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Family Greif Moving Forward

Her Clothing, Her Things

Nyle Kardatzke

WSN: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

If you have recently lost your wife, you may be asking yourself, “What should I do with my wife’s clothing, jewelry, books, and other possessions?”

I believe our wives are now clothed in splendor as Solomon could not have imagined, but we still have their earthly clothing here, and we must deal with it sooner or later. You now have a task that nothing has prepared you to handle: what to do with your wife’s many belongings, including her clothing.

There are no rules for dealing with her clothing, books, jewelry, cosmetics, and other possessions. You must consult your feelings and your habits as you begin this work. Don’t be in a hurry. If you are a very tidy person and you need closure soon, you may decide to act faster than a man who has storage space and is comfortable with many reminders of his wife.

When my wife died, I thought it would be weird if I still had her clothes in the house a year later, as though I kept them out of some morbid fixation. I was wrong about that, and I still have some of her clothes now, nearly ten years later, but I seldom see them or think about them. I did give away many armloads of clothing in the first few months. In the frigid winter of 2011, I gave most of her coats to African refugees.

Before you discard all of your wife’s belongings, you may want to think about giving some to your children and grandchildren, or your wife’s siblings or close friends.

A friend recommended that I not donate any of my wife’s intimate apparel but discard them instead. The advice seemed wise, and I acted accordingly. I also discarded other personal things like her cosmetics.

I take digital pictures of the things I decide to give away or discard, except for intimate items. In this way, if I must, I can still see the discarded or donated objects without having them in the house. I rarely look at those photos on my computer, but they are doing no harm among my files.

Is there a procedure you want to follow for storing, donating, or discarding some of your wife’s belongings? Which things will be easiest to discard or give away? Where do you want to begin?

Know yourself. Does it help to keep some things so you can sense your wife’s presence? Or do you need a clean break? Consider storing some items away from the house if you are crowded or just need separation from her belongings.

Consider your children and friends. What do they need to see in your home to assure them of your love for your wife? I have kept pictures of my wife on display throughout the house. Some were formal portraits of us with our children when they were younger; some are snapshots taped to cabinets in the kitchen or the refrigerator. I have gradually put away a few pictures of her, but many will remain in view.

Even at a distance of ten years, I still have two of my wife’s coats in a front closet, and some of her clothes are in another closet. These things of hers don’t make me sad. They are just reminders of her and the good years we had together.

From time to time, I find things that I think are especially appropriate for one of our children or grandchildren to have. I explain the significance of each object when I give it, sometimes writing about its history.

I sometimes give things related to my own life and my wife’s, since I don’t expect to be here forever.

You may want to think of things that would be especially good for you to give to your children now. Some things probably should go to your children or your wife’s family only after you die. There may be things you want to be able to see for as long as you live. But if sentimental objects prevent you from fully living your new life as a widow-man, think about putting them out of sight or discarding them. Your days now are for your new life, not for the preservation of the past.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, WIDOW-MAN, every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com

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