How to Release the Guilt of Sorting Loved Ones Things after their Death


The death of a loved one brings out so many emotions and feelings. Once the person has been laid to rest, the next step is typically dealing with their belongings (especially if there was no will involved or if the deceased wishes were unclear).

Depending on personal styles and preferences, you may be left with the unenviable task of sorting through the person’s things. Out of respect for your love one, proper care must be taken when deciding what to do with everything.

Proper care does not mean that you can’t make decisions to not keep everything out of some type of obligation or guilt that this would not be honoring to your loved one.

Here are three tips to honor your loved one without feeling obligated keep all their belongings.

Tip 1: Experiences make the memory, not their stuff

Attach and visualize the memories of your loved one by those things that you experienced together, not by their stuff. If there is a sentimental item that, anytime you look at it helps you recall fond memories of your loved one, then proceed to Tip 3.

Tip 2: Pay it Forward

If you are struggling with letting go of your loved one’s belongings, remember this quote: There are no U-Hauls behind hearses (Jonathan Sprinkles).

Your loved one can’t be buried with their belongings, and you also shouldn’t be buried with their items inside your home. If you’re struggling with letting go of things because there are a lot of high-quality pieces, donate them to your local Goodwill or other charity that helps the less fortunate. Just think how many lives could be blessed by your generous donations.

Unless you have A LOT of free time on your hand, don’t subject yourself to trying to sell the items at a yard sale or an online site such as Craigslist or your local newspaper. A donation to Goodwill is like ripping a bandage off with one strong pull, whereas selling the items individually is like pulling the bandage off one strand of hair at a time.

Tip 3: Look at it from your perspective

If the tables were turned, and you were the one who passed away, would you want your loved one feeling any angst about how to handle your belongings in the best, most-respectful manner?

Trust me, your loved ones do not want you to feel trapped into keeping all of their belongings. Instead, select a few special items that beautifully remind you of your loved one. And honor those items by properly storing or displaying them. My family honored my Grandmother at her funeral by wearing a small amount of light blue (she was a huge UNC Tarheels’ fan).