Holding onto the past….
Many years ago when my first marriage ended rather abruptly (looong story), my mum warned me that great loss (divorce, death of a dear one, etc) usually takes about two years to recover from the pain and start feeling ready for life again. That piece of advice was NOT what I wanted to hear. But, she was right about the time it took to recover from that chapter. Rather ironically, it also applied to recovering from losing her too! I discovered that holding onto clutter meant I was also holding onto the past!
In the last couple of years, letting anything go of mum’s has been torturous. Even though it has been an essential process, it has literally given me nightmares. For weeks and weeks. The guilt, doubt, mourning just seems to go around and around in my head. I would wake up with my heart pounding feeling tsunamis of loss and emptiness all over again. I’d find myself looking backwards in time and afraid of looking forwards. Unfortunately this also spilled over into everything that related to my children – letting go of the clothes they’d outgrown, the toys they longer played with. I became obsessed with photographing almost everything to do with them to document their childhood that also felt like it was slipping away. I felt that I was mourning not only mum but the loss of their babyhood, that I was experiencing the ‘losing’ their childhood….in hindsight, I don’t think this was a healthy place to be.
In 9 days time, it will be the 2nd anniversary of mum’s passing. And I’m not sure, but I suspect that a new year has also affected my subconscious, and I found myself feeling ready to let go….not of everything, but certainly I felt stronger and ready to embrace the future. It is incredibly painful losing someone you love. It is almost impossible to accept that we will never see, speak or hold them ever again and while I don’t believe you ever ‘get over it’ I do think you adapt to your new ‘normal’. Even though I knew it in my mind, my heart couldn’t accept that holding onto their items wouldn’t bring back past times. It’s a simple concept but hard to digest! Of course, you can’t bring past times back, but it doesn’t stop you from wishing you could.
Don’t miss out on the future!
The surprising thing for me was that I realised that yes, my children were growing up and I could never take them back to their babyhood, but that there are so many exciting adventures for them in their futures. That they’re still adorable even though they’re not toddlers. I began to truly appreciate where they were NOW – more independent and self sufficient: they can toilet, feed, and dress themselves. They do chores such as making their beds and tidying up toys. But most importantly I realised how interesting and fun they are to converse with! Sometimes I’m amazed by their concpets, their wit, their creativity and their compassion. I suddenly realised I would be incredibly foolish to not be in the now and live this with them. I knew I wanted to celebrate all that was ahead of them WITH them rather than be looking back at what they were and missing out on what they will do and be.
For me this was a significant shift. Monumental in it’s effect. I actually felt so free and light and ready to take on new things in my own life. I felt excited by the future, not dreading what was in store. It allowed me to put some of their old toys on ebay and give their outgrown clothes to Vinnies. I have even bought new external drives to back up all our photos: a chore I was dreading and avoiding for two years (because those photos were reminders of the loss)! I’ve got rid of dvd’s and books (mine and the kids’). I’ve even got my office cleared out of old no-longer-relevant correspondence, samples, brochure and stuff! Actually, it’s left me feeling a tad invincible (here’s hoping that lasts!!! LOL).
For me, it was two years, but this timeframe is different for everyone and for each separate loss. I think the key is to be kind to yourself and to listen to the voice within as it will tell you when you’re ready to let go of tangible things. If you are in a position to, then delay making any hasty decisions, and I think it’s also helpful if you can sit with decisions before acting upon them. For eg, if you decide to let your mum’s shoes go, then pack them up, choose how you will let them go (give to friends, charity, ebay, whatever) but don’t do anything for a certain period of time. If you don’t experience any doubts, then think of it as a sign to go ahead and let the shoes go.
But when you do let those items go, you will feel relief. Somehow clutter really is – to some extent – holding onto the past. Letting go of clutter really does free the mind (and the heart!). It’s so liberating and you know you’ve made the right move when you feel that.
So, here’s to the year ahead. May it be full of wonderful moments with our loved ones still with us and little moments honouring the ones we’ve lost. Let this be the year of letting things go gently and living life with our hearts full (and our homes not so full!)!
#decluttering #lettingthingsgo #dealingwithloss