Sorting out my husbands clothes

Discussion in 'After dementia — dealing with loss' started by Safar, Aug 2, 2016.

  1. Safar

    Safar Registered User

    Aug 2, 2016
    I've never posted on here before but was a regular reader whilst my husband was ill. He died in April last year. I have left all of his things exactly where they were. He could easily have stepped back into his life anytime and everything would be where he left it. It wasn't deliberate... I coped with his illness by being busy. He originally had lung cancer, but ironically, he beat that. It never did show it's face again. However, he had preventative radiotherapy to his brain (Prophylactic cranial radiotherapy) and that was the treatment that caused his death. The damage it caused accelerated the ageing process and ultimately gave him vascular dementia. I was his carer and also worked to pay the bills. We had a carer from an agency whilst I was at work but other than that, it was down to me. I coped emotionally, as I said, by keeping busy. It wasn't hard!! If I could just keep busy, busy, busy, I didn't have to face reality. It wouldnt be able to catch me. Ultimately, it did.
    Anyway, as I said, my husband died in April last year and I've coped with the loss the same way I coped with the illness. Being busy! I took on extra hours at work and just kept going.
    I now have some time on my hands and yesterday attempted to empty his wardrobe. Well, I did empty it. Not only did I empty it, I spent the afternoon making a teddy bear out of a pair of his overalls. I then spent the night sobbing. Sobbing and sobbing.
    Today I woke up feeling better. Well, I wasn't sobbing. I was just really.... dead, for want of a better description. An hour ago I decided to get the bin bags back in from the garden and I have put everything back exactly where it was.
    I clearly wasn't ready. Maybe I won't ever be. What I've learnt today is that it doesn't matter. It isn't hurting anyone to have his things there. If they're there forever that's ok.
  2. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    You poor thing. Looks like the emotions have finally caught up with you. You can't suppress them forever and crying is therapeutic. It's ok to keep your husband's clothes but you might also benefit from some bereavement counselling. I am sure your GP could refer you. It's not healthy to keep everything bottled up forever. Grieving needs to be done, only then can you get better.
  3. LadyA

    LadyA Registered User

    Oct 19, 2009
    So sorry for your loss, Safar. My husband died in August last year - tomorrow is the first anniversary of his death. I think it may have been "easier" in that he had dementia for many years, and spent the last 11 months in a nursing home. His weight had gradually deteriorated over the last few years, so the clothes he had when he died had no sentimental attachments for me, and they had been laundered so very frequently (due to incontinence) that they were not fit for anything except recycling. I have kept his cosy jacket, and I wear that outside sometimes. And his bathrobe I kept. It's very old and worn, but still. These things will not be parted with.

    There is no law that says you have to clear out your husband's things if you don't want to. You might find, in another year, that you are ready- or in five years. Or never. Just be aware that your grief and heartbreak is there, just behind all the busy, waiting for you. Sometimes, it's best to just invite it in and have a cup of tea with it and a good cry. Make friends with it. It's not your enemy. It's there because of how much you loved your husband, so it can't be an enemy. By allowing your grief to have its way, you will start to heal. xx
  4. Safar

    Safar Registered User

    Aug 2, 2016
    Thank you both, I think you both talk a lot of sense. I had bereavement counselling but chatted away the whole time about my husband as if I was meeting with a new friend who had never met him. I dodged anything painful and so didn't really benefit from it at all. Maybe I will give it another go one day.
    I have a notebook that I use to talk to him whenever I want to. That's what I miss most. His company. Even when he didn't really understand what I was saying, I used to chat away to him and tell him funny stories about the children in the school where I work, just as I always had. Those days are the hardest now. The days where the kids do funny things or really naughty things. I want to come home and tell him about it and laugh about them with him. Instead I write them in the book.
    I guess we all just have to cope however we can.
  5. Katrine

    Katrine Registered User

    Jan 20, 2011
    #5 Katrine, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
    I have an elderly friend whose husband died 30 years ago. She still has all his clothes. She could never bring herself to throw them away. I suppose it's a way of staying connected to him. His clothes retain his scent. This is a practical, no nonsense lady, who keeps her feelings hidden behind a brisk facade. I was really surprised when she told me.

    I have wept buckets over disposing of my parents' clothes. It's the finality and intimacy of it that hurts. My mum is still alive but the clothes she needs now are different to what she used to have, not least because she's got larger and is a wheelchair user.

    The clothes she kept 'for best' were the hardest to part with. No more parties, or holidays, just the need for warm, machine washable items that are easy to get on and off. She no longer even needs shoes, just slippers.

    If it's any help, I have pruned my mum's clothes gradually. I couldn't have bundled them all up at once.
    I started with rags and tatters, then clothes that were too skimpy or small to be suitable. Then I did 'best clothes'. It probably took me 5 years to do all of that and I still have a wardrobe of clothes that would be suitable for her to wear if she was thinner. I'm thinking that may still happen as she's currently losing about a stone a year.

    There are no rules! Keep the clothes as long as you need to. As Lady A says, you may never want to part with them. That is OK. Parting with clothes is very painful. You do not have to do it at all.

    If you want to try again, start with the rags and tatters. Then what is left will be useable clothes. At a later point you may decide that these could be of use to someone else and you would feel good if they were. Charities that support vulnerable people are often very grateful for men's clothes.
  6. Scarlett123

    Scarlett123 Registered User

    Apr 30, 2013
    My husband died 19 months ago, and was in a Care Home for about 6 months, so I asked the Manager to dispose of his things as she thought fit, either to other residents or to the Charity Shop. I took a lot of his nature books and DVDs to his Day Centre, but I still have some "Favourite Things", clothes, books and memorabilia, that I shall never part with.

    There is no set path for dealing with grief, and it doesn't matter one iota if you keep things for days or decades. I got a lot of comfort by sorting my photo albums, and putting all the cards John sent me into folders, such as Anniversaries, Christmas and Birthdays, and I get them out at the appropriate time.

    I too have to be busy, but we are all left with a huge void in our lives, and it's damned hard. I used to talk to John's photo in my head, then I started talking out loud, then I sort of "moved" him so that he was sitting on the sofa, at right angles to me in my chair, and "we" chat all the time.

    I don't care if people think I'm mad, because it's what works for me, so you keep all your hubby's things to the next Millennium if you want to. :)
  7. cragmaid

    cragmaid Registered User

    Oct 18, 2010
    North East England
    My dad died 26years oh still wears one of his sweaters and his winter cap. Most of mum's things were disposed quickly apart from the wedding hats!!...well I like hats and tbh most of them we had chosen together....oh and a couple of her handbags. I kept them.

    Sent from my iPad using Talking Point
  8. Safar

    Safar Registered User

    Aug 2, 2016
    Bless you all. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. I'm happy for them to stay put for now. I'm still happy with the decision to keep them. One day at a time eh... xx
  9. Scarlett123

    Scarlett123 Registered User

    Apr 30, 2013
    Yes, one day at a time, one hour at a time - there's no Richter Scale. :) I have the jumper I bought my Dad for his Wedding Anniversary gift, for August 5th, 1986, and he died 3 weeks later. I have a silver stole and clutch bag I bought my Mum, plus a half empty bottle of perfume, and she died 20 years ago.

    My grandmother, who I never knew, crocheted 2 beaded handbags with tortoiseshell handles, and I have those, and yesterday, on discovering that she plays vinyl records, I was able to give my Grand-daughter,r the record "Happy Birthday Sweet 16", which I'd bought for her Mum 32 years ago.

    I've got various yellow sticker thingies, just because they're in John's handwriting, and would never throw them away. These possessions are treasures and mean nothing to anyone else, but the world to me. You do exactly what you want to, because whatever you decide will be the right thing. :D
  10. CollegeGirl

    CollegeGirl Registered User

    Jan 19, 2011
    North East England
    My mother in law died in May 2015 and all her things are still there in the wardrobes in their house. My father in law obviously isn't ready to sort them out. In fact he may never be able to do this and to my mind it just doesn't matter if he wants to leave them there forever. When the time comes I'm sure I'll be able to do this task for my husband and his sister if they can't bring themselves to do it.

    Do whatever is right for you. I can totally understand the keeping busy tactic, it's one I often use myself to keep worries at bay. Sending you gentle condolences and a hope for peace in due course.
  11. sunray

    sunray Registered User

    Sep 21, 2008
    East Coast of Australia
    I sorted my husband's clothes out about twelve months after he died. I put them in bags and took them to charity shops a bag at a time, some in summer, some in winter so others could benefit from them. I still have a few things of his.

    A couple of weeks ago I opened a small drawer and there were the badges for all the organisations he belonged to, that reduced me to tears. It takes a long time to accept that they are truly gone and will NEVER need any of this "stuff" again. I know that in my heart but a few items I will probably keep forever for sentiment's sake.
  12. Quilty

    Quilty Registered User

    Aug 28, 2014
    When my Mum moved to a care home I had to clear yer house to rent it. She had 6 double wardrobes full of clothes. Mostof it was easy but the special clothes for weddings and parties I just could not give away. I put them in my loft. She loved nice shoes as did I so that also hurt a lot. I eventually had to get the bag from the loft for her funeral clothes. Yhat made me glad I kept them so I could choosecsomething she loves. In her coffin she looked ready for a wedding and so beautiful.
    We all have things we can never part with as it makes us feel close to those we have lost. Mine is a broken carriage clock. We all have to find a way to cope and go on at all the stages of this terrible disease.
  13. Spamar

    Spamar Registered User

    Oct 5, 2013
    #13 Spamar, Aug 3, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
    I'm afraid I got rid of most of OHs stuff fairly quickly. I put the bag of stuff from the care home in the study for sorting, but within a month had stepson and family to stay, so all spare rooms in use, bag had to be sorted! There are a few bits and pieces in odd drawers, must sort them sometime! But it's not much. I haven't thrown away a couple of jumpers,, and there are a couple of ties and cravats that I have kept, that's all.

    Actually, it's the other stuff. His golf stuff is still in the garage. His workshop has been tidied, but is intact, still raid It when a tool is needed. Heaven only knows what I'm going to do with all that stuff! He did a lot of DIY in his time!
  14. Safar

    Safar Registered User

    Aug 2, 2016
    Everyones comments prove that there is no right or wrong way don't they. I'm glad everyone has found a way that suits them. In my case, the pain was unbearable and I definitely did the right thing bringing them back in. I do however, wonder deep down if I'm avoiding facing the grief? My oh was ill for a short time when compared to most peoples stories, but it was still a long painful journey for us. The lump on his lung was found on Christmas Eve 2011 and he died in April 2015. I watched him deteriorate slowly over that period of time. That's the most painful thing I've ever done in my life. I never accepted the diagnosis, I never stopped looking for an alternative or a cure, I never believed he would leave me. Towards the end, I knew that the man I loved left me long before his heart stopped beating but still I refused to give up. Miracles do happen. So what if he didn't recognise me on Monday? He knew me on Tuesday! I had seen him look close to death before but he had rallied! There was always hope... I never once gave up hope. When he died, I transferred my energy to giving him the best funeral I possibly could. When the funeral was over I transferred all my energy to working, working, working. To be fair, I do need all the work to keep a roof over my head, but I'd do it anyway if I'm honest. I now live a "normal" life. I work, I socialise with friends and family and to all the world I'm inspirational (so they say). I've coped so well, they're all so proud of me... It's actually all a sham. I've addressed nothing. I refuse to acknowledge his death in my heart. Getting rid of his clothes made it real. I'm not ready for real. Real makes it hurt. Real makes me sob. Real is a place I'm not visiting again! I'm going back to busy. Busy is my friend. Busy doesn't hurt nor does it make me sob... I have a niggle in the back of my mind that one day this is going to come back and bite me on the bum, but hey, if I run fast enough it might not catch me...
  15. Scarlett123

    Scarlett123 Registered User

    Apr 30, 2013

    "Real makes it hurt". Those words are so true, and so prosaic. What am I doing, joining choirs, joining Ladies Probus Groups, accepting every offer of lunches, and coffees, clearing out every square inch of cupboards and drawers? It's to use up time.

    I too am a sham, and I expect I'm not alone. Nail a smile on my face, put my slap on, paint my nails, do my hair, I'm acting a part because as you rightly say "real makes it hurt".
  16. Jinx

    Jinx Registered User

    Mar 13, 2014
    My husband's health deteriorated relatively quickly after a a series of TIAs, over a period of about three years and in the last six months the weight just fell off him and I had to buy things like jogging bottoms, that he would never have worn in 'real' life, because they fitted better and were more comfortable for him. Also, he was in a care home towards the end of his life and clothes that have gone through a lot of hot washes are not fit for much. I found it upsetting to look at the clothes he wore when he was still 6'3" and thirteen stone that latterly just made him look like a scarecrow. Most upsetting was a lovely light blue summer blazer from M&S that he'd insisted he wanted on one of our last shopping trips when he was in his wheelchair and he'd never had an opportunity to wear. I gave that to my brother who is the same height, and his son will have his winter padded jacket. I have kept some pullovers, which I will wear in the winter but everything else went to charity. It was my way of coping but there really isn't a right or wrong, we each get through in our own way. Now his train set, that's a different matter. It's in boxes in the loft and I can't bring myself to do anything with it... xxx

    Sent from my iPad using Talking Point
  17. JXPW

    JXPW Registered User

    Feb 24, 2012
    After my dad passed away I had his clothes all bagged in 2 + suitcases. He had been in care and all his things had been name tagged. It took me a while to look at them and it was terribly emotional too. I didn't really want to get rid of them at all.

    Bad enough as it was, there was no way any of his clothes were going anywhere, certainly until I had removed those darn sticky name tags. The only way they came off was to iron them off and pick away the sticky stuff so I took it slowly. Then I washed and ironed it all and put each one on a hanger and took a photo of each item. The photos are now in an album in a box so when I feel the need I can still look at those piccies and remember when he wore them.

    I still kept one or two really special sweaters , I.e the last one I gave him at Christmas and they are folded upstairs, but I hope that someone else got to wear the nice things he had rather than leaving them to fester in a suitcase in my garage.

    I think you do these things when you are ready, but my counsellor told me about the photograph thing - to me that was such good advice.
  18. Izzy

    Izzy Volunteer Moderator

    Aug 31, 2003
    Bill died on 31st July. I took my courage in both hands today and took his clothes to a charity. I kept some things which I'll never get rid of - his cosy dressing gown, the t shirt he was wearing on his last day, 3 or 4 jumpers I loved to see him wear and his choir waistcoats (a tartan one and a Santa one). I found it hardest to get rid of his zip up jackets as I used to zip them up for him and then he'd give me a kiss. At the end of the day I just thought how much good they would do others. I gave them to a housing association which has a free shop for homeless people who have just been allocated accommodation. I know I still have some of his stuff in my storage unit but that's for another day.

    I do the same with Bill's photos and have just ordered a photo book for myself. It has all photos of him in it so I can take him with me wherever I go.

    I agree that there's no right or wrong. We each have to find our own way.
  19. Safar

    Safar Registered User

    Aug 2, 2016
    It makes me feel better hearing other peoples stories. Its comforting to know you're not the only one doesn't it. The family of a friend of mine had a good idea regarding her dads clothes. His wake was held at their house and all the family took an item of his clothing home with them. So yet again, I guess everyone does what works for them.
  20. rajahh

    rajahh Registered User

    Aug 29, 2008
    I refuse to acknowledge his death in my heart

    your sentence about refusing to acknowledge his death in my heart, sums me up too.

    I see this as a positive because he does live in me. I gave all his things away and now am in the process of moving back to where I lived before I met him, but in my heart he is going with me,

    He will always be with me. I cannot believe anything different .

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