I’ve found since my husband, Kramer, passed away in June that I’ve started a process of holding on and letting go. As much as I’d like to cling to everything he ever had a part of, the house, his tools, his vehicle, his ideas, I can’t. I can’t let myself go there…I can’t let myself do that. It’s not healthy for me mentally and I don’t want to end up trapped in a mausoleum of Kramer.
When Kelli and I were writing our quilt book, Country Girl Modern, we would spend MANY days sewing together. She would fire up the computer, turn on Netflix and we would watch episodes of “Hoaders”. As I watched I noticed so many people “got stuck” after the loss of a loved one. A daughter would succumb after the death of a mother or a wife after the loss of a husband. I watched that show thinking “oh wouldn’t that loved one be upset if they saw how their passing affected the one still here”….I thought “that poor person lost themselves”… I always thought oh no, I would never do that, but then I lost Kramer and found out what a struggle it is to not mentally stay in the moment when they were still with you.
I’m doing good..no threat that I’ll become a hoarder (except for the sewing room and that’s not related to Kramer) but I quickly saw that a person without strong courage and support could go to place where they are trapped by things. As I throw, donate and sort, I keep reminding myself…”Would Kramer be happy with this choice?” or “Aside from being a bandaid to try to heal my grieving heart, is this really something I need?” It’s really a long series of holding on, and letting go.
Recently Karl mentioned needing a little more space. His bedroom here at the house is okay but it’s small. It has a queen bed in it, but would really be better as a kids’ bedroom with a single bed. Finding space for clothes and stuff was hard for a grown adult man so he started to make a plan to store his clothes in the basement in his “man cave”. I asked him how he felt if I cleaned out Kramer’s clothes and he kept his in the basement where Kramer used to keep his. Karl was super quick to stop me and do the “are you sure you’re ready” thing with me. I was and a couple days later, I did it.
I notified the kids…I told them I was boxing Kramer’s clothes up for now. If anyone wanted anything, now was the time to get it. I’d leave it in the basement boxed and in a couple months after everyone had a chance to look, I’d be passing it on the the thrift store.
As I sorted I tried to remind myself that it was okay to keep a couple things…certainly not everything. I also reminded myself I wanted to keep something. So..I did. I kept this stained up old T-shirt and I wear it to bed from time to time.
I have such good memories of this shirt. I remember the day we bought it. We were on a long weekend meandering around to antique shops and such. We stopped in Spring Grove Minnesota and bought it. He wore it for a long time. I remember going with him, he’d wear the shirt and other guys would come up to him, read his shirt and laugh. Conversations would start up and before long he was chatting with someone he didn’t know at all about what nationality they were. He loved chatting and visiting. He would always end up teasing me about being Swedish and I loved when he teased me.
Being the shirt is stained, I’m surprised he didn’t start wearing it as a work shirt…Maybe he didn’t because the shirt meant something to him too.
So…I kept it…and occasionally I sleep in it. Not all the time…sometimes.
I also kept a T-shirt that he had that said, “Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come”. That T-shirt has a Kelli story to it. We were driving and Kelli was with us, going to the family picnic I think, and Kelli said that she saw a shirt that said, “Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come”. Kramer laughed and said, “That’s so funny…if I ever see two shirts of that, I’m buying them both.” Well Kelli, as a joke, bought him two of the same shirts. In the early part of his cancer treatments, he wore that shirt often to radiation appointments. I always thought it was so appropriate to wear to radiation treatments.
I also kept his VERY beat up old first issue fireman’s coat. It was his favorite then became his chore coat to the farm. Then I patched it. I put it in the pickup and it’s part of my winter survival stuff.
I ended up wearing it the night we went for Pizza at Luna Valley Farm. It was chillier than I expected. It’s old and ratty but perfectly comfortable…and “feels” very Kramer. I love wearing it as it’s oversized and reminds me of how we fit together for a hug…him bigger, me smaller.
Other things I’ve held onto…His fireman hat. The fire department presented it to me at Kramer’s graveside. This is in my bedroom..on his side of the bed.
…and that’s about all I’ve kept beside pictures. Sure, his tools are here and I didn’t sell the suburban, but those are all practical use things. Karl and Craig have been here many times working and putzing in the garage work area. I’m not holding onto that for memories. I’m holding onto that for practicality.
I think I did good. The few things I’ve kept all have meaning. All are a good representation of Kramer.
I do have to give a little bit of credit for my attitude in tackling all of this to author Dana White.
Her books talk about house organization and management and a section talks specifically about how to deal with sentimental items. I read both of these books a couple years ago and LOVE them. One of the points she makes is that if something is really special and holds a special place in your heart, then it should be treated so.
That’s why I rearranged things in my bedroom to give Kramer’s fire helmet a prominent spot. That’s why Kramer’s old coat is tucked into the truck to serve an emergency purpose…just like his plier is in the drawer where I know where it is where I can get to it and use it…just like I’m wearing a couple of his T-shirts for jammers. All of the items are special and I’ve thought through where they should be…how I can save a memory but not hold onto clutter.
If you’re dealing with a loss I hope you to can find some special things to hold onto that remind you of your loved one, but I also hope that you can let go of the things that weren’t so special…the things that don’t bring to mind a special a memory as after all, those things are well…just things. It’s important that as a widow we work to not to get stuck. I can see how it would be so easy to simply be stuck. I’ve seen that by doing this for myself that I am actually holding onto the precious parts of Kramer and letting go the material things as each thing I kept has a specific memory or represents one of his characteristics that I loved. Without the clutter of the other “stuff”, I can more easily be reminded to the man/husband/dad/volunteer that he truly was.
Hugs to all you who are out there doing this too. Trust me, I know it’s hard.