An embarrassing question

It’s three years since my husband died. We were together 36 years. After I sold the house and all the furniture I moved up to my daughter’s in May last year (about 600 km away. I brought with me this huge box of photographs which is still sealed in the corner of my room because I can’t face going through them and equally I can’t bear to toss the whole thing out. I’m too embarrassed to discuss this with anyone, including my daughter, sister or my friends (who are all a long way away) and we don’t really do long conversations. My husband was not my daughter’s father by the way; this was a second marriage and she didn’t like him much anyway. So what should I do? Toss it, keep it until I get the courage to look at it or just leave it in the corner until I die? I’m in the process of decluttering but that pesky box is sitting there like a ticking bomb.

Hi. You ask for help but I am sure you will get varied answers. This is very personal and difficult for you. My suggestion would be to put the box away somehow out of sight. Up in the loft maybe, if you have one, or at the back of a deep cupboard.
If you throw them away you may regret it. They probably don’t take up much space so it may be a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’.
Your post does highlight how difficult grief can still be after even a few years. But it’s box full of memories.
You will get replies for sure, because this must be a common occurrence. But I do suggest be ruled by your heart and not your head.
Take care, and thanks for bringing up a subject that may be common to so many.

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Thanks Jonathan for your reply. It’s not that I want to forget my husband. I’m just afraid looking through these photos will unleash a torrent of grief and alarm my daughter. I’ll stash the box at the top of the cupboard along with the little box of his ashes, which my daughter already thinks is creepy. And like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about it tomorrow or maybe next year.

Hi. Shirls. Good idea. I have done things in the past that I regretted when I threw things away then found I needed them. Old papers and such. After all, they won’t rot or anything and others may find them helpful later. You might even want to look yourself and how would you feel if they are gone?
Creepy! Little box of ashes? No way! But younger people find it all a bit morbid and maybe upsetting.
Anyway, decision made. Take care.


Hi Shirl, had to reply to you as I was faced with a similar dilemma. My husband was a keen photographer but I had no idea just how many he had accumulated over the years. It took me weeks to go through them and I was advised to get rid as no one else would want them when I went. So slowly I went through them. Thirty years of us walking, gardening, on holidays etc. My husband always had a camera on him no matter where he went. I kept some and they are packed away in a cupboard but there was bag loads that I burnt. I thought I had done quite well and then I found an old locked case in the loft (which I had never been in before) and when I broke it open there was even more photographs. Some of his ex wife and probably girlfriends. Here I was looking at photographs of my husband kissing or with his arms around other women. He must have put all these photo’s away when we got married thirty years ago and I admit that going through them was so hard. They was all before my time and I felt as if I was destroying his past. Yes, they went in the incinerator as well. If there was any of relatives or people I knew I sent them the photo’s but I had to admit that they was no use to me. I just hoped my husband understood but I admit I did curse him for leaving me with all his past to sort through. And for a while wondered if he had ever loved me to make me go through his past like this.
I still have boxes of CD’s and ones on the computer which I am forgetting about for a while.

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Oh Pattidot you are braver than I am. My husband was also keen on photography and there were hundreds of slides of his ex wife who seemed to enjoy posing naked. I pondered asking her if she wanted them but to save us both embarrassment as we are in our seventies now I got rid of them before I moved up here. Just seeing the first two or three of those made that task easy. Thirty odd years of diaries went the same way. I’m determined not to leave anything behind that my children would have to deal with when I die except for the clothes and stuff I’m currently using. I believe it’s called Swedish death cleaning. And that reminds me - I need to make a file with important documents and bank details etc to make it simpler to send to the Estate Administrators so my will can go through probate without too much delay. I’ve also made a living will and made it clear to my daughters that I’m not to be kept artificially alive and I’m to be cremated in a cardboard coffin or whatever they use nowadays. Not that I’m planning to die soon but so many friends of my age have departed lately quite unexpectedly that one has to think of it.

I agree Shirl, having dealt with Brian’s death it has made me realise how difficult it can be, so everything is in order. I too want it to be easier for my family. Brian was a compulsive collector and kept everything. A photographer, painter, musician.
I wasn’t brave I cried buckets and yes as I burnt photo’s of him in another woman’s arms and some kissing them I swore at them and actually enjoyed throwing them dramatically in the flames. If Brian had been around I would have teased him and laughed at them but alone I was in bits.
I have no idea if Brian’s ex is still alive as nothing has been heard of her, so she burnt but I did find a diary she had written and had to read it (Like you do). She was so annoyed with him all the time as he kept ignoring her. This did cheer me up.
All the best

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Oh Pat it’s tough being a widow isn’t it? Or for the guys a widower. But unless both partners die at the same time it’s inevitable and one wouldn’t wish it on anyone especially not the person you love.

My 60 year husband passing in May 2019 made me think about getting my stuff in order as well. I am obsessed about it now, list of bank details etc . Even looking at planning my funeral as well . I have no children. But letting my executors. be aware…

I am starting to go through my husband’s things… its.strange… and surreal. He passed away in May 2019.

Dear Lucy I’m so sorry for your loss. Going through your husband’s clothes is painful. I bagged up everything and sent them to a men’s shelter. But I’ve kept his England jacket - he loved it so much and I may even wear it one day.

Hi Shirl I sent all Brian’s clothes to charity except for a few jumpers, tea shirts, jackets. belts all of which I wear. His slippers are still in front of his chair for him. I also kept a pair of his shorts that he is wearing in a photograph I have of him on the coffee table. I hold them and remember the times he wore them on holiday.
These little things mean so much don’t they.

:Love Pat

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Dear Shirls, One day you will be reminded of something, a holiday, a walk etc., miraculously you will have the strength to open that box, it may not be for another couple of years, it will happen so please dont throw anything away.
People I know found it difficult to look at photos of their lived ones, I havent, i have photos usually of us both all round the home, if i find a nice frame out comes the box of photos to find another.
We are all different, I can not allow myself to think too deeply about memories, some people can.
As I moved from my beautiful North Norfolk to Bedfordshire to be near one of my sons, it was and still is a culture shock, so my husbands ashes are still with me, infact in a lovely casket, I place a fresh rose every week by the side, again surrounded by photos. May I add it is not a shrine, no way, in fact I talk to him while applying my makeup.
Again someone I know had to put her husbands ashes in the garage, I couldnt do that, we are all different.
So please think very carefully, I am trying to find a suitable memory box, for things I have come across.
As I said, you will not always feel this way,
I hope you find fulfilment in your new home.
Much love xx

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Dear Peace, thanks for such kind advice. That’s it - a special memory box, not just any old cardboard carton. And a carefully curated memory box at that. Yours was the first email I read this morning and it has put me in such an upbeat mood. Thanks a million.

I had to sort through what must have been thousands of photographs as my husband was a keen photographer. Like you I have enlarged photographs of him in nice frames all over the house and I can kiss him whenever I go from one room to another. I have photo’s of him in his walking gear, in shorts walking in the Greek mountains, on stage with his band (he was the singer) I sold his guitars and I received a photo of his best one, now all done up and it is next to a photo of him playing it.
I’m not sure if this is the best thing for me to do as I can feel his eyes on me but I can sit and have a moan at him if I feel particularly fed up with life. Some of his ashes I had put in the grave of his grandparents who brought him up, he is only a short walk away. Some was meant to be scattered on the seafront near us and where he was born. But I can’t let them go. So they are on the coffee table. Yes we are all different and must do what we feel is right for us at that time. You are right, we might change at a later date.
All the best Pat

My dear Shirls, you are very welcome, we are all here to love, support, listen, weep, advise the best we know how each other,
maybe find a smile sometime during the day.
Much love Irene xx

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This is such an individual process and one that we should follow our own heart to know when the time is right and to do what ‘feels right’.
I personally love going through my loved one’s things. I see the essence of them , feel them close and hold the memories they bring like a precious jewel. I have my dad’s glasses on my hall table to the horror of my friends when they visit but when I open my front door I smile at the wisdom that shone through the glasses, the smile, the twinkle in his eyes and the love reflecting out of them. I feel so full of love, warmth and happiness they represent and could never put them away out of sight because of what they represent to me. Each to their own there is no definitive answer. Only our hearts know what’s best for us

It has been almost a year, 11 months on Monday, since I lost my husband. He was quite a hoarder. As we got together later in life, he had past memories photos etc. It is so hard to get rid of these things as I feel like I am intruding some how but old photos scrapbooks etc etc are fairly meaningless to me. I am still struggling with the loss of him as well. I know there is no need rush at this I am not planning on moving house or anything like that.
Its all so sad.

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You’re right Mrs K. I’ve stashed the scrap books at the bottom of a kist - they were so precious to him and the box of photos I’ll tackle some day. The problem is that on days I’m feeling positive I don’t want to spoil that mood and on the down days I don’t want to feel any worse emotionally. I’m a bit of a wimp, but what the hey, avoidance seems to be my default mode of operation.

Hi all, reading some of your posts has gave me mixed emotions, my sweetheart of 30yrs passed away suddenly on 25 may 2019 only 44. I talk to him everyday , all his belongings are all over the house still, clothes in wardrobe. I couldnt even contemplate moving anything. We were both collectors of various things . It is to overwhelming to know where to start . When i think how my life has become and the struggles I’m going through i dont want to put my kids in the situation when my time comes. I sit with a box and think what would he want me to keep , then i cannot do it, i know he would want to keep his collections as they’re big money, but he was never materialistic, he’d be saying give the clothes to peopke who need them. If i went through pics thinking this was a favourite top, I’d keep the lot. My mum passed 2 yrs ago and my dad has still not sorted her things . Its so hard. X

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