that feels most comfortable to us. There is no time limit on when you need to clean a closet, remove items, or stop wearing your wedding ring. Instead, I encourage you to take your time in making any decision. We are not thinking clearly during the early days/weeks/months. What you may think you don’t want to keep today, you may regret a year or two from now.
As you navigate your loss may you lean into the One who can heal your broken heart like no other.