How grief drove me to be clutter free

by Tamara Harvey Braswell

I know this is a strange subject for a mom who lost her only son to a car crash. How could anyone think about “clutter,” much less write about it in the same blog post about her deceased child? Read on.

It started with the kitchen chairs.

Grief gets you in all sorts of way. It can take a life of its own and in the beginning Grief is unrelenting and out of control. It comes in many forms. Anger is one of Grief’s many sidekicks.

Less than a month after my 19-year-old son Logan died, my husband Jack and I were eating dinner at our kitchen table. Next to me was the chair Logan sat in. Empty. In my attempt to have a normal meal, I failed miserably and every painful flashback of Logan’s last hours screamed through my head like a ten-mile freight train. The hurt and the anger were building. I bursted into tears…the agonizing, snot flowing kind of tears. There wasn’t much Jack could do. There was no consoling me unless he could bring Logan back. I had to deal alone.

I couldn’t cry enough. The tears morphed to anger. I slammed the glasses partly full of ice and Diet Coke on the floor, then I went for the plates with half-eaten chicken and sauce and hurled them across the room. The kitchen chairs were next. I ripped apart four kitchen chairs, one by one and bashed the top edges of the legs into the walls leaving square shaped holes. I worked myself in an exhausted grief-stricken frenzy until I had nothing left. And then the quiet came. Jack came down, peered down the hallway into the kitchen and looked at me with concern, Out of breath, with no chairs to sit in, I stood in middle of broken furniture, food splattered walls and glass shattered floors. The chaotic scene did not come close to the chaos of young Grief. Broken like the chairs, I lied in a quiet voice, “I am ok.”

I never liked those chairs anyways and who cares about the stupid dishes.

I felt a little better to get the Grief pain out. In the beginning, it was like throwing up. If I kept the pain in, I would get sick beyond control until I purged the feelings.

I found better ways to deal with Grief’s anger.

That was the first and last time I took my Grief out on household items and focused on better outlets, like talking with my Grief counselor, meeting with other bereaved parents, writing about Logan, letting go of the tears, and getting into physical fitness.

I had to grow my Grief muscles and learn to live with the fact that I will never see, hear, touch, feel or smell Logan in his physical presence ever again.

Moving on???

I used Grief’s energy (and there is an energy to it) to do what Logan would have wanted me to do. To find joy and peace. I know he would have wanted me to be happy. That’s kind of impossible to do when my child is dead. But I tried, knowing Grief will always be with me. I decided to start a new life in another part of the country.

Moving on from stuff.

Our four bedroom, two-car garage house was full of stuff. We had a warehouse full of family collectables that were given to me or I inherited from my passed-away family. We could have furnished a few houses. Not to mention the clothes, the china, the crystal and loads of cheaply made stuff from China. Mirrors, paintings, lawn mowers and weed whackers. What to keep, what to sell and what to give away? None of my relatives or friends were interested – they were already filled to the gills.

I agonized over keeping the most valuable pieces, like the antique iron bed frame my Mom and I spent a summer cleaning, restoring and painting when I was still in elementary school. Problem was the bed frame wouldn’t fit in back of my car.

What didn’t fit in my Subaru was left behind

Stuff did not matter anymore. Jack and I spent two weeks non-stop emptying the house. What we couldn’t sell, we gave away and made about 100 trips to the Goodwill. What we couldn’t give away, we filled up a huge industrial size dumpster at least twice. Day by day, and room by room, the house was looking like a vacant shell. Just about everything, right down to Christmas ornaments and dish rags, GONE. We cleared the house in a week. We were relentless.

Imagine if you had to bolt out of your house because of a fire and could take only what you could cram in your car, what would those items be? That was my mindset.

Drove off with a car full of memories

When the day came for my solo journey across the country, I packed and repacked my car, mostly with family photos dating back to the turn of the century (talking about the 20th century – before the interstates were built and even computers and cell phones). There was barely enough room for clothes and winter gear.

What I couldn’t give away

Logan’s shoes. Fifteen tattered pairs of well-worn running shoes carefully packed in a box traveled with me. Logan had a passion for running. It was his way to cope with depression and anxiety and where he found determination and goal setting. He saved each pair as a reminder to keep on going when life got unbearable for him. Logan would give a pair away to a friend as inspiration to dig deep and cross the finish line to a piece of mind called…. hope.

More about Logan and a mother’s grief journey on her blog: “In Logan’s Shoes.”

4 thoughts on “How grief drove me to be clutter free”

  1. I love how Logan kept old running shoes and gave them to friends as a reminder to keep going. That’s such a great idea. He sounds like a wonderful young man. I’m so sorry he left you way too early.

  2. Amazing and wonderful piece. And amazing and wonderful that you could do that. Not sure I can ever leave this house where he grew up. We are all different.

    1. Yeah. We had such horrors at our last house and the county was not a friendly place for charles. And we had sold the house already. So we had no choice. I think I e make some major change and it differs on what that is

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