Today I want to talk about opening the Pandora’s box of possessions.
On Sunday, I made a decision that I was going to tidy up my garage and I went downstairs and it’s a little bit of a shit fight. I had to move bikes out of the way and old bits of wood and reclaimed basketballs and you name it, it’s down there.
I decided this year that I was going to start going through my boxes one by one and get rid of the things that I know I no longer need to hold on to. Maybe I’m having a Marie Kondo moment. I don’t know. I opened up a box and I looked at it and I thought, “Oh great. Here’s some bills. I can get rid of these.
I don’t need these anymore,” and I started flipping through the things that were in there. I found a lot of things that triggered a lot of sadness in me. I wasn’t expecting that I was going to be hit so hard. It felt like a really practical thing that I was doing just getting rid of stuff I didn’t need anymore.
I realized that you can only do it a bit at a time and even though I’m seven and a half years down the track, I’ve moved one, two … this is my fourth move now since Matt died and I’ve still been dragging this crap around. I couldn’t think of what it was I was going to throw out and when I was going to throw things out.
What was missing was too great to be just randomly throwing things. I didn’t know what I needed the first move and then the second move, it was just in the too hard basket because I was trying to scramble and make sense of what it was I was doing and how I was going to stay alive.
The third move, again, still not a move that I wanted to make and it was just in the too hard basket. They were boxed up, they were there. I’ll deal with them later, deal with them later, deal with them later. Well here I am. I’m at later, and it’s still hard. It’s still hard to go through the possessions of somebody that you loved of a time of a life that you shared. It’s almost like a time capsule really.
Even going through my daughter’s old pictures and folders from kindergarten and first grade. They’re all things that we shared and it’s a time that I’ll never have again and that’s hard.
There’s another story which is, “Oh, and that was when Matt was alive and when we were parents together and it was a different life. It feels like it was a lot of lives ago.”
So the boxes. If the first thing that comes to mind is I have to deal with those boxes and you sit in your body and you close your eyes and it just makes you feel sick to the bottom of your stomach and it’s the last thing you want to do, don’t do it. Don’t do it.
The boxes can stay there. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter when it gets dealt with. Just leave it. Now you need to focus on the present. You need to focus on here. You need to focus on your life and you need to focus on how you’re going to process this loss and go forward.
If you get caught up in all of those past possessions, all of those little mementos of yesterday, then you’re there. You’re there, lost in history and it’s not contributing a lot to right now. I know what it did contribute for me. I’ve got through three boxes, thinking I was going to get through six, and it was enough. I couldn’t do anymore. I hit my limit and I stepped away.
I came upstairs and I said, “Hey, Cal. Let’s go out to yum cha,” because yum cha was Matt’s favourite meal and I really needed to do something nice and kind and in the present, so we did that and we went out to lunch and it was good to go out and be around people and be in our present.
Then as I was driving home, I don’t know whether I was in like a carb stupor probably, but I also felt this heaviness which is one of the symptoms of grief, is this huge heaviness behind the eyes and this feeling that you’re going pass out and so I got home and I laid down on the couch and I just rested. I just relaxed. It was as if I’d been hit with another secondary round of trauma.
I want to tell you that the somatic experience, the sensory experience of having to deal with this stuff, we can be as pragmatic as we want and we can be as rational as we want and we can say, “Well we don’t need these things anymore, let’s get rid of them,” they’re still going to affect you.
There are pieces of paper and CDs and old hats and love notes and birthday cards that are going to come out of those boxes and it’s going to be like another fresh assault of everything that you’ve lost. So go easy on yourself. Don’t be in a hurry.
If you’re not ready, if it just brings up all of these really rough feelings as it’s something you have to do and it feels super hard, then just don’t do it. Just put them away.
At seven and a half years it hasn’t made a scrap of difference to me, yet I’ve lugged these boxes all around the countryside and I probably waste a little bit of money in transit in doing that, but in terms of my emotional health, I’m not feeling like I was fronting up for this memory assault because I felt like it was something that I should do. I just listened to my heart and my heart didn’t want to go there. It was too painful, and that’s okay.
You don’t have to be the big brave lion and get in there and do it. You can just pack those boxes up and leave them there for as long as you want.
I wanted to talk about those bloody boxes and what we do with all of those possessions that are there. Even though we think it’s expedient to streamline our reality and pack everything away and get sorted going forward, be aware of the emotional impact it’s going to have going through those possessions and decide whether you’re really strong enough and well enough to do it because if you’re not then it will throw you right back into your initial phases of grief and trauma that are extremely distressing. So be gentle with yourself.
For everyone out there who’s dealing with those boxes, who’s dealing with that space where somebody’s gone and their shit’s still there, box it up.
Just get it out of sight and leave it there. There’s no rush. I am the anti-Marie Kondo. There you go.
So that’s it for me. Thanks for your time and attention and I’ll speak to you soon. Bye.