When Trey died, I almost immediately started going through and getting rid of things. My mother was alarmed, and other people also would caution me to not be in a big hurry. Those who love me thought I was going through some sort of emotional purge that I would regret — that having his things around was painful so I was trying to erase him.
They needn’t have been concerned. That’s not what I was doing. Trey and I have always had an over abundance of clutter. I like to keep things for sentimental reasons, and he liked to keep things in case we need them again. This resulted in boxes of items we promised each other we’d go through. After he died, I needed space to breathe. I needed some of the clutter to go away. I no longer needed to confer with someone else. I got rid of things.
The items I got rid of mainly consisted of clothes and work related papers and books. I also got rid of his stash of outdated routers, that big box of tangled wires with which he refused to part, and one of the three sets of kitchen knives we had. I didn’t get rid of anything sentimental and if I had any question about whether to keep something, I kept it.
Later I spoke with another widow, one who is farther along the path. She said that she went through the same thing — an initial purge that worried other people. She did not regret anything, and neither do I. She wisely told me that I would hold on to some things that I know I will not keep forever, but that I am not ready to give up yet.
Last week, for example, I got rid of that hideous ginormous Scarface picture. Trey bought it when we moved to LA, after he had relocated but before I had a chance to join him. I always hated the picture. Ugh. After a couple of moves, I was able to get it located in our bedroom instead of in our living room. Once Trey died, I looked at that ridiculous picture hanging above our bed and thought, “Nope. Not yet. I’m keeping that awful thing. He loved it, and he loved how much I hated it. It stays for now.” Then suddenly last week I was ready to get rid of it. So I put it up for free on Letgo and now it is some other wife’s problem.
To put it more briefly, I am not conflicted about getting rid of Trey’s things. I have confidence in my ability to determine what I am ready to let go and what needs to stay.
What I am conflicted about, apparently, is redecorating.
I need to do it. I need to make my home my own. I have a serious need to claim my space.
It started in the bedroom. I replaced our burgundy sateen sheets and zebra print fuzzy comforter with some almond colored cotton sheets, a warm soft blanket, and earth toned striped bedspread. I removed his clutter from the shelves and bedside table. I planned to make the room my safe haven spot, just for me.
My plan was puny, as the kids have not slept in their own rooms more than ten times since Trey’s death. Far from being a quiet haven, my bedroom is constantly full of kids and pets and noise. It is still nice, however, to walk into my room decorated as I like it. It feels open and freeing. I can breathe in there.
Now I am looking at painting our living room. As part of this, I will take down the Seattle skyline sofa picture that Trey got at Ikea. Will I put it back up? Probably not. What about the Gladiator helmet and Buddha statues on the mantel? I will replace them with something more my style. I have already replaced the crystal decanter and glasses on the side table with books.
More and more this place feels like my home — not ours. The transformation feels necessary and right to me. This home was ours, and the furniture and decorations demonstrate the sometimes incongruous blend of our tastes. Now, however, I need my home to be mine.
This does not mean erasing all evidence of Trey. I’m not boxing up every single thing he purchased and pretending he never existed. I am not trying to remove all the reminders of him, although I think people may view it as that. I expect more concerned questions. It would be impossible to remove the reminders of him even if I wanted to do so. He is not in the mantel decorations or the red sofa. He is in the yard he was teaching the kids to mow. He is in the fruit trees we planted as a family. I see the stairs, and I see him lumbering down them in the morning. I sit at our dining table and I see his spot empty. I see him when we play Monopoly with three instead of four. I see him in the lightswitch he repaired, in the thermostat he installed, in the light bulbs we took half a day to decide upon. He is here. He will always be here. He will not be removed, and I would not want to remove him.
It is true, however, that this will no longer look like his home.
How do I feel about that? Guilty.
Like I said, I know this is necessary for me. I need to claim this space as I am claiming my life.
But the other day I dreamed that someone forced me to get on an airplane and leave my wedding dress behind. I think that’s a pretty clear message about how I am feeling about this.
This is so hard.