Stuff. It’s just that. Stuff. Inanimate objects we assign value or usefulness. However, when your spouse dies, “stuff” all of a sudden become mementos, tokens, or symbols. And they become much heavier.
Like a simple cooking pot. It’s got to be almost thirty years old. The only thing I have ever used it for is keeping the pancakes warm so we could all sit down together for breakfast. Only, I no longer make pancakes for a family. Shucks, I no longer make pancakes. So why do I need this pot? I have a better quality pot of similar size that I don’t use, too.
Because it came with Thadd when we got together. And we’ve had it forever.
As I take some time to clean out the kitchen cabinets in an effort to par down the stuff in my home, I’m faced with a dilemma.
Keep the pot or let it go?
If I keep the pot, it will continue to take up space and go unused, but remain a visual reminder of warm pancakes and breakfast time. It gives everyone the warm fuzzies. But, it’s no longer useful for my life and it simply takes up space.
If I get rid of the pot, the memories will remain, but the visual reminder will be gone. Some space will be freed up and my “stuff quota” will be lightened. But… it came with Thadd. If he were still alive, the angst over cleaning out the cabinet wouldn’t be nearly this heavy. We’d talk about it, remember, and place it in the “get rid of” pile. Now, if I get rid of it, will someone think I don’t love or miss him anymore? Will the boys judge me for letting “his things” go? Suddenly this simple pot weighs a ton and is much bigger in size.
It’s silly, really, but the struggle is real. Oh, for one widow/widower it’s a cooking pot, for another it’s a pair of slippers or a razor. For yet another it’s the phone that no longer has service or a working battery, and yet another it’s the expired membership card from her wallet or the pen he used everyday.
Stuff is still stuff, but there’s an attachment beyond the everyday attachment most people have with stuff. When a person’s life is reduced to their stuff, it’s humbling. And it carries a weight the surviving spouse will carry forever. Do they really need the weight of the physical stuff all the time, too?
I was just reading a post about the judgment widows feel and receive from “well-meaning” friends and family. I’m flabbergasted when I read some of the things people have actually said to a widow/widower. For me, it’s mostly been silence, save the random comment or open-ended statement. It’s still judgement. And it still wounds.
When it comes to the stuff, we live under a cloud of “what will someone think if they find out?” Like we’ve done something wrong if we’ve gotten rid of a cooking pot or a pair of slippers. Not that is should matter. But it still stings. And it carries a weight all its own.
So, what’s my point here? Not sure I have one. Widowhood is more than the event that created the status. Wodowhood is life – every day, forever. It ebbs and flows; changes like seasons, but it stays with us always. It’s in everything and wrapped up with everything. Five days, five years, or fifty years down the road.
My widowed community – if it’s time to toss the pot, toss the pot. No judgement, no shame; no regrets or condemnation. It is okay for you to make leaps and bounds in moving forward once in a while, not just baby steps.
Friends and family – if it’s time to toss the pot, be assured she’s not tossing the love or the memories, just the pot. Trust me, she hasn’t forgotten. Don’t make it harder by verbally or silently casting judgement.
Now, time to go tackle another cabinet. They won’t clean themselves.