Are You Ready To Open Pandora’s Box?

Do you have boxes that haven’t been opened in you can’t remember how long?  Have you forgotten what is in them?  

You open up the box and realize that it is full of mementos from a loved one who has passed away.  Right away you feel like you just want to close up the box and shove it back under the stairs or wherever you can tuck it away so that you don’t have to think about it. 

In general, I believe we want to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that we imagine will come up. We just push them away by keeping so busy that we never have to even think about it.

Yes, this was me! My daughter passed away at age 17 due to complicated medical issues and I went back to work right away and just pushed my sadness away, locked away all of those years and precious memories and tried to just continue on with my life.  I felt numb a lot of the time and really had this cloak of protection around me. I really focused on other peoples struggles and crisis and thought I was okay. The sadness continued to pop up though often when I was with my family and friends or coworkers who talked about their beautiful children and the aspirations they had for them. I realize that it wasn’t their fault but I often felt like there was something wrong with me. I didn’t measure up in some ways and just stayed quiet most of the time just keeping this pain and sadness to myself. 

Yes, I have been able to open that box. One of the things that has helped me the most was writing a chapter in a multi authored book called Mystics Revealed Unconventional Success Stories from Extraordinary Leaders. My chapter is called “Seasons of Love, Loss and Personal Power”.   Here is the link to purchase. It’s only $1.36 on Kindle in Canada.

What is holding you back from opening that box?  What would your loved one think about your struggle?  I think there is a common feeling that we cannot let go of anything that belonged to our loved ones because in some way we would be dishonouring their memory.  What do you think they would say if they knew you were feeling like this? Maybe they would say that they would like it if other people could enjoy those things instead of them sitting stagnant in a box under the staircase. They wouldn’t want you to ever forget them and we know we never would even if we didn’t have that box of mementos in our possession.

How do we honour the memories of our loved ones who have passed away? You will know when you are ready.  We can honour our memories of our loved ones with photos, letters or other things that we can keep close to our hearts. Having support while you do this work can be so helpful. It might mean having someone by your side as you go through each item, taking your time to look at everything, recalling memories and talking to someone you trust as you uncover them. You could do some journalling, writing down some of the stories or just having a cry as you do this work. My daughter and I had letters that we wrote back and forth to each other. When I read them after many years, I was able to look back and see things in a different light. Our memories are really in our hearts and no one can take that away.

Here is some more information on how I was able to let go…..

Do you need some help letting go of items that belonged to your loved one? I thoroughly understand how hard this can be. Reach out to me and we can have a chat. Here is a link to schedule a call or just send me an email at kimtremblay@sympatico.ca and we can make a plan.

Happy Decluttering!

About Kim

I’m Kim, your go-to Professional Organizer and Virtual Coach! I’m beyond excited to embark on this clutter-free adventure with you. With a background in mental health and a passion for transforming spaces, I bring a holistic approach to decluttering. It’s not just about neatening up physical spaces; it’s about fostering a mindset shift that radiates throughout your life. I founded Space For You Clear the Clutter, Heal Your Life and have been working with individuals and groups for about 15 years. I've also trained with Professional Organizers of Canada and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.
This entry was posted in Emotional Clutter, families, Organizing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Are You Ready To Open Pandora’s Box?

  1. I love your story; it made me cry. It is sweet how you honored her by revisiting these items. I don’t think our loved ones want us to be in a state of dis-ease. They want us to remember them with fond memories. Thank you for sharing.

    I had to clear out my parents’ homes a few years apart from one another, and it was very stressful. Since they died pretty young, 60 years old, there was a lot of regret and sadness. Regret they would never see my kids grow up. Mourning, they would never be able to enjoy the happy times that happened since they passed. But as each event happened, I realized they were there, with me in spirit.

    As I went through their items, I found that repurposing the ones I loved to honor them in my home helped me through the grief. My link shares the ones I did in a post.

    • Kim says:

      Thank you Sabrina – I am sorry for the loss of your parents at such a young age. I love your idea of repurposing items you loved to honour the memories of your loved ones. Such a lovely idea. Thank you for the link as well. I will share it with my peeps in an email.

  2. My heart goes out to you, Kim. The depth of sorrow for losing a child is impossible to fathom. I am grateful to you for sharing your story and how you found your way forward by being able to face the box.

    Your suggestions for handling emotional decisions are terrific- journaling, getting support, crying, and talking.

    My mom passed away two years ago. Most of her belongings I had reconciled before she passed. And even though she was still alive when I was handling those things, she couldn’t be part of the letting go process because she had advanced dementia. I cleared out and sold her home of almost 60 years. If it weren’t for the support of my family and friends, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Journaling, taking photographs and videos, blogging, and sharing about the process also helped. And yes. There was lots of crying and talking things through.

    If you are interested, here is a post I wrote about letting go during this time and the strategies I used to help: https://www.ohsoorganized.com/blog/2018/4/22/how-to-say-goodbye-and-let-go-with-love.html

    • Kim says:

      Hi Linda,
      Thanks for your comment. I notice that a lot of us as well as our clients have had the loss of our parents and the experience of cleaning out their homes. Thank you for the link to your article. I am going to share it with my peeps by email. Thank you

  3. Kim, I’m so sorry to learn that you lost your daughter. I believe that’s one of the worst experiences anyone can have.

    When my mom passed away in 1996, we gathered up all the odds and ends from her room into a bag, so each sibling could look through it at home. I got it last, so I still have it. Over the years, I’ve gradually accepted that we don’t need to keep every random note she ever scribbled, and that it’s okay to tear out pages from a notebook she’d written on and use the rest of the notebook. It’s just a notebook!

    • Kim says:

      Thanks Janet,
      Yes, I think it does get easier to let go of things like you mentioned especially after some time has passed. We all need time to heal and continue to live our lives.

  4. What an important post! I imagine they are many others who have experienced this type of deep pain/loss, and have postponed dealing with the associated physical items. It seems the first step is simply acknowledging the feelings, and the desire to avoid the task. I so agree with Sabrina that loved ones wouldn’t want us to be feeling the weight of their possessions.

    Time doesn’t heal the pain, but it can give us a different perspective than we feel at the moment of loss. I have a client who was unwilling to consider any items that came from her deceased Mom. We’ve worked together for years now, and she is moving into a place of being more open about thinking about which of these items have the most significance, and therefore deserve a place in her home.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Sharing this will surely be a balm to others who are suffering.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Kim. I’ve lost my parents. That was devastating enough. I can’t even begin to imagine the depth of pain associated with the loss of a child. Your tips are terrific. I, like the others, think journaling is a good way to process some of the pain. I also agree that it never goes away – you just gain a better understanding of yourself and how to manage your grief.

  6. I have a 17 year old son–I cannot begin to imagine what you went through with your daughter. Thanks for sharing your story with your readers. You’ll never know how many people you’ve helped just by writing about your experience and publishing it on your blog. May memories of your daughter bring you comfort and be a blessing to you.

  7. Yours is such a moving story, Kim. I’m so sorry that you and your family had this experience, but thank you for sharing your vulnerability. I’m sure it will give many people strength and solace.

    Thank you also for these ideas to honor our loved ones and their memories. During the pandemic, I read Tiffany Schlain’s book (24/6: Giving Up Screens One Day a Week to Get More Time, Creativity, and Connection) about digital unplugging, but one sentence resonated with me so much that I took a photo of the page. She wrote, “Someone once told me: whenever you are doing something that the person you lost loved to do, you bring them back.” A living, ongoing tribute.

    When I’m working with clients, I encourage them to focus on keeping what brings them joy, but let go of anything that will stand in the way of them doing the things that their lost loved one loved to do, or in the way of being their authentic selves whom their loved one loved. Thank you for reminding me once again how we can use the power of our love to strengthen us and our connections.

  8. Lovely blog Kim. I was 14 when I lost my mom and I don’t really remember what my Dad did with all her stuff. I had kept a few pcs of jewelry and a leopard bikini she wore and of course all the photos and letters she wrote us at camp. I don’t feel like I needed more as the memories were so fresh. I do want to write down stories of my mom for my kids though -what I still remember and of my grandparents as I believe it is the stories that are more important than the stuff.

    • Kim says:

      Awe Judy,
      I am so sorry you lost your mom at such a young age. You are so right that it is the stories that are so much more important than the stuff. I am going to share that one with clients. Thank you for commenting.

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