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Bereavement Insights: Clearing the Home
Episode 1926th December 2023 • Beyond the Smile • Marylayo
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How do you go about clearing the house, and personal belongings, when someone dies? In today's episode of MaryLayo Talks, I’m with guest, Dr Chris Davis, and we share our experiences of clearing the home following the passing of a loved one.   

Discussion includes:

  • The emotional and practical challenges faced during the process of grieving and clearing the house.
  • The role of friends and family.
  • Navigating through the house clearing process - deciding what belongings to keep or part with when grieving.
  • Tips and advice for those grieving and clearing the house.
  • Bible scripture to support spiritual wellbeing.

Take a moment to delve into what may be 'beyond the smile' - listen in to the conversation.

Marylayo's spiritual wellbeing tip: Meditate on the bible scripture Psalm 34:18.

Connect with MaryLayo:

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For help in dealing with mental health related matters, please seek specialist advice and support if needed.

Transcripts

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MaryLayo: Welcome to Marylayo Talks, a podcast

that discusses mental health and spiritual

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well being.

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Before we jump in, there may be episodes that

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are particularly sensitive for some listeners,

and if that applies, then I hope you'll be

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able to join me whenever you feel ready and

able.

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In this episode, I'm with Dr. Chris Davis, and

we're talking about clearing the home after

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the passing of a loved one, which isn't easy

to navigate.

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Let's listen into the conversation.

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My experience when it comes to clearing the

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house after someone's passed away, I would say

it boils down to two events, and they're to do

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with the passing away of my parents.

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So the first was my dad, and he passed away

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quite a few years ago, quite a number of years

ago, actually.

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And to be honest, I don't remember much of

that.

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And I think it's because I wasn't part of the

process.

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I was at uni at the time, come home weekends,

but I don't really remember being involved in

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the process.

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I would definitely say it was much different

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when my mum passed away because I was kind of

staying with her at the time.

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So I definitely had a lot more hands on

experience of being involved in that process

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and very different experiences for those two

occasions.

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What about yourself?

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Chris: Yeah, I would agree, actually.

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My dad passed away in 2019, by which point I'm

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a grown man with a sort of young family of my

own.

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Prior to that, I think I'm probably one of

those people who's fortunate, actually to have

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not experienced loss much in my life.

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And I think the last experience prior to that

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was my grandma passing away when I was

probably:

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And I think it was a similar experience to the

one that you've just alluded to.

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When you're kind of probably because of age or

just because of circumstances, you're kind of

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kept out of that.

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Probably the more formal elements of that.

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So it was a completely different experience

that came with completely different

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challenges, I guess virtually 20 years, 20

years later.

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MaryLayo: Sure. And you mentioned about

challenges.

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So when your dad passed away and you were a

lot more involved in the process, I guess, how

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did it happen for you?

And I guess you and your family?

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Chris: So dad passed away really suddenly.

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It was a heart attack, and my dad was in good

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health to my mind.

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I think there's always a bit of a naivety

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about your own parents that you think they're

invincible.

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And I always felt like that about my dad.

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Despite the fact that he'd had various

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different physical ailments, he'd had a hip

replacement, for example.

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And I had seen him being kind of slightly

vulnerable and toddling around after he'd had

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his hip replacement and things like that.

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But I still saw him as being kind of

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invincible.

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To me, he was kind of a pretty healthy man in

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his late 60s.

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He was still working.

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So it was really sudden.

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And I think that's the context for a lot of

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this conversation, that it was the suddenness.

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I think that that poses a different challenge

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to somebody who's lost a close relative or

friend over a period of time when you've

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perhaps had chance to think about it a little

bit more.

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I don't think that one is easier than the

other, but I think that it being something

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that's really sudden just means that you just

are kind of faced with a reality really

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suddenly.

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And so I would say that with my dad, there was

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a real sense of having to overcome the shock

before anything, before anything else.

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But when I sort of said a moment ago that I

encountered this as an adult, while you are

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dealing with those kind of emotions, like

shock and that immediate sense of grief, there

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are just practical things straight away.

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My dad was still working.

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And so there's things like making sure that

his.

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So my dad was self employed, making sure that

his clients and clients and people that he

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worked with were made aware.

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And that happened.

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My dad died on a Friday night and we were

having to do those things on a Monday.

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So it was really sudden in that sense.

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MaryLayo: Yeah. Like what you've said, in a

way similar, but not similar when it came to

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my mum.

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Like my mom, she passed away just over five

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years ago.

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And even to me it was sudden.

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But thinking back, it really wasn't because

all the signs were there.

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And I think it's because, like you say about

parents and you think that maybe they're like

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a hero, they're going to go on forever and

ever and ever.

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That was literally how I saw my mum.

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Because even though she was elderly, my mum

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passed away.

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She was over 80, but she was very strong,

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quite independent.

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And it was only the latter months that her

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health declined.

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And even though her health declined quite

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significantly, I still didn't see it coming.

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And maybe it's because it was hope, maybe it's

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because I did not think about what then

happened.

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I really didn't see it coming.

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So in a way, it was sudden.

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She was in hospital, similar reason that you

mentioned in terms of your dad, heart attack.

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But when she was in hospital, she was getting

better.

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And then all of a sudden, just when the

doctors were saying that oh, actually, she's

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much better now.

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She passed away for, I would say, a good few

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weeks.

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Hadn't even thought about clearing the house

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or what to do with mum's stuff.

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And the process first started in a very small

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way when a family friend, very good family

friend, who was more like a daughter to my

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mum, literally, when she came from abroad, she

came to stay with me and she said, okay, let's

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get rid of this.

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And this were a few little items, like in the

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bathroom, to help my mum, because she was

quite vulnerable at the time.

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Just before she passed away, I remember being

so appreciative that it came from her and that

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she'd got the ball rolling because it didn't

even cross my mind.

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I don't think it would have crossed my mind.

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I saw those items.

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They weren't any good to me, practically.

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They weren't of any sentimental value.

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They were just functional support AIDS.

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But it just didn't cross my mind to dispose of

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them, to think about getting rid of it.

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And so I just remember, I don't think it was

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relief, it was just more gratitude that there

was someone there that helped me to make that

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decision.

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And I think that kind of sowed the seed or

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paved the way for me psychologically thinking

that, okay, at some point we're going to do

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this and we're going to do this in a much

bigger magnitude.

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Before then, it really didn't cross my mind.

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Chris: And can I just ask with that?

So you've got siblings, right?

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I know that you got sister.

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MaryLayo: Yeah, I've got siblings, yeah.

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Chris: So were you taking the lead on that

process to a certain extent?

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And were you in tune with others about the

best way through that?

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And I ask just because my sense is that

there's no blueprint for this at all and

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you're suddenly in a position where you're

thinking, what is the right way to approach

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it?

And as adults, when you've got multiple adults

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in the equation, I think that you're each

going to have your own thoughts on that.

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MaryLayo: Yeah. So it's a good question.

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So I've got two sisters, I've got a sister in

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law.

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And I would say I don't think I took the lead,

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but I do think I had a key voice in that

process because I was the one that was

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resident in the house.

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The others had, they've got their own

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households, their own family, they weren't

staying there.

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And therefore, obviously a lot was with me in

the sense of, when are we going to do this?

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And I don't even remember that conversation,

to be fair.

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I just think that.

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I just remember there being one day and it was

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more like a project when it wasn't just my

sisters, including my sister in law, it was,

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like, a lot of members in the family.

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So it was my siblings, it was my nieces, my

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nephews, my cousins, my aunts.

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There was a whole host of family members that

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we'd arranged a day or dates, as it turns out,

to clear the house, and that took a number of

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weeks, or at least a few weeks, before it was

all mainly sorted.

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So in terms of coordination, I just know that

it was after the funeral and there was a date

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that people were coming, and really we had to

keep doing that until the process was

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finished, until all the stuff was done.

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So it reminds me very much more of a project.

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We all came together for a purpose.

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All hands on deck.

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There was snacks that were being brought just

to keep our energies up.

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There was a lot of chatter in the house, a lot

of energy, a lot of gusto.

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Yeah, that's my memory of that time.

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I don't know if that answered your question,

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actually.

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Chris: No, it did.

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And it's interesting, actually, that there's a

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difference there.

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My experience is one that I guess I've been

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fortunate that I've been able, to a certain

extent, to approach.

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I'm fortunate in that I've been able to

approach this from arm's length to some

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extent.

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So I don't live in the house and had been

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living elsewhere for a considerable amount of

time by that point.

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My mum was there.

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I think my sister may have been at home at the

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time time.

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But what that meant was that, I guess I had

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the ability to engage with that process and

disengage with it as and when, and it happened

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over a longer period of time.

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So my mum continued living in the house.

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So this was our family home from.

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I don't remember another house.

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I moved to that house when I was maybe 18

months old, I think.

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So I'd never known any other house at all.

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My mum continued living in that house from

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when my dad died in early 2019 until three,

four weeks ago.

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And so that process was much more gradual.

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I've got huge respect for my mum, actually, in

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the way that she has tackled things over a

period of time.

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I think she's always been very philosophical

and very realistic about the fact that, in her

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case, she had essentially three decades worth

of stuff and extra as well, because I think

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that when you move into a house, you bring a

load of stuff from a previous house.

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And it goes on, and it goes on.

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So there were huge amounts of stuff in that

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house.

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And I think that she was very realistic about

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the fact that she would have to chip away at

it bit by bit.

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Otherwise, I think it's just overwhelming to

take things on all at once.

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Over the last four years, I'll smile as I say

this.

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I've actually grown to quite enjoy the process

of my mum turning up.

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Anytime that she visits, she will bring

something, and it's something that she's found

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in the house, found in a cupboard, found here,

there, everywhere.

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And she's thought that not necessarily that I

would want it or want to inherit that piece,

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because we're talking about quite trivial

things here.

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It's nothing of huge importance, but she would

bring them to me with a thought that I would

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be best placed to do something with that.

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For example, and I wouldn't say that my dad

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was a hoarder by any stretch of the

imagination, but he had a lot of stuff.

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I think there's probably a distinction between

being a collector of items and being a

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hoarder.

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I don't know that there was that much stuff,

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but he was a real sports buff.

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And I think anybody who is a bit of a sports

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buff will inherit stuff or gradually

accumulate stuff over time.

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So in my dad's case, it was lots of football

programs and speedway programs and football

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programs, not just from professional clubs,

but even coming to watch me play football as a

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teenager and a young adult.

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So every time he'd come, he'd get a program.

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Nothing valuable about them at all.

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It might be a 20 p program or something, but

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he would just gather them.

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And there were bags and bags of them all over

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the place.

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I mean, the loft is a story in its own right,

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but even kind of in drawers near my dad's bed

and under the bed, there were just bags and

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bags of things.

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So mum would gradually bring them over to me

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and I guess was a bit of a proxy there, and I

would kind of go through them and do what I

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felt was the best thing with them.

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But over a period of years, really, it wasn't

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just, here's everything that your dad ever

collected, go through it.

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And so I actually think I grew.

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I couldn't pinpoint exactly when the time was

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because obviously I was just sad.

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I forget how long, but I just remember getting

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to a point where I started to take some

comfort in that process of looking at those

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items, taking time and kind of enjoying that.

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Enjoy is probably the wrong word, but enjoying

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that time and then parting with them, whether

that was handing them on to some.

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With football programs.

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There were football programs from decades

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before my dad was even born.

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So it was clear that we're talking about kind

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of things that he himself has gathered over

the years.

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But I would go through, and if I saw a

football team that I knew, a friend of mine

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supported, I'd go and just take them that and

say, I found this.

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I know that you support them.

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Would this be of interest to you?

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And just one or two, and then I'd feel like

I'd kind of respected those items, even though

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I had to get rid of.

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I've had to get rid of bags, and I have just

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recycled a lot of them, as in throwing them

away, but just giving it that time and looking

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at them and having that evening, perhaps, and

then parting with them felt for me like it was

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like an important step and one that just

needed that kind of respect, I suppose.

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MaryLayo: Sure. I know what you mean about

enjoying that time, in a way, and you're

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right, enjoying isn't quite the right word,

because it wasn't so much what I described

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earlier.

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Like it was a project, and we had one purpose,

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to clear out, get rid of stuff, and it wasn't

about that.

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There was a time where that process didn't

include the other stuff that I had to go

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through.

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And that took a while to really sort of go

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through and clear out and decide what my

keeping what's not and all that kind of jazz.

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And I think the last time might have been

maybe, just maybe a couple of years ago that I

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finished.

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I wouldn't even say I've finished, but I've

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more or less finished the filing.

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And that was the filing of stuff, like doing

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all the paperwork, so not the clothes, not the

shoes, not their personal items.

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It was more about the letters, the books, that

kind of category.

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And that took a long while.

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And I remember having to go through them and

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just decide, is this to be kept because it's

important?

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Is this to be kept because might need to refer

back to it at some point?

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Or is this just something trivial and it's not

real importance?

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I remember going through them and just

spending the whole day and evenings over a

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period of time, going through all of that

stuff and scanning it just in case, or at

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least there's an electronic copy or shredding

it or disposing of it, recycling it.

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And I remember that that was quite a time

where I was quite emotional, because after

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going through it, there was that going through

stuff, even if it was like a trivial letter,

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like maybe a bank statement or something like

that.

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It made my parents within touching distance

because I'm looking at something that was very

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much live at the time.

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And that kind of must have stirred up things,

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like, in terms of memories, some things were

very sentimental, some things not.

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But the fact that it was an account or of that

moment in history that linked to them did stir

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up memories.

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And I kind of enjoyed having that time where I

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was able to relive or remember certain things

because of that paperwork or those photos.

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But at the same time, it was very emotional

because it was a reminder that they weren't in

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my life anymore.

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But the fact that I was able to enjoy those

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memories by looking at those documents was an

enjoyable experience because I wouldn't be

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able to create new memories with them.

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And therefore it enabled me to enjoy those

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memories by going through those.

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Whatever it was, photos, documents, letters.

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Chris: Yeah, I think it's a really important

point, which is that.

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And this is where I say that I think I'm

probably quite fortunate that for the bulk,

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not exclusively, but a lot of my engagement

with that process of going through stuff and

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deciding what to do with it.

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The bulk of that I've been able to do at arm's

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length.

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And I think that what that gives you the

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luxury of is, I guess, being able to, for me,

almost tap into what are overwhelmingly

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positive memories of my dad.

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And like I say again, I'm still scrambling

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around for the right word, but enjoy that

process to a certain extent.

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But you will inevitably.

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And I think I probably found this most when I

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recently, in the sort of last months before my

mum moved out of the house.

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When you have to go through everything and you

can't choose, you just have to go through

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everything.

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And you go through either the sentimental, the

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sentimental stuff, there's always more

sentimental material there, the practical

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stuff, like you say, documents.

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My dad would have kind of old invoices and

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things up in the loft.

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And you just think, I can't really just throw

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that away.

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And that's a kind of very practical

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consideration there.

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And then there's just the really unexpected,

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miscellaneous things that you don't really

know what to do with.

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Not only are there those kind of three

different almost categories, the sentimental,

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the practical and the completely unexpected,

but you just can't prepare yourself in terms

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of knowing how you're going to react to those.

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Actually, it could be, I guess you almost have

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some, or at least I do.

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There's almost something kind of cinematic

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about the idea of finding an old box of

photographs and being able to go through them

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and almost the family are all there and you

kind of take out a photograph.

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Oh, do you remember that?

That was a holiday that we went on and those

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sorts of things, but actually, like I say,

they tap into something that's really positive

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and then it could be something that is really

kind of mundane, that is the item that sets

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you off and really upsets you.

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And I think I would probably say the same

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thing, that for me, those kind of invoices and

documents relating to my dad's job are

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probably more of a reminder for me that he's

not here anymore.

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Because I guess what I'm trying to say is that

you just have to be prepared to be really

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unprepared to know what to do and kind of just

unexpectedly just be upset by things or happy

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about you and just not know how you're going

to feel at any given time.

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MaryLayo: Like, what you said reminded me of.

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There was part of the paperwork that I had to

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go through was lots of stuff to do with my

mum's medical appointments and it's od because

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why would I want to keep that?

But for a season, my mom had a lot of medical

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appointments because of her health.

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And in that season, I was there to take her.

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Not all of the time, but most of the time, I

was there to take her to those appointments.

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I found the time.

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I tried to find the time to go with her.

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And so it's almost like, even though they're

not happy memories, they're still memories of

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that time that I spent with my mum during that

challenging season.

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And therefore there's something about chucking

it away when they really were part of that

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history.

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Chris: Yeah. And I think that there's

something to be said and I realize that this

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is really personal to each individual.

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And I know this from kind of my experience

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with my siblings, that each of us have very

different, I guess, different relationships

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with grief and how best to deal with it.

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For me personally, I think that anything that

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gives me that acts as a kind of stimulus for

me to feel something, I kind of welcome.

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And I think I've always been like that.

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So whether it is a photo, whether it is a bank

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statement, whether it's anything at all, if

there's something that has the ability to make

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me sort of feel something, yes, at the right

time.

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But I'll sort of welcome that because I think

for a while I used to chastise myself a little

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bit for not feeling enough.

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It felt like life went on.

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My dad passed away I had a couple of weeks off

work and then I was back at work and suddenly

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everything was as it was and I felt slightly

guilty that I wasn't feeling more.

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And so I think I've always had this, I guess,

inclination towards things that make me feel

373

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something, even if it suddenly just makes me

cry my eyes out.

374

::

Whereas I know that from my brother and my

sister's point of view, they have a different

375

::

relationship with that.

376

::

For example, my sister will deal with things

377

::

in her own way, but she'd hate that.

378

::

She'd hate the thought of being caught

379

::

unawares by something and then suddenly just

being like, oh, I'm getting this wave of kind

380

::

of belated grief.

381

::

But, yeah, for me, I think those objects that,

382

::

for whatever reason, help you to connect with

them, then I kind of welcome.

383

::

MaryLayo: Sure. And how did the whole deciding

what to keep whatnot.

384

::

There's always challenges when it comes to

keeping or giving away.

385

::

How did you go about that?

386

::

Chris: Yeah, so I think it depended on not

only what, but also when.

387

::

So I would say that there's the two distinct

phases.

388

::

There's the period after my dad passed away.

389

::

Up until the point that my mum decided that

390

::

she needed to move house.

391

::

It was a sort of big family house that

392

::

obviously the children had moved out of and

then my dad had passed away.

393

::

And you're not a big fan of dogs, but the sort

of family dog had then been put down and it

394

::

was just mum on her own.

395

::

So there was this moment where she had

396

::

decided, right, well, I really think that I

need to move on now.

397

::

And I think at that point you move from a

process whereby you can be selective in the

398

::

things that you are getting rid of, with

obviously exceptions.

399

::

If it is something like you say, that relates

to kind of documentation that's important and

400

::

that sort of thing, then to a point where if

you've decided that you're moving house, in my

401

::

mum's case, she's moving from a family home

into a much smaller property that just doesn't

402

::

have the same space.

403

::

So she just had to start going through those

404

::

things.

405

::

At that point, we had kind of different.

406

::

Again, sort of siblings had different roles.

407

::

Mum, for some reason, thought that would be

408

::

best place to clear the loft out now that it

was undertaken with a kind of combination of

409

::

sort of welcomed sentimentality and then real

kind of practicality and almost a kind of

410

::

unspoken agreement between the two of us that

certain things that probably had some

411

::

sentimental value would have to go.

412

::

I think that because you just couldn't keep

413

::

everything.

414

::

There was one moment where.

415

::

And I'm sure that my mum wouldn't mind me

sharing this, where she had got quite upset

416

::

because.

417

::

And there was no malice in it at all, but

418

::

she'd almost got upset at my dad for having so

much stuff, because she had said, why is he

419

::

left me with so much stuff to sort through?

And I think that in that moment, she thought

420

::

if we were to take everything with us, pack

everything up that was in the loft and keep it

421

::

in its boxes and take it to the next house and

put it in a garage or put it up in the loft or

422

::

that sort of thing, all you're doing is you're

then pushing that process down the road and

423

::

then probably making it worse because things

are older and they have more sentimentality

424

::

to.

425

::

Mum and I had this kind of unspoken agreement

426

::

that things would have to go.

427

::

We just couldn't keep everything.

428

::

And so there was this kind of, I guess,

process.

429

::

We did it over a couple of.

430

::

Couple of days.

431

::

The loft, which actually was less time than I

thought it might take, but whereby I'd go up

432

::

into the loft.

433

::

The loft, by the way, was always my dad's sort

434

::

of domain.

435

::

It was where if anybody needed anything out of

436

::

the loft, it was dad's kind of place to go to.

437

::

So I felt quite privileged, actually being

438

::

able to go up there in the first place.

439

::

But I would sort of bring things down, look at

440

::

them, and it was like, this is valuable.

441

::

I'm taking it with me.

442

::

From mum's point of view, she's taking it with

her.

443

::

This is something that just needs to go.

444

::

And then there were those in between that were

445

::

like, essentially what we were saying is,

let's have a look at them and kind of take our

446

::

time to understand what they are and what

significance.

447

::

But we were kind of resigning ourselves to the

fact that we probably knew that those things

448

::

had to go.

449

::

So, yeah, it was an interesting.

450

::

That particular part of it was interesting.

451

::

And I think that it helped that we were both

452

::

on that same page, that things would have to

go, and that any sense that my dad's voice was

453

::

in the background kind of saying, oh, why are

you getting rid of that?

454

::

I've kept that for 40 years.

455

::

I think you just had to put that out of your

456

::

mind to a certain extent, otherwise you just

wouldn't throw anything away.

457

::

MaryLayo: Sure. And do you think that because

quite some time had passed when you were then

458

::

clearing out the loft, that kind of helped to

make that quite tough decision?

459

::

Chris: Yeah, I think so.

460

::

I mean, I think it's probably quite obvious

461

::

from the way that I suppose I talk about my

dad at this point, that I'm at peace with his

462

::

passing now.

463

::

I think for a while, evidently I wasn't, and

464

::

unsurprisingly I wasn't, but I think that.

465

::

I think I'm at least at peace with that.

466

::

It was still hard, but I think that what helps

is I actually think that the practical

467

::

considerations really help because it gives

you a sense of purpose if you know that you

468

::

have to do something.

469

::

You can't just be ruled by that sort of

470

::

emotion.

471

::

You know that there isn't the time and the

472

::

space for it and it doesn't mean that you're

not giving it kind of the respect that it

473

::

deserves.

474

::

But I think you are just driven a little bit

475

::

more by really practical things.

476

::

When do we need to get it done by?

477

::

In mum's case, she knew that she had to go

from a large amount of stuff to a

478

::

significantly smaller amount of stuff.

479

::

So I think that those kind of parameters

480

::

really helped just make it happen.

481

::

MaryLayo: Yeah, absolutely agree.

482

::

For me, the fact that we lived in a really

483

::

small place helped because couldn't keep all

that stuff even if I wanted to.

484

::

Couldn't.

485

::

So the hard decisions were made for me.

486

::

It forced my hands.

487

::

And then there was another.

488

::

And that was the initial I would call main

clear out because I was renovating the place

489

::

as well, had plans in terms of what I was

going to do with mum's room.

490

::

So a lot of those practical decisions overrode

the sentimental drivers for me keeping it.

491

::

And I would say the same even some years, a

few years later, when I did another kind of

492

::

clear out, when I was changing it was now the

spare room, I was changing it to the office

493

::

and I had to get rid of the big queen size bed

that really was like a signature of my mum

494

::

because that was her bed and it's so sturdy,

so comfy, so it's there and even it sounds

495

::

silly, but I know it's not even getting to

that place where it's like, oh, I can't keep

496

::

the bed, even though I would want to.

497

::

Practicality tells me that I have to get rid

498

::

of it, I have to make room for the office.

499

::

And so those kind of hard decisions helped me

500

::

really to make those choices because in the

end it wasn't really a choice.

501

::

Yeah, it wasn't really an option.

502

::

Chris: Did you, did you ever.

503

::

And I think I started talking about this in

504

::

the last question that you asked me, but did

you ever get that?

505

::

I suppose it's guilt to a certain extent.

506

::

But it comes from the kind of imagined voice

507

::

of somebody almost like questioning your

decisions.

508

::

Did you get that to any extent?

Almost like your mum saying, what are you

509

::

doing that for?

510

::

MaryLayo: Yeah, I would say so.

511

::

And I don't know if I would it.

512

::

I wouldn't say it was quite because it was in

my mum's voice, those sounds, those words.

513

::

But I think it's because I know what my mum

was like.

514

::

My mom kept things.

515

::

She wouldn't just throw things away, she would

516

::

keep them just in case, or she'll keep them.

517

::

And therefore there was a lot of stuff in the

518

::

house and so it wasn't really my mum's nature

just to get rid of things.

519

::

My mom would be the one that would say, no,

don't take that away, no, we need that.

520

::

That was her voice.

521

::

So moving stuff, getting rid of stuff.

522

::

It was sad in a way, because I knew that what

we were doing was against my mom's nature.

523

::

But I don't think I'll say I felt guilt.

524

::

I just felt a bit torn just because.

525

::

And that's probably why I asked you that

question about was it easier years later?

526

::

Because I think that if I had a much bigger

house, I would have been very tempted just to

527

::

get rid of stuff, but kind of shed stuff, not

really get rid and just park it somewhere

528

::

because I had the space and I didn't have to

get rid of it.

529

::

So I would say it's definitely been a learning

for me.

530

::

And I think just because of the size of the

place has helped me not to keep stuff

531

::

unnecessarily.

532

::

One of the first things I think of, even when

533

::

I'm just buying clothes, have I got room for

that?

534

::

And that's helped me to kind of minimalize and

just have stuff that I need to have, not

535

::

extras.

536

::

It's certainly helped change me, actually.

537

::

Chris: Yeah, it's funny, I've got a memory of

my brother, actually, from when he was just in

538

::

terms of the kind of different approaches that

people have.

539

::

And this is not about kind of moving out of

the family home, but when my brother moved

540

::

house previously, my brother's a couple of

years older than me, and he moved out of his

541

::

kind of, I suppose, first house of his own

that he had had and bought and renovated and

542

::

that sort of thing.

543

::

And as he was moving out, in my head, I'd have

544

::

thought, right, well, a couple of weeks, maybe

even a couple of months ahead of time, I'd

545

::

have started packing up the things.

546

::

In my case, I've got book, you can see my

547

::

books behind me, I'd have been packing up my

boxes and those sorts of things and just

548

::

starting to think about it, knowing that there

was that sentimental or there was some sort of

549

::

emotional work to do, even in something like

that.

550

::

If I'm moving, do I need to take this?

Or almost dismantling a house has its own kind

551

::

of emotional work attached to it.

552

::

My brother, on the evening that he was moving

553

::

out of the house, had barely touched, he

wasn't a big house, but he had barely touched

554

::

the stuff that was inside it.

555

::

And I had turned up and he'd invited myself

556

::

and a few of his close friends around to sort

of help him move.

557

::

There wasn't enough stuff to have a removals

van or anything.

558

::

And he just swept through the house top to

bottom, couple of hours.

559

::

I mean, I'm not exaggerating to say that with

kind of work tops, it was almost an arm

560

::

swished across into a bag, gone.

561

::

What are you going to do with these?

562

::

Oh, well, I'm just going to throw them.

563

::

And it was just instantaneous.

564

::

And it just struck me that there's no right or

wrong way there.

565

::

Obviously, there are kind of certain things

probably got sent to landfill that probably

566

::

could have been served a better purpose.

567

::

So environmentally, it was probably not the

568

::

smartest thing to do.

569

::

But I don't think he has any regrets.

570

::

I don't think he has any regrets about that as

an approach, whereas I could quite easily have

571

::

just agonized over things.

572

::

And like I say, this is talking about just

573

::

moving house.

574

::

That's not even going close to the subject of

575

::

kind of dismantling a house.

576

::

That's your family home, and it's the home in

577

::

which your dad passed away.

578

::

So, yeah, it's just interesting the different

579

::

ways that people attack it.

580

::

MaryLayo: Absolutely.

581

::

I'm just wondering if, just in terms of

582

::

passing words, maybe some advice that you

could or would give someone if they were in

583

::

that position of having to clear a house

following the passing of their loved ones,

584

::

what would you say?

585

::

Chris: Well, being the good podcast guest that

I am, Mary, I did jot some things down before

586

::

because I knew that question might be coming.

587

::

MaryLayo: Ever prepared.

588

::

Please ever prepare.

589

::

Chris: Absolutely.

590

::

You know me well.

591

::

I think the first thing that I wrote down is

that advice that people give on subjects like

592

::

this shouldn't be taken as advice as such.

593

::

They should be taken as other people's

594

::

experience.

595

::

And I think that there are so many different

596

::

ways to approach something like this.

597

::

And if somebody tells you how you should do

598

::

it, I think it's by all means, listen to them

and factor their experience into your

599

::

thoughts, but kind of, I would say take advice

with a pinch of salt because you just don't

600

::

know how you're going to or how it's going to

work for you.

601

::

And I think consider that as well when you're

thinking about people around you, you know,

602

::

particularly if siblings, if siblings are

involved or other relatives, that other people

603

::

will inevitably have a different approach to

you and will work on different timescales and

604

::

will kind of have different emotional profiles

and they don't always line up.

605

::

So I would just be kind of mindful of that.

606

::

I just wrote down.

607

::

I'm trying to be kind of concise here, but I

just put be respectful and realistic at the

608

::

same time.

609

::

I just think that it's that inevitably you

610

::

will veer towards either the sentimental or

the overly practical, almost item to item.

611

::

But I think if there's always that balance of

just being realistic and respectful at the

612

::

same time, if it's something that you are

getting, that you feel like you have to get

613

::

rid of, then look at it, open it up, share it,

talk to somebody about it, because I think

614

::

that helps, but be realistic about it.

615

::

And then the last thing I had put down was

616

::

just about.

617

::

And I think this is probably more of a comment

618

::

on grief more generally, but just be prepared

to be caught off guard by things and for it

619

::

not to be that straightforward process that

goes exactly how you planned.

620

::

Like I say, I think that could be more

applicable to grief in general.

621

::

That doesn't follow that natural line that as

time passes, you kind of come to terms with it

622

::

more and everything makes sense more because

actually you can just very quickly be sort of

623

::

pulled back and something will provoke a

really emotional response in you.

624

::

And I think that's fine.

625

::

It's not a sign that that journey that you're

626

::

on is kind of back to square one again.

627

::

So, yeah, those are my parting words.

628

::

I hope that's useful, done yourself justice.

629

::

MaryLayo: You should be proud of yourself.

630

::

No, very thoughtful, really thoughtful

631

::

reflections, actually, for each of them, I

kind of thought.

632

::

Yeah, that's a good point because it was a

reminder to me of certain things.

633

::

Chris: Am I putting you on the spot by asking

you to do the same?

634

::

Is there anything that you've learned?

635

::

MaryLayo: I think one is have people around,

if you can, to support you in the process.

636

::

I think it can help, and it does help.

637

::

It's not to say that you can't do it by

638

::

yourself, but this is one of those where the

more hands, the better it is.

639

::

The other, I would say is, you don't

necessarily have to make those hard decisions

640

::

right at the start.

641

::

Like I mentioned, even like what you said with

642

::

your mom, it took her.

643

::

She did it bit by bit over a period of years.

644

::

So you don't always have to think of it like,

oh, I must do it, finish it there and then.

645

::

I think that there are occasions where someone

will need to do that.

646

::

So, for example, if they need to sell the

house up, but if you don't, then you don't

647

::

have to do it there and then with a finish

date at the end of it, see how it goes.

648

::

Then.

649

::

The other is, it reminds me of what you said,

650

::

what we were talking about, in terms of

respecting items and the sentimental value of

651

::

those things.

652

::

So if you can't keep it, and if it's too

653

::

sentimental, maybe to give to charity, then

find a happy home for it.

654

::

It might be, send a picture to a friend and

say, do you want this?

655

::

Reach out to see if it can go to another happy

home.

656

::

And then there's probably some things where

it's easy to make cutthroat decisions, like,

657

::

oh, this is for the bin, this is a keeper.

658

::

And then you mentioned about that

659

::

miscellaneous pile.

660

::

I think separating them out into piles, into

661

::

categories helps narrow things down and helps

to make that decision, because that

662

::

miscellaneous pile, it might be easier, on

reflection, to come back to it and be like,

663

::

oh, you know what?

Actually, I don't need this.

664

::

Or actually, I could do this with this beer.

665

::

So don't always need to.

666

::

It's not black and white, in or out all the

time.

667

::

Then there was another thing that came to

mind, and I think it was about when you

668

::

mentioned Paul, do listen in terms of people's

experiences, but don't necessarily take their

669

::

advice.

670

::

I think there's definitely something in that.

671

::

I can't remember how I heard this, but I

remember in a conversation someone saying how

672

::

they didn't keep their husband's glasses, as

in the spectacles.

673

::

And then when I was thinking, actually, but

I've still got my mum's glasses, it's no good

674

::

to me.

675

::

I'm not going to wear them.

676

::

But my mum wore those glasses probably 45% or

50% of the time.

677

::

And so it's another signature item of her.

678

::

And she always had those glasses on.

679

::

And so for me, just to dispose of them, didn't

really feel right, didn't feel comfortable to

680

::

me.

681

::

So I would definitely reiterate what you said

682

::

about taking on people's.

683

::

I mean, listening to people's experiences, but

684

::

not necessarily basing your decisions on

someone else's approach, do what feels

685

::

comfortable for yourself.

686

::

Everyone's different.

687

::

Chris: Yeah. And I think the last thing that I

would say, just hearing you say that, is that

688

::

I think that there will inevitably be things

that you part with that you could then regret

689

::

a later date for exactly that reason.

690

::

And I think that it's just important.

691

::

And this isn't advice that I know that I'll

take because I think I probably still would

692

::

get upset at myself if the kind of situation

arose.

693

::

But because you can't keep everything, you

will get rid of things.

694

::

And at some point, you may well have a moment

when you think, why did I get rid of?

695

::

Why did I get rid of that?

And I think you just have to remember that it

696

::

isn't the item itself.

697

::

Like you said, I don't know about their

698

::

glasses, but they might not have been

expensive glasses.

699

::

Physically, their value may be really minimal.

700

::

And actually what it is is your kind of

701

::

projection onto them.

702

::

And that's more important, I think.

703

::

So I would just.

704

::

Yeah, it's probably a piece of advice to

705

::

myself, really, that I think when those things

do crop up, and they will do, just not to feel

706

::

bad at having parted with things that I might

later regret.

707

::

MaryLayo: Well, Chris, thank you so much for

being that thoughtful, considerate and well

708

::

prepared guest that I know you to be, and

thanks for sharing your experiences.

709

::

It's been really cool.

710

::

Chris: It's been a pleasure and likewise,

thank you.

711

::

MaryLayo: Here's a spiritual wellness tip for

you.

712

::

It's psalm, chapter 34, verse 18, and it

reads, the Lord is close to the broken hearted

713

::

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

714

::

Thank you for listening.

715

::

Do follow and join me again next time on

Maryland talks beyond the smile, close.

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