COVID-19 brings us all to new and unchartered grounds. Having to be restricted to staying home is a foreign concept for us. Most of us are in a state of heightened anxiety as we worry about the future, the well-being of our loved ones, and our own health and safety.
We all had circumstances and situations we were already dealing with, but these have most likely shifted, changed, even gotten heavier. Your grief is probably one of these things. Being isolated home has presented a new set of thoughts, worries, and struggles, and you may find that your grief has become even more overwhelming.
Some of you might be surrounded by your loved one’s personal belongings. There may be boxes, bags, or even a whole room that act as a sharp reminder of your loss, and feels difficult to escape from.
Being stuck at home, feeling surrounded by all these memories and constant reminders, might be adding to the heaviness you are already feeling. There may be emotions you were not expecting. For some, these items can feel like a box or bag full of rattle snacks, ready to strike. The fear of that venom waiting to paralyze you, take your breath away, make you feel like you are drowning, can be overwhelming. Constantly walking past those boxes or bags can be extremely painful. Walking past the room, still left the way your loved one had it, can feel like a punch in the gut.
We encourage you to find ways to let yourself “off the hook” with confronting your loved one's belongings. For now, give yourself some space to get more prepared. Find ways to deal with these items even if it means you are not “dealing” with them at all.
What we mean is this: move those boxes or bags to a different corner for now. A corner of the house you don’t pass by on a regular basis. Maybe you can find a closet to put them in for a later date. Unless there’s urgent paperwork in these boxes and bags, they can wait for you to feel more ready.
If your loved one’s items are not in boxes or bags yet, consider gathering them and putting them in a container. If it’s an entire room you feel paralyzed by, then maybe, closing the door for now might help. Maybe, just telling yourself it’s okay to not address this right now can lift some of the heaviness and pressure.
If this doesn’t feel right for you, and you feel that now is actually the best and healthiest time for you to sort through things and reminisce and grieve in that way, then that is okay too; but we do encourage you to try to balance these sort of tasks with other activities that are restorative and can give you a “break” from your grief. (For more thoughts on how to manage the tasks and emotions of grief during this time, please see our previous blog post about how to switch between confronting grief and taking “breaks” from active grief work.)
What we’re proposing is not absolute avoidance, only the gentle suggestion that you take time to find your anti-venom before you tackle these boxes, bags, or entire room. Under the best of circumstances, many people that have lost a special person struggle with this very thing. With so many choices taken away from all of us in our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, we encourage you to be intentional and empowered here. Be gentle with yourself. Try to release any expectations you may have put on yourself to complete this task.
And as always, please know that we are here if you feel the need for support during this time.