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How to Manage Your Loved One's Belongings When Moving


Making a move is never an easy process with so many details to think about. If you recently lost a loved one, it can be emotionally and physically exhausting.  Whether you are hesitant about taking this big step or looking forward to starting again in a new place, the information in this article can help you prepare for relocating and handling the difficult task of dealing with your loved one's belongings.

Making your decision

There are many factors to consider when planning any move, but perhaps even more when faced with the recent loss of a loved one. Try to take a holistic approach to your move and consider each family member's emotional, physical and social needs throughout the decision-making process. Keep your overall health and well-being in mind, too, as you make key decisions and start the work of your move.

  • Find emotional support - Moving while grieving is difficult to say the least, and you may need the support of those closest to you. As you start to consider all of your moving options, consider reaching out for emotional support from friends and family if you need it. They can also be great sounding boards when you are trying to decide what might be best for you and your family. You can also find emotional support through Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.  They offer non-medical counseling 24 hours a day by specially trained counselors who understand the unique challenges facing military families and who can help you throughout the grieving process.
  • Plan ahead as much as possible - Though thinking about the transition may be difficult, planning as far in advance as possible will give you and your family members ample time to handle details, work through some of your feelings and generally prepare yourself for the move.
  • Consider the best location for you and your family - Maybe it would be best for you and your family to start somewhere brand new. You may find it easier to manage if your move takes you to a community where you already have a strong support system in place. Is there a place closer to family members who could help with day to day activities and lighten your load? Discuss options with older children, when appropriate, so they feel included in this major decision for your family.
  • Talk through your decision with friends and family - Sharing lists of pros and cons with others when making decisions regarding your move could bring up points that you had not considered. Likewise, reviewing checklists with your support system can help ensure that you haven't left anything undone.
  • Learn about some of your options for financial assistance - As you make your move and face those financial costs and, possibly, an uncertain financial future, take advantage of the financial assistance available to you. You may be entitled to relocation assistance and specialized home loans. The Survivor's Guide to Benefits provides a good overview of benefits and entitlements that may be available for you if you have lost a service member. You can also access financial counseling through your installation's personal financial management program office and through Military OneSource.

Handling your loved one's personal belongings

Your deceased loved one's personal possessions can be a great source of comfort to you and other family members, and deciding what to keep and what to give away may be difficult. If you haven't already started going through all of your loved one's personal belongings, now might be the time to start the process. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work through your loved one's belongings.

  • Take your time - Take your time with this process, and decide which items are the most important to you. Rushing through might make the process even more overwhelming and might not give you the time to really consider what you want to do with each item.  Remember, you do have the choice of keeping all your loved one's possessions and just packing them or having someone pack them for you.  Everyone grieves differently and that is OK.
  • Tackle one area at a time - Start small with a goal like finishing one drawer or one cabinet at a time. Set a pace that is comfortable for you and makes the task less overwhelming.
  • Determine the best destination for each item - It might be helpful to put items in categories as you sort through them. You may decide to make a box for items you wish to keep, one for items to pass on to friends and family, and a box for donations. Consider your loved one's wishes as you disperse items. Would the item be a good heirloom for children or grandchildren? Could it be donated to a favorite charity and bring comfort to someone in need? Is it especially cherished by another friend or family member? Which items are the most meaningful and bring the most comfort to you? Sharing items and knowing that they will carry comfort and memories to others may bring you peace.

Remember, you never have to do it all alone. Sharing your feelings with family and friends and reaching out to clergy or counselors can be productive and therapeutic, especially in times of transition. Again, Military OneSource can provide you with non-medical counseling and help you move on to the next phase of your life's journey. Military OneSource counselors understand the unique issues facing military families, especially when dealing with loss, and can offer suggestions as you relocate. You can reach them by phone at 800-342-9647.


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