Keeping belongings

When I was 30 , I lost my mother to cancer after she battled it for five years . She wanted to be looked after at home, so I moved back home (only child) my husband was very good with me spending most of the time with her and him staying half the week or so. It will be 16 years this year, and tears still come easily. We moved in but I won’t change anything in the house, her things are everywhere it brings me comfort, even her clothes still hang in the wardrobes. We have no space the attic is stuffed with mammys stuff and ours I don’t know how it hasn’t collapsed on us yet. The shed are garage are full of boxes mainly of our stuff as there is no room to put it. My husband has been very good after all this time but he wants more space, I understand but I can’t get rid of anything. He tried to go through a kitchen drawer I went into hysterics when he tried to bin one of mammys broken spatulas. It can be anything of hers a scrap of paper with her writing on it, I can’t get rid of it, and start crying at the thought of getting rid of it. He has put more boxes of things like that in the attic but there is no more space in the house to store things. People don’t understand me, some days I wish I could get rid of a few things but even thinking that gives me chest pains. I am getting biopsy results myself this week and if the worst happens I don’t want my son to do what I am doing keeping everything. Is anyone like me here ? Is there an easy way to start to try to even think about getting rid of her things ? Thanks.

Dear Rach,
I t can be really hard t let go of thing, especially things that have emotional value, but is sounds like you have reached a point where you are having to make some decisions. You write:

This made me think: what do you think your mother would have wanted you to do? You must have been very close to her and have known her very well enough to know what she would have said to you.
I also wonder if you have ever had any bereavement counseling? You suffered a great loss and it must have been very hard to see your mother battle with cancer and to look after her at the end of her life?
It is never too late to seek help, either through your GP or by using the Sue Ryder counseling service.
You have a lot on your mind at he moment and you deserve to get the help you need.

Thanks Jo for your kind words. I am an only child so my mammy and I were very close. She didn’t want to know she had cancer so she would leave the consultants rooms and tell them to talk to me about it, I had to organise everything, everyday for years , inject her , clean her surgical wounds, chemo, radiation, it was so bad in the months before her death that they only way she wasn’t screaming in pain At home was when they put her on a drug regime to knock her unconscious. But I can’t organise getting rid of anything Now., probably it keeps her near me I don’t know. The thought I might have what she has terrifies me because I have seen cancer in all it’s horrible form. Sorry … I’m having a down day.

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Dear Rach,
There is no need to apologize for having a bad day. Having had a few biopsies myself in the past I know how I felt in the days and weeks before the results. I think it is perfectly normal to feel anxious and to have all sorts of thoughts go through your head, even though it is not helpful. We seem to tend to expect the worse rather than hope for the best. My biopsies all turned out to be either cysts or nothing to worry about. I hope that will be the same for you, but even if not, in the years since your mum had cancer lots of advances have been made in treatment and especially if caught early, there is no reason that you should end up in the same situation as your mum. If she did not want to know she had cancer, she may have waited a long time before even going to the doctor? There is also a lot more help and support available now from charities such as MacMillan.
I can understand that until you know the biopsy result you cannot get yourself to organise your mum’s belongings. Do you know when you will get your results?
Feel free to private message me if you would prefer that.

Rach. Where to begin?
First and foremost, I’m so sorry to hear about your Mum and it sounds like even after all that time, it is still fresh in your mind and affects you everyday. People say to do whatever brings you any comfort but you’re right, there does seem to reach a point of change and transition. It sounds like your partner has been very supportive and understanding of your feelings which is something you need while grieving. I lost my Dad back in November, he was a complete hoarder of everything. There was at least 30 years worth of stuff. I found it really hard going through his things as they all have meaning to you. ‘I remember when he wore those gloves in the winter’. What I did was put everything into perspective and kept the most meaningful. I kept a lot of his clothes mainly because they still smelled of him - but was able to give a lot to charity that he never got to wear or hardly ever worn. I kept things that I could use like his kitchenware - cutlery, spatulas etc, appliances and a very special rocking chair that sat in the living room. I gave myself a time limit too because if I’d spent any longer doing it - I’d have kept absolutely everything and I just don’t have the space for it. I learned to let go of the daily things that hold no meaning but kept the things I felt mattered. There’s no right or wrong and although people will tell you to think about what they’d want - that only matters if it’s the same as what you want and need at that moment. You’ve needed to hold on to everything, but now is the time to adapt. I have Daddy things throughout my house but I have one proper shrine in my room where I can sit by his ashes and be with him. It’s about learning to honour them in a way that you can still live your life. My Dad was my best friend, he still is. He lives on in my heart and I take him everywhere in a special necklace I had made up of his ashes. I think he’d still be proud of me even after giving some of things to charity as it doesn’t change the meaning of him, how I felt about my Dad and how he felt about me. I think that’s the most important. I think he’d feel happy his things were going to someone else in need.

I can only tell you my story, as can others. There is no book of guidance on death, no one has the answers unfortunately. This site for us grieving is here for the bad days, when you needed someone to reach out and give you reassurance. You will always find that here.
Thinking of you.


Watt, thanks for that. Sometimes you feel so foolish holding on to a piece of paper because she scribbled onto it but to me it is a priceless thing. The last time we tried I broke down within 10 minutes looking through a kitchen drawer… I ended up putting most in a box then in to the attic which is full to bursting. Depending how my biopsy results are this week, and what else I’m told I might try to be brave like you and maybe try again, very baby steps, even if I keep half a box it’s better than a full one. I know I sound pathetic sometimes especially after all this time but seeing her things around makes me feel she is here with me and if I turn around she might just be there.

Watt, I am so sorry to hear about you dad, normally I would be more considerate to people like you jo and Jonathan about your grief my mind isn’t with it especially this week I apologise , you have all been so kind , and you are all dealing with your own grief. Thank you all for your caring thoughts and suggestions, thinking of you all.

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If it’s any consolation, I don’t think that way. I still have scribbles from my Dad I’ve stuck to his unit that holds his ashes and personal belongings. I keep letters and notepads in a box I had made for him to. It’s all perspective - keep what matters. The hardest thing I’ve had to throw out so far was a very loved and worn down brown leather jacket I can still picture my Dad wearing. I’d put it in his shed and when I went back to it, it had mould on it. It was devastating but I reminded myself I wasn’t being disrespectful and he’ll be with me regardless of where that jacket is.
He was only 64 when he passed, I was 26. I know I’m still young and trying to deal with it in my own way but it’s the way that feels right for me. I don’t think you’ve acted pathetic at all, in any way, and if anyone has made you feel that way then they just don’t know our grief. The grief is so raw and heavy because the love was so great. Grief is love with nowhere to go. I wish for nothing more than my Dad back but I find it comforting to know he’ll be waiting for me when it’s my time, whenever that may be.
Best wishes for your results!


Watt, I love that phrase grief is love with nowhere to go, makes sense why it’s so strong. Mammy got sick when I was 25 and died when I was 30, it is hard when you are that young , I think limiting what you keep is something I have to try to do, like you with your necklace I wear my mammys wedding ring on my right hand everyday, when I had my first job she reacted to the gold and I had to get her an 18ct one I said to her then that I’d bury her with the one I got her and keep hers Which I did. Paid for it in instalments but she liked it. Funny what things you think about when they are gone, I was her world and she was mine. She died just a few days after her 66 birthday on the same date my granny passed away the year I was born. I believe granny came for her and one day like you and your dad I will see them both. I feel she is always with me , some days I swear I can almost touch her, she is my angel now. Look after yourself,