What to Do with Your Loved One’s Belongings

What to do with your loved one’s belongings.

Enjoy happy memories of your loved one.

For Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders. Be aware the information contained in these pages takes about death and belongings of the deceased person.

Deciding when to go through your loved one’s belongings will be an emotional time for you.

This website can help when you find yourself going through the personal effects of someone who has died or moved into Palliative Care.

This person may have lived with you, in another home or you may be assisting a friend. You are the person who has agreed to do this task.

Be gentle with yourself as their home will be filled with many memories. Some of the items in the house could bring back happy or sad memories for you and your family.

We are sorry for your loss.

We recommend having the contact numbers of bereavement help lines close at hand in case anyone becomes overwhelmed during this process. Contact your doctor if you feel unwell.

Continuing to follow these guidelines confirms you have read and understand these recommendations. It is your choice how you incorporate them into your spiritual and cultural beliefs.

Confirm that you have permission to enter the premises, go through the person’s belongings and dispose of these items.

Contact the legal people, family and anyone concerned, to verify the list of items left in the will, or bequeathed, to specified individuals and ensure that those items are given to the people named in the will.

Consider taking a week of bereavement or other leave to allow your body to cope with the emotions this may bring up for you. Do what you need to feel safe and comfortable. Spending time with your pet is a comfort for many people.

It is important to take a few moments to sit quietly, take a few deep breaths before you proceed….

Avoid alcohol.

As required, turn on the air conditioner or heaters to make your working environment as comfortable as possible.

* Ensure you have boxes of various sizes and packing materials.

* Consider recycling items rather than tossing them in the dumpster.

* As you sort through your loved one’s belongings, you may come across items of special meaning.

* Keep the items that recall happy memories of your loved one.

* Items that you own that recall distressing times can be sold or given away.

The clearing out and sale of a home can take many months. The last few items are often difficult to let go of, or to sell, and many of the charities are unable to accept good, clean items of bedding and furniture nowadays, due to health regulations. Contact woman’s shelters, or homeless shelters in your area, as they may have families desperate to accept clean household items.

When your loved one has moved into Aged Care or Palliative Care

In many ways this time can be more stressful for the family than your loved one dying. They are often on strong medication and may not recognise you.

Many people in care are far away from their family, so when the family do arrive from interstate or overseas to visit or say goodbye, the visiting family members also have other responsibilities. These include deciding on the few belongings that are allowed in the care unit.

Your cultural background will play an important role in these next weeks and months. Some of my clients have taken this time to go through family photo albums, copying and sharing old, small black and white images, and laughing about the happy times as they sit together around the bed of their loved one.

If there are multiple family members, who may not all be able to be there and be involved in this process, ensure that plans and decisions made are clearly communicated to all and, ideally, that other family members are in agreement with the proposed course of action.

If you choose to do this then please be sensitive to various family members who may not yet be ready to say goodbye to their loved one or even admit that their loved one’s time left is short.

Some more resources to assist you at this time:

  • Red Chocolate Elephants written by Dr D. Sands is a helpful book and DVD for children bereaved by suicide.
  • www.bereavedbysuicide.com.au is the website for The Bereaved by Suicide Centre for Intense Grief Therapy in Sydney, Australia.
  • Wings of Hope www.wingsofhope.org.au is a non-crisis organisation for the support of people, after the loss of a loved one through suicide.
I wish you well.
Look after yourself at this time.
With love Anne
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