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Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow

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The clothes she wore

28 August 2011

Dead bodies do disgusting things. So I appreciate that the funeral home probably washed Jane's PJs before they gave them back to me. There is a slight industrial smell to the t-shirt (no, I have not tried to smell her trousers) so even the last thing she wore does not smell of her.

She died wearing her favourite t-shirt. She wore it so much that I had to ask the friend who bought it to buy two more. So for her last few weeks, Jane was dressed in a NASA t-shirt virtually every day. I like that a lot now because it means I feel I am wearing part of her when I sleep in one of the NASA shirts. The third one has gone back to her friend, as a memento.

For 3 months, the clothes Jane died in have been sitting on the nightstand, next to the bed. The t-shirt lived on a pillow in the bed for a while but since it does not smell of Jane (in fact, it smells more of morgue & disinfectant), it now lives on the nightstand again.

I really want to wear the t-shirt. Not because she died in it, but because it was her favourite shirt. But because she died in it, I want to preserve whatever is left of her on it. Eventhough I know there is nothing left. I don't want to contaminate the last thing I have that *might* just have some Jane-bits on it. All her other clothes have been washed when she was still in the hospice.

I don't think I will ever be able to wear it. But what to do with it? It can not live next to the bed forever. Actually, why not? It is comforting in a way. But also might keep the idea alive that she could come back at some point.

But I can not yet wash them. Because once I wash them, it will be yet another trace of Jane that is being ereased from my life. Pretty soon, there will be nothing left that once felt her touch. Nothing that once caught her eye. Just me. And my memories.

And a NASA t-shirt.



6 comments:

Julie said...

Consider one of those corrugated cardboard boxes. Place the clothing inside, say on 29th September, and put them in a 'Jane drawer'. Ceremoniously. Then gradually add things, special things not every darn thing, to this draw. Close the drawer. And try to only open it on 29 October. You will get stronger at this. Then you have kept important things. You have kept the shrine concept. Yet you have also kept your peace of mind.

Dutchcloggie said...

I like that. I already have a box with her letters, cards, photos ec. I guess I could add the stuff to that. One problem at the moment is that everything is equally significant... I am not really able to decide if her clothes are more significant than the broken red spoon....if you know what I mean.

Julie said...

That will come with time, I guess. At the moment, then, maybe put both in, although there is a limit to this inclusion. Include too much and the point is lost, You know? In your heart, there is a 'hierarchy' to stuff. You will work that out.

Just had a light bulb. Try to fathom what to keep to 'remember' her and what to keep 'should she return'. You, and some other bereaved, work under the theory that the departed will return and will 'need' their things. This is normal and not to be sneered at nor embarrassed by. The letters, cards, photos are definite keepers. But it is the other 3D 'stuff' of a life. The 'knowledge' Jane will return is not something to erase/overcome too quickly. This is the job of time. Think of your grief as a bubble bath: wallow in it. In the fullness of time, you yourself will reach for the towel and step out. At that time, it will become blindingly clear to you, what things to keep to remember Jane, and what things you no longer need to keep because Jane now has no use for them.

Dutchcloggie said...

I like almost all you say. Apart from working on the theory that Jane will return. One of the things I have never thought is that Jane might return. Not rationally, nor in moment of utter despair. I *wish* she could come back, but that is not the same. So I am not keeping things she might need or something like that. I am merely unable to choose which things are of real importance to ME to keep and which things aren't. And as you said: that will come with time.

I know that a lot of bereaved people go through a stage of denial, in some way thinking their loved one is not realy gone and that it is all just a bad dream. but jane's long illness gave me plenty of time to realise it was all really going to happen.

However, everything else you say, the bubblebath-theory makes perfect sense. So for now, I'm keeping everything :-) Because I have use for it.

Julie said...

*chuckle*

LIFE WITHOUT ALISON said...

I have all of Alison's clothes and will never part with them. Just one item has a faint smell of her. She was always a one for wear once then wash, the washing machine was constantly on. I have the last jumper she wore when she was working on her bike, but that just smells of bike.

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