Sharing The Journey Bereavement Newsletter

June 2023

Saying Goodbye to Your Loved One’s Belongings

By Susan Bryan, LPC – VNA Collin Bereavement Coordinator

The aftermath of your loved one’s death is a difficult and challenging process. You are already exhausted from the caregiving and death. After the death there is much more to do and it can be overwhelming. You are flooded with emotions of shock, numbness, deep sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, regret, loneliness, and longing for them to return. These are all normal grief feelings and reactions, yet you may feel you are going crazy or will never be happy again. Grief is such a long and winding process and journey. With time and attention to your grief feelings and reactions, you can and will be happy again.

Grief is hard work. One of the topics that comes up most often in our grief groups is about getting rid of your loved one’s belongings. This is so difficult and emotionally charged, since their things remind you of them, represent who they were, and bring back so many memories. Sometimes well-meaning family members swoop in after the death and say you need to get rid of these things now. Maybe you’re not ready and maybe you will never be, and that’s okay. There is no hurry or deadline to get this done. Set boundaries and say no when you aren’t ready.

If you are ready and want to start the sorting out process, you might keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Only get rid of things that you are certain about. Once gone, you can’t get these things back.
  • First, give your family a chance to take the things that you don’t mind giving away that they will treasure and enjoy.
  • Holidays, when you are all together, are great times to let family members take a few items that will be meaningful for them from a collection or room.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help with this process so you aren’t all alone. Make sure this trusted person will go at your pace and respect your wishes on what to keep and what to get rid of.
  • Set an intention for what you want to get done and how long you will spend – an hour, a half day, all day, or one week.
  • It can be tempting to put everything in storage to deal with later. However, these things will probably sit there a long time until someone else throws them away later.
  • Start with a room that will be the least emotional and easier to clear out. You might start with the bathroom or other small room.
  • Have piles: Keep for Yourself (or think about, for now), Give to family/friends; Throw Away, Give to Charity, Sell
  • Consider saving some of your loved one’s clothing for someone to make pillows or quilts out of them for you and family members.
  • If there are things that are important to you that you don’t have room for or don’t want to keep, take photos of them to be able to look at later.
  • Donate these items to a charity that really needs them or sell them to persons who really need them.
  • Wait until later to look through old photos and read cards or letters. If they are important to you, save them for now and do this later.
  • Use a company who specializes in helping with this process like Caring Transitions. They help sort things out and then hold an estate sale, where you will receive a portion of the proceeds.

Going through your loved one’s belongings is such an arduous and emotional task. Go at your own pace. Break this process down into doable parts. Take care of yourself with frequent breaks. Let yourself cry when you need to – tears are normal and healing. Be flexible and gentle with yourself. Don’t try to do this all alone – get the help of others. Most of all, do what works for you and brings you peace, comfort, and meaning.

Please Ask

Someone asked me about you today. It’s been so long since anyone has done that. It felt so good to talk about you, to share my memories of you, to simply say your name out loud. She asked me if I minded talking about what happened to you — or would it be too painful to speak of it. I told her I think of it every day and speaking about it helps me to release the tormented thoughts whirling around in my head. She said she never realized the pain would last this long. She apologized for not asking sooner. I told her, “Thanks for asking.”

I don’t know if it was curiosity or concern that made her ask, But told her, “Please do it again sometime — soon.”

— Barbara Taylor Hudson

Grieving Styles

Sue Rafferty, LMSW, Bereavement Coordinator, Dallas County

Some years ago, I went to a workshop called “Beyond Gender: Understanding the Ways Men and Women Grieve,” presented by Kenneth Doka, PhD, and Terry Martin, PhD. Dr. Doka and Dr. Martin talked about the different ways people cope with grief. They have found there are two main grieving styles, which they call intuitive and instrumental, with most grievers tending to be one, the other, or a blend of the two. The expression of grief does not always follow gender lines; however, many women grieve intuitively, and many men grieve instrumentally. Neither style of grieving is right or wrong, they are just different.

Intuitive grievers have intense feelings, and cope with grief by expressing emotions. They cry easily and talk freely when they can find a supportive person. Intuitive grievers need safe places to share feelings, and often benefit from support groups. They may be overwhelmed by their feelings and may have difficulty organizing, thinking, or planning what to do. It can be helpful for intuitive grievers to find time each day to allow for grief and release emotions.

Instrumental grievers experience grief physically and cognitively. They may be reluctant to talk about feelings, but will think about the person who died, and may problem-solve as a way of coping. They often deal with issues intellectually, and may not be able to cry. They may talk about what they’ve been thinking rather than feeling, and may use humor or tell stories about the person who died. Frustration or anger may be the main emotion expressed. Instrumental grievers often prefer solitude and independence. They may connect with their loved ones through activities in honor or remembrance of them. Instrumental grievers may create something, plant a tree, build a garden, work with a loved one’s tools, do an activity formerly shared with the loved one, release stress through exercise, journal, or visit the grave. To an observer, the person may not be grieving, but these actions allow for grief work, in a quiet, less visible way.

Blended grievers use a mix of the two coping styles. Grievers sometimes also experience dissonant grief, where they suppress their natural grieving style. Some men are intuitive grievers but feel pressured to avoid tears, buck up, and “take it like a man.” Women who are instrumental grievers may feel judged by others because they do not cry or share about their feelings. Each person may need encouragement to find expressions of grief that work well for him or her.

Family misunderstandings can happen because grieving styles vary. It may be helpful to recognize that another person may be grieving deeply, but have a different way of expressing it.

If you’d like to read more about grieving styles, Dr. Doka and Dr. Martin go into more detail in Grieving Beyond Gender: Understanding the Ways Men and Women Mourn.

Learn more on the website.

VNA Grief Care Calendar for Summer 2023

Dallas County

Lunchtime Grief Support (loss of any loved ones)

4th Thursdays, July 27, August 24, September 28

Held on Zoom, Noon to 1:00 p.m.

RSVP to Sue Rafferty, LMSW, an e-mail reminder with the

Zoom link will be sent out before the meeting.

Monthly Grief Support in partnership with Methodist Hospital “Generations.’

2nd Mondays, August 14, Sept. 11, October 9

Held on Zoom, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.

Contact Sue Rafferty, LMSW, for more information.

Sharing the Journey: Coping With Grief 5 Week group

Wednesdays, Aug. 23 to Sept. 30

Held in person, 10:00 p.m. to 11:30 a.m.

VNA Dallas office – 1420 W. Mockingbird Ln. Suite 700

Dallas, TX 75247

RSVP to Sue Rafferty, LMSW

Contact Sue Rafferty, LMSW, to sign up at

(972) 215-6128 or

Denton County

No events planned at this time. Please see information about Zoom grief groups being held in Dallas and Collin Counties that you are welcome to attend.

Contact another VNA Bereavement Coordinator for more information.

Collin County

Grieving Hearts Group (loss of spouse/partner) – Frisco

2nd Sundays, August 13, September 10

Held in person, 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Grace Avenue United Methodist Church,

3521 Main St, Frisco, TX 75034

RSVP for new participants by 3 p.m. the day before

Grieving Hearts Group (loss of spouse/partner) – Allen

2nd Tuesdays, July 11, August 8, September 12

Held in person, 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

First United Methodist Church

601 S. Greenville, Allen, TX 75002

RSVP for new participants by 3 p.m. the day before

Grieving Hearts Group (loss of spouse/partner)

2nd Tuesdays, August 8, September 12

Held on Zoom, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

RSVP for new participants by 3 p.m. the day before

Contact Susan Bryan, MA, LPC, to sign up at

(214) 733-5543 or

Grief Resources

VNA bereavement events provide an opportunity for bereaved individuals to meet with others who understand loss and learn more about helping themselves. Grief support events are offered virtually via Zoom and in person. Please reach out to your Bereavement Coordinator for more information or support.

Dallas: Sue Rafferty – 214-689-2922 |

Collin: Susan Bryan – 214-733-5543 |

Kaufman: Kevin Moore – 972-962-7500 |

Helpful Websites for Loss and Grief – A local faith-based organization that is currently holding in-person and online grief meetings. – A faith-based grief program that uses video lessons and discussion groups. Many of its groups are being done online; check their website to find ones near you. – Listing of private practice counselors and therapists in your area who specialize in grief and loss (VNA doesn’t endorse these, but is only sharing this website info if it is helpful to you) – Website with articles, blog, resource center, and an “ask Dr. Robert Niemeyer” column, with space for writing private conversations to loved ones and archiving memories – Links to books and articles by grief counselor and educator Alan Wolfelt, PhD. – Website with videos and info from grief expert and educator Dr. David Kessler. – A place for grief tools, where people can find the grief resources they need. Includes links to articles, videos, support group finder. – Website about many aspects of coping with grief – Information and self-help resources for widows and widowers, discussion boards. – Website with extensive quotes/poems section, articles on loss and pet loss, discussion groups. – Social support network providing resources and support for coping with grief. – Online resource center that includes community forums and articles, podcasts, and videos on a wide variety of grief-related topics. (has Spanish resources) – Grief articles in English and Spanish – Online support groups, articles, blogs, resources, and more. – Forums for different kinds of losses and grief issues. – Extensive website about grief and loss with many links to grief-related articles.

For more information, email or contact your local VNA branch:
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