It’s been almost two years since my husband passed away and I’ve not touched anything on his side of the closet. Other than the few sweatshirts of his I’ve worn, it’s remained exactly how he left it. Including the clothes he had planned to wear to work that day that are still hanging on the hook by the door.
I’ve thought a lot about cleaning out his things and the idea of the task has seemed so daunting. Which has told me I wasn’t ready. So I haven’t touched anything. I figured when it was time, I’d know.
Seven weeks ago, I learned I was going on furlough due to the COVID pandemic. I took this news as a gift. Time to do the things I haven’t had time to do. Spend time with the kids, take some time away from the everyday demands of life.
One of the first things I thought of was that I would finally have time to go through Seth’s things. Finally organize the closet. Pack away his ties, suits, and some other things that I thought would be good to save for our son to have when he is older. Pack the rest up to be donated. This gift of time at home was the signal I needed to know it was time to conquer this task. And I thought I was ready.
So the other day, I decided it was time to get started. I first took the clothes hanging on the hook and folded them up. Put them away. Took his socks and put them back in the dresser. Then I took down his windbreaker jackets and sweatshirts he had hanging up and folded them as neatly as I could. And put them right back in the closet. Not wanting to get rid of them, and also not knowing what to do with them. But I at least did something with them.
The kids were coming in and out of the closet while I was folding up his sweatshirts and they started trying on shoes. Our son must the taken his slide on house shoes and worn them around for a while. When I found them at the foot of our bed I stopped in my tracks. I had to catch my breath. For a brief moment, it felt like Seth was home, with his shoes left just where he always had them. Like he was about to walk through the door at any moment and everything would return to just as it was before he died.
As I went back into the closet, I stood back and looked at his things and thought I could at least take down his dress shirts and pants and pack them up to be donated. And as I reached up to take them off the hangers, I just couldn’t do it.
I was flooded with memories of how he loved getting up in the morning and get ready to start his day. How he carefully thought about what he wanted to wear to work each day. And when I saw a few dress shirts I had bought him just weeks before he passed, I thought of how much he loved it when I’d surprise him with new clothes after a trip to the store.
The memories were overwhelming and I was hit with more emotion than I had even expected. So I took a deep breath, and said to myself “I just can’t do it.” So I didn’t. And I walked out of the closet and shut the door. I’ll try again another day.
What I’m still learning about this journey with grief is that there really is no timetable of when and how manage this process. No right time to do something until you’re ready to do it. And I’m giving myself time to be ready for each task that is still to come. And am trying to not put pressure on myself to do them when I think they need to be, or should be, done. But when I’m ready for them to be done.
I know that at some point, I’ll be able to go through the closet. Pack his things away. Donate what can benefit others. And I will continue to give myself grace and let my heart heal in the way it needs to.