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Who Clears Out The Father's Clothes?


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Hi there-

My father is in the sunset of his life fighting cancer - and he's put up such a great fight but he's going to lose the battle soon.

My parents have been married for 41yrs and are extremely co-dependent. My mother has claimed while intoxicated that she doesn't want to go on living when he dies. We will be keeping in eye on her, but think it's more the alcohol then a serious threat - just expressing how upset she'll be.

So when the time comes, the "plan" is that after the main funeral stuff happens, she'll probably come out to my place 2 states away to spend time with her grandchildren - I'm thinking she'll stay for a month, maybe 2. My brother and his family live about 2 blocks from her now....if this is the way things go (and is this healthy or should she stay?), should we encourage my mom to allow them to go in and take away his clothes and underwear and stuff so she doesn't have to "deal" with that aspect upon her return? Or is that all part of the grieving process and that it will actually be very therapeutic for HER to do this task? What's she going to do with his underwear? She's a pack rat and worry she'll cling to too much stuff in his memory without being reational.

Losing my father is going to be tough for all of us I'm sure, but it's just going to be so tragic for my mother who just caters to him all day - her life seems to revolve around him and I worry how she's going to cope.

ANy advice or recommended reading would be appreciated. Thanks! Julie

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Julie,

First of all, I am so sorry to hear of what your family is getting ready to go through, I remember so well when my Mother-in-Law was dyeing from cancer.

I have 2 experiences to give to you.

The first is from what I remember from her death. My Father-in-Law kept a lot of her things for a long time, after about a year he told their kids to come and go through her things and take what they wanted and to pack up the rest for Goodwill. He is also a pack rat, but it came a time when he was ready to let go.

The second is my own. My wife died from a heart attack April 6th of this year. I still have all of her clothes (yes even the underwear). My dad asked me if I wanted my step mom to get rid of her clothes while she stayed with me the first couple of weeks. I told him "No". I wasn't ready at that time to get rid of them, the emptiness of the closet would have made it worse. Now almost 4 months later, I am slowly starting to give stuff away. I gave some shorts to my mom who is about the same size that my wife was. I told her sister tonight that I am ready for her and her daughters to come and pick out the stuff they want. Some time later (I don't know when) I will be ready to start packing up more of her stuff.

I guess the point I am trying to make here is that it should be left up to her. Include her in your family discussions and ask her what she would like for you to do. I know for myself if I had gone away for a few weeks and come back to a closet with all of her clothes gone I would have been very upset and angry. The grieving process is different for everyone, and they have to have control on that process. I know after 41 years it will be very difficult for your mother, don't be surprized if her drinking picks up after his death, I know mine did for awhile. Hopefully she will snap out of it and decide to live life.

As far as her living with you, that is a descision that will be a difficult one. I don't think anyone will be able to say it is good or bad. My mom's mom lived with us after her husband died and she lived with us until she died, but it was a long and happy life for her and us.

I will pray for your family and keep coming back to this site you will find we are one big family that will do anything we can to help you through this.

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Julie,

I, too, am sorry for your upcoming loss and all that you are going through. It is exactly what my mom and brother and I went through a year and a half ago. I totaly agree with Dpodesta. that it has to be her choice. After my dad died, it was about four months later that we gave his clothes away. We were still in the shock stage of grief, and in a way I think that helped. But for some it might not at all. It took us much longer to part with some of his other things, and we still have some things that we will never part with. But your mom has to make the choice and she has to be far enough along the grief process to be thinking rationally about it. I know how you feel, though, about thinking it might help her if someone else did it. There were some things that I threw away (like the sheets on his hospital bed (he died at home) and his container that he kept his dentures in, stuff that just had to go) almost right away, just to keep my mom from having to do it. I think she was relieved about those things, but she definitely wanted to go through his clothes and help fold them and put them in the boxes, so I'm glad I left most of it alone. Hope this advice helps.

Hugs to you and your family,

Shell

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Julie,

Tough call. My sister took my mom right after the funeral for a month. We pretty much left things alone until she returned...we were all kind of raw after deaing with my father's cancer for 8 months.

When she retunred, she and I did it but I let her take the lead and stepped in when she had difficulty. I think it was important (and very sad) for her to get rid of his things but I think it served as part of her closure process.

Part of this is the family pulling together to do what's right for your Mom and this also helps set the bond of the family as you go through the next year together.

I am sorry for your impending loss and hang in there. With the thoughfulness and foresight you dislpay, you will be a great help to your family and they're lucky to have you.

Charlie1

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Hi Julie,

As others have said, sorting and distributing a loved one's belongings is very much an individual matter, and good communication among everyone involved is the key to deciding the who, what, when, where and how of it.

It is also true that sorting can be an important part of the mourning process. See, for example, this post:

http://hovforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?show...1314entry1314

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Hi All,

I am writing this post in hopes that it might help you. My mom died in April of 2005 and after her death my dad asked me to deal with her personal belongings. My mom before our trip to the United States gave alot of her clothes away. So there was some stuff to deal with but not a whole lot but she did have some other things to deal with. My mom died on vacation while in Las Vegas of compications to diabetes. After my dad died in August of 2005 I wanted my brothers to deal with his personal belongings but again it was myself who had to deal with them. But one week after the funeral of my dad the rest of the family had a real estate agent come through the house and before long it was several yard sales and than the house went up for sale. I had no choice but to do what the other family member wanted me to do. I even had to decide where I wanted to live. I saw my happy life turn into a money hungry family taking it all away. I was the only still at home and the one who saw my parents through all their sicknesses. To have this happen it was heartwrenching and I could not believe my family would do this to one of their own members. Anyway I hope telling this helped a little, Take care and God Bless you Shelley

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Thank you all so much for your words of wisdom - and I'm sorry that we're all here together having to deal with such a raw emotion....and my journey has yet to start!

Yes, I will leave it up to her. I have a feeling she will hang onto things for quite a while before she can make the emotional detachment from the tangible items...but at least I know now that it's all part of the grieving process and that the most important thing is to allow her to move at her own pace and do what she feels is best for HER.

And as far as the drinking, my brother and our spouses have no doubt that she will go into a drinking binge attempting to self medicate and numb the painful feelings...her father (my grandfather) was an alcoholic as was her sister, so the gene is there and my mom has always been one to enjoy that glass of wine at night. We will keep a close eye on her and try to determine at what point the drinking takes over the grieving - I hope she proves us wrong, but I'm glad there will always be someone nearby (if she doesn't come stay with me, my brother and family live 2 blocks away).

Thanks again for all your insight...it's hard to imagine life without my dad in it, but cancer first came into our lives in '89 when he originally got kidney cancer, so I feel I've been mentally preparing the Circle of Life will happen, but it's hard to know how I'll really respond until it happens.

Bless you all...

Julie

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Hi Julie,

Yes it is hard to figure out how to prepare yourself for someone close to you to die. I know when my mom had breast cancer five years ago I started to think that we would lose her. Than it was ovarian cancer two years ago and again I thought maybe this time she would leave us. But it was the year 2005 and she died while on vacation to Las Vegas of a diabetic coma. Go figure we did not know she was diabetic. Than of course you start thinking of your father and when is it his turn to leave you, my dad had non hodgkin's lymphoma and did not even tell anyone he was sick until the very end. I do not know why but I guess he did not want his family to worry... So you see it is so hard to prepare yourself take care and my prays are with you Shelley

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