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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?

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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. 

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