What to Do With His Things

If you can’t have him, then you can still have his stuff. You can go to sleep with the shirt that still smells of his aftershave; you can wear his jumper; you can see his toothbrush on your basin and imagine that he will walk in one day, pick it up and use it, just like he always did. And if that’s what it takes to make you feel better then so be it. We all need something to help us through our grief, and having something that your husband once wore, or used, or loved, will give you comfort.
But it will not bring him back.
Don’t let anybody tell you what to do with his belongings. If you want to throw them all out the day after he is buried, then do it. If you want to keep some of his suits, his razor or his toothbrush, then do it. Nobody can tell you when is the right time to clear out his old jeans and boxer shorts.
I kept the turned wooden shaving bowl that Charlie last used on the day that he died. I used to look at the swirl of dried lather and imagine the badger bristle shaving brush in his strong hand, curling lazily around the bowl, picking up a soft, pink mound of Trumper’s rose shaving soap and rubbing it into his stubbly chin.
I saw that image every time I passed the bowl. I kept the lid on it to preserve the memory. Then one day Rosie found Charlie’s shaving brush and ran it around the wooden bowl, just as she’d seen her father do so many times before, destroying the remnants of his final shave; destroying my sacred, tangible, memory of him.
It was nothing special to her; she didn’t know the importance I had placed upon it. I am ashamed of my reaction. When I saw what she’d done I screamed at her and pushed her out of my bedroom.
And all for what?
For a bit of dried lather and nothing more.
Memories are not kept alive in turned wooden bowls, they live on in your heart and in your head. If you keep your bedroom as an untouched and untouchable shrine to your late husband, then how can you ever hope to move on?
People are not things. A man is not his suit or his shoes – he may have loved them, but once he is gone they are no longer part of him, they are inanimate objects that grow dusty under the bed and moth- eaten in the wardrobe.
When you can bear to give up the things that were his, then you are starting to let him go.
You should let him go.
Give his clothes to a charity shop; make his old shirts into painting overalls for your children – but only when you feel ready to do it. Keep the things that were special to him. Keep his fountain pen, his cufflinks, and his favourite suit. Keep his memory alive by talking about him, keep it alive in the minds of his children and when you are ready, let his things go.