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Cleaning out the room of your child after death

Most people wait to do this since it’s such an emotional event. Friends have told me they waited one, two or even five years or more. I had to do this right away because we had sold the house four days before he died. Another family was moving in.

At first, I tried by myself and I ended up in a blubbering pile on the floor. After an hour, I had not put a single thing in a box. But I had emptied a box of tissues.

What do I keep? What do I throw away? How can this be all that’s left of my child? Just the stuff. Where is that red jacket he liked so much? What happened to it? Where are the rest of his notebooks?

I gave up and tackled another room. I’ll get that room another day.

So I try the next day. Same result. This is not going well. Worse than that, it’s agony.

I call in the troops. I needed help with this.

Martha was the first to help me. We’ve been friends since first grade and our kids grew up together.  What am I saying, she and I grew up together! No one knows me better.

It gave me comfort to give away some of the things to her kids. Charles’ ski jacket for example. He wore it once out in Utah. I took pictures of other clothing items, posted and Facebook and asked Charles’ friends if they wanted any of them. They all had special requests. I mailed 15 packages to various locations across the United States. Now they had a worthy home. I just could not bring myself to simply donate them.

I still had a lot of items to either pack or give away. Given how soon it was after his death, Martha suggested packing anything I questioned since I might regret it later and I took that advice. It wasn’t like I was thinking at this point, still in the fog of early grief.

We got about half done. That was all I could take. Keep in mind, that this is just days after he has killed himself. It’s still raw. Most wait at least a year.

My neighbor Wendy joined me next and we got it done.

Ultimately, all his possessions fit into two boxes. And his backpack which was never put on a moving van. I carried it with me because I could not let it go–the pictures of family he carried with him and the notebooks he had left as well as his beloved iPod.

I can’t tell you how many times I went in that room and looked around and sat around those boxes and cried. I have them in my new home. Two boxes. How can twenty years of a human life fit in two boxes?

As sad as this task is,  it is an after death task that pushes you to acceptance of the loss and healing  your soul.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked mental health speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational mental health keynotes, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, anxiety, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

9 thoughts on “Cleaning out the room of your child after death”

  1. It’s so tough. Daniel’scohorts sent his belongings to us from LA a couple months after his death. They never told UPS local store to notify me. I caught UPS on day they were going to send belongings to Goodwill. I made quite a scene. They ended up bringing them to me. We’ve kept a few clothes. Kept his two guitars. I sleep every night with his pillow we received with his belongings. Still have a closet full of childhood artifacts. I remember crying over those when he was leaving the nest to go to LA. Little did I know then how silly that sadness was compared to his suicide seven months later. We’ll get to his closet one day.

  2. I know I will have to face this and I absolutely dread it. Dylan has been gone for 13 weeks now. I can barely open his door to look inside the room at this point.

  3. I started packing my daughter’s things yesterday. We also are moving. It wasn’t that long ago that she still enjoyed toys. I started with those that were in the hall closet. It was agonizing and draining. Just yesterday she was a small child. Even the day she left she was a child. 15 short years but an eternity of memories. I can’t get rid of anything yet. I will pack her room in a couple of days. I need to recover a bit from crying while holding her dolls and sock monkies. Thank you for posting this. ~Lilly’s Mom

    1. That is so young Crystal. I’ve seen a picture of your daughter and she was so lovely and genuine. Packing up the room is part of the healing process but a damn painful one. I just couldn’t handle it by myself and had to bring in help.

      Just two weeks before he died, I got rid of things because we were moving. Like his hat collection and both the boy’s dress up boxes they used to make YouTube movies. If I had known he would die, I would not have gotten rid of those things and I ached afterwards.

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