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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

Sigh. Then there are the moments when the dead feel really, really, really, really far away. Really gone. Really dead. Really not here anymore. Really not influencing daily life anymore. Really not living. Not here. Gone. Dead. Irrelevant. Missing in action. Not a husband, not a father, not a friend, not someone who can lend you any kind of warm hand anymore.

This is not my favorite part of grief. This is just sad. This just makes me screw up my mouth in a nasty kind of shape while I'm typing. This is a feeling of complete and utter impotence. There is nothing I can do.

The other day I was looking at my cleaned out garage that used to hold all kinds of stuff that belonged to Ken. One of my handymen, as a favor, just came one day and took everything out of my garage as a surprise. I came outside, and there was everything I hadn't dealt with in a long time in a great big heap, waiting for my direction. Not just some of Ken's things, but also "garage stuff" that I just don't deal with out of a kind of sexist, that's not my territory, that's man's work,  kind of attitude. That garage really looked neglected, and it was. I am not a woman of the garage.

It was a weird kind of favor, being forced to deal with all that stuff on the spot. Piles. And you know what I did? I let almost everything go. Just let it go. See ya stuff.

The other day I drove my white Prius into the now pristine, clean garage. I got out. I looked around. And I said out loud within the now visible walls of the garage, to myself, and to Ken: "I'm sorry that I couldn't keep you alive." As if those dusty boxes in the garage were who Ken was.

Of course, that was just one experience and one set of feelings in the garage of grief. Of course, I do keep Ken alive. Only, I am better at keeping him alive by writing about what he meant to me and by talking about him with people who knew him, and by keeping pictures of him around, and by mentioning his name aloud to my kids and to friends and family who miss him like I do. I'm not so good at remembering him through his stuff. That's not where he is to me.

I find Ken is in the places where I'm now more patient, more kind and more understanding. Ken dwells where I am peaceful and not angry. Ken lives in my contentment and in my appreciation for what I have. He lives in our children. When I have compassion, there is Ken. When I let worries fly by instead of roost on my shoulders, Ken has made an appearance.

He is not in the garage. Not for me. The garage is where I park my car. Ken is where I feel better knowing that he lived and where I am better because he did.

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Comment by Jill on July 26, 2012 at 5:55am

I have always been somewhat anti-stuff. I love to eliminate. But Ken's parents taught me the value of holding on to some things, and then sharing them years later, as a way to connect history with the present, as a way to connect those who have died with those who are alive. Yes, I do feel good about wiping the garage clean. I just hope I am doing justice to Ken's memory in my own way. I hope I have held on to "enough", whatever that is. With all the responses to this post, it's obvious that "stuff" can both connect us to our loved ones, but also hold us back and weigh us down. I guess we all have to find our own balance between honoring the past and living fully in the present. Thanks again for all your comments. Love this community!

Comment by suebru (Sue) on July 26, 2012 at 5:15am

Oh, how these blogs have helped me. I can so relate to each post Lovie, your words could have been mine. I am almost at the 3 month mark. Our basement is a full of Bruce's things. Mostly tools....tools that I have no earthly idea what they do or are. His best friend, a contractor, is coming by later today to build storage shelves, help organize his tools-what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, etc. Thanks all. Big hugs.

Comment by Blue Snow on July 26, 2012 at 4:09am

I wish I could have done what you did---all in one shot---but our garage was so filled with my husband's collectibles and they had to be dealt with piece by piece. I've spent the last few months in eBay hell. But I'm glad I did on one hand because I was able to pay off the mortgage and then some, selling the stuff. It may have just been "stuff" but my future financial security was tied to that stuff. Enjoy your clean garage! I'm glad it gives you peace.

Comment by Rebirth.Tanya (Tanya) on July 25, 2012 at 7:36pm
Love love love this- especially the last sentence. Thanks for sharing Jill. <3
Comment by Suz on July 25, 2012 at 5:15am

Jill, 

This is so beautiful. I am so glad you were able to express these feelings and I just want to cry at the sweetness of your husband's face. I could relate to so many things. I hate the messes I must deal with and I am stunned when I have that feeling that he is really gone, far away, not here in his "stuff". Then I am sad when I get rid of the stuff. I also fine Jud when I am more at peace with myself. Sometimes lately, I feel a physically warm sensation when I think of him and it makes everything seem better for awhile.

I hired someone to clean the garage, Just could not do it. It is cleaner than it has ever been and I gave the man who did it a lot of the things in there. Now I don't want to park my car in there. It just doesn't look right.

Best of wishes on this journey, Jill. 

Fondly,

Suz

Comment by Jerry on July 25, 2012 at 4:12am
I guess in the end things that we have is just stuff. My wife really didn't have to much stuff, just her clothes that still remain where they were when she passed away 2 1/2 years ago. I have a garage full of tools and parts. I do wonder what will happen to my things when I am gone. My children have no interest in this kind of stuff, I guess I should put in my will that my tools be donated to a trade school.
Comment by chez2all on July 25, 2012 at 1:40am

Sometimes it takes a well-meaning friend to give us the boot up the behind we may need to deal with stuff we've neglected or been unable to deal with...so glad you were able to sort thru the 'stuff' and arrange the safe place for your prius.  My LH's workmates organised a garage sale about a month after his death...so sorting out had to be done on a short timeframe.  I found it cathartic clearing away all his 'stuff', and there was tones of it.  Well done!

Comment by Lisa (lost) Lamb on July 25, 2012 at 1:00am

I wish I had that kind of strength, Maybe one day I will. For now everything stays right where KC left it. I still get made when someone uses something and doesn't put it back. My Husband always had a place for everything and everything in it's place. You've done so well!

Comment by Jill on July 24, 2012 at 9:34pm

Thanks friends for the comments!

Comment by Joyce on July 24, 2012 at 7:35pm

I know that some day I will have to deal with it, but right now my garage is a Garage of Grief.  Tom was a neat, clean freak in his garage.  Everything had its place and was always in its place.  You could almost eat off the floor.  When his esophageal cancer spread to his brain he would spends a lot of time in the garage (when the brain cancer first started to rear its ugly head, he became forgetful and couldn't remember things, so I think he spent time out there so he didn't have to talk, because he was realizing something was wrong)  anyway I digress (also crying).  I don't think he realized it but he constantly tried straightening the garage for hours at a time and needless to say the garage is a disaster.  Everything all over the place, in piles everywhere.  Everyone who has seen it says that Tom would never have his garage in that shape.  I can't go there, so for now it stays a mess like it has for 9 months.  Someday......

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