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Packing Up the Belongings
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Feb 23, 2002
Following the death of a child, there are many tasks that must be done. There are many people to notify about the death such as the school, the doctor’s office, the dentist, just to name a few. Also, there is a job that must be done that is most difficult—packing up the belongings.

Perhaps because it represents such a final closure to the death of a child, packing up the belongings is considered to be some of the hardest grief work you will ever do. There are reminders of your child everywhere you look. There are clothes, toys, books, a bicycle, a basketball, jackets, and even a favorite cup. Reminders of your precious child are in every room of the house. Evidence of your child’s presence is everywhere!

Many well meaning relatives and friends will begin suggesting to you soon after the child dies that it would be beneficial to start packing up the belongings. In some cases, people have even decided on their own to come to your home to do this chore if you are not feeling up to it. This is one time to be very vocal and say, “Leave everything alone! I will pack up my child’s belongings when I feel like it, and not a day before!”

Some parents choose to leave the child’s bedroom untouched for months following the death. This might be quite bothersome to some, but very important to you. Follow your heart! When it feels “right” to pack up the belongings of your child, you will know. And, it is very possible that it will take several days or several weeks for you to complete the taxing task of packing away all of your child’s belongings.

You will be faced with many tough decisions when packing away your child’s belongings. Should you just pack away the clothes and toys, or should you give them away to the thrift store, or give them to a relative or friend? This is a very personal decision to make, and perhaps one that should not be made in the first year following the death of your child. As grief has had time to settle, feelings change dramatically. At first you might think that you want all reminders of your child packed away. But, in a year, you might feel very different, wanting several items of your child’s in plain view. Don’t rush packing up your child’s belongings!

When is the right time to pack up the belongings? There is no absolute answer to this question. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. You need to rid yourself of all guilt when people tell you it’s time to pack up your child’s things. Stand firm in telling others that you will take care of packing up in your own time whether it is 6 months or 6 years following the death.

Packing up your child’s belongings is painful and is an emotional drain. Take your time doing this. Do as much or as little as you want to do each day. Grief follows no timetable or specific rules. And remember, what is right for one may not be right for you. If your child’s toothbrush is important to you, then keep it! That is your decision to make.

Give yourself plenty of time when packing up your child’s belongings. There are many benefits to waiting, especially since your feelings will change over time. Do not rush this most difficult task. Packing up the belongings of your child is probably the most difficult grief work you will ever do. Be gentle and patient with yourself as your do this difficult grief work!
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