My wife of 19-years passed away from an incurable disease 2/12/2014. The week after the funeral, I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law to go through 3-boxes of her books and some clothes. What a mistake that was! Books - no problem, take them all. Clothes - Man did that rip right through me; and it was my idea! How stupid can I get? Guess I didn't learn my lesson since I'm posting it for all to see. You're thoughts?
My advice is "Mind your own beeswax." It's her decision what to do. You can't filter her experience through yours; yours is yours.
You don't say if your father-in-law was ill. If he was, she's had anticipatory grief already.
If her marriage was not all that great, she may just want to get on with it. This is normal too.
My stepmother was very happy with my father, but she is a neat freak and got rid of everything within two weeks.
I got home from the hospital and started putting socks and underwear into trash bags. I had to start immediately because I knew that the longer I waited, the harder it would be. Some things took longer than others. Six years later I still have two storage bins of clothes, tech certifications, wallet, hairbrush...and two dress shirts and a blazer in the closet that I can't seem to part with.
Some people are less attached to stuff than others.
Try not to judge. Let her do what she's going to do. If she regrets later (and you don't know that she will), that's her problem to deal with.
HER life and HER husband. Not even your blood relative. If your current wife wants to talk to her mother that's her decision not yours. Be kind and listen but be quiet! I was married once to one man over 44yrs and it was my business how and when to deal with his things. it was easy for me because my husband was kind and generous and would have wanted his things given to anyone who could use them. I kept a "one box" with one of everything but the rest was given away. After a 50 yr marriage you accumulate a lot of stuff and your wife's mother is older and it never gets easier to deal with things as you grow older! She's following her heart....she's no spring chicken looking for another start...whatever her reasons they are her business alone! She will have no regrets later on because her later part of life will fly by---clutter never brings peace. Chill. Keep peace by staying quiet about her actions.
I agree with the ladies here. Not your spouse and you may not know the extent of their relationship or how long the grieving has gone on. In my husband's case, he was ill for 16 years and anticipatory grief is REAL. By the time he died, I was done. Very quickly I got rid of his things and moved to another city, where I bought a house, to start over and find joy again. Lots of people thought I had lost my mind. In reality, I was just finding it!
You ask how you can handle your m-i-l? My suggestions: zip your lip when you want to voice your opinion, give her hugs, help her take things to the trash or wherever, listen without comment, let her have her space to follow her heart as she wishes. If she gets rid of things and regrets it later, it is her cross to bear or her money to replace it. Just quietly love her and her daughter, your wife, who is grieving too.
Even in a tornado, the phoenix rises -- courage and strength and renewal occur.