Organizing during grief

Everyone goes through periods of grief or bereavement at some point in life. This intense sorrow is often caused by the death of a loved one. However grief can be caused by many other events. Some of these events include:

  • The loss of anyone with whom you have a close bond, including pets.
  • The ending of a close relationship such as estrangement from spouse, sibling, parent, friend or even a business partner.
  • Physical, mental, emotional, and/or behavioural changes of a close family member or friend (such as a parent diagnosed with dementia or family member struggling with addiction).
  • Moving away from a long-time home, even if the change is due to a happy event like a new job or marriage.
  • A military deployment of a family member, even if the deployment is not to a hostile area.
  • The realization that a lifetime goal will never be achieved for example you did not get an anticipated job promotion or not accepted into a certain school.
  • For some people, the loss of certain possessions can trigger grief such as having to part with your first car or losing your wedding ring.

Grief causes stress and stress creates physiological changes in the body and brain. This may cause you to feel and act differently compared to non-stress situations. Although everyone feels grief differently, it is common to experience fatigue and irritability much more quickly. It may also be more difficult to concentrate, make decisions and solve problems.

Sometimes during periods of grief you may be expected to remain productive or even do some major organizing. Here are a few tips to help you through this difficult time.

  1. Get help with the grief. The most important thing is to get help to manage the feelings of grief. Confide in a friend or family member. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or mental health professional. Look for community support groups in your area.
  2. Adjust your expectations. Now that you know grief interferes with your ability to organize and make decisions, accept that during this period you probably won’t be at the top of your game. Relax and don’t be so hard on yourself.
  3. Prioritize. Our previous posts, Managing the overwhelmed feeling and Seven ways to cope with stress offer some great advice on prioritizing.
  4. Reduce the number of decisions. Some people try to reduce uncluttering to one decision – either keep everything or keep nothing. It could be that neither of these options is the best. Yet, deliberating over each individual item is frustrating and time-consuming. Instead, make some overarching decisions. For example, if you’re uncluttering books, you may decide to keep only those that were signed by the author and let the rest go to charity.
  5. Reduce the time, increase the frequency. If you’re having trouble concentrating on one task, try changing tasks. You could unclutter or organize during the commercial breaks of your favourite TV show. You could alternately read one chapter of a book then organize for a while. There is power in just 15-30 minutes a day.
  6. Hire a professional organizer. Members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) are skilled in helping people who are having difficulty with organizing and productivity. They are also caring, compassionate, and discrete.

If you have tips for our readers on how to stay organized and productive during periods of grief and bereavement, please share them in the comments.

4 Comments for “Organizing during grief”

  1. posted by Bette on

    Your excellent list of times when we may feel grief shows us that we’ll all be affected by it one day, sooner or later. That’s the benefit of uncluttering NOW — a simpler life with fewer possessions means less stress to deal with when you’re facing a grievous loss or change.

  2. posted by Jaclyn on

    When my Gramma died in June, Grampie couldn’t get rid of her things, so he left town for awhile leaving the task to my mother, my aunt (their daughters), and myself. It was very difficult–there was a lot of crying over items and a sort of therapy between the three of us. Gramma donated to several charities in her lifetime, so most of her things went to those. The experience got my mother thinking of her own belongings and how she didn’t want to leave “the mess” for me when she passed. It also made me want to become a CPO.

    We’re still effected everyday by her death–she was the glue of the family. I miss her so much.

  3. posted by Springpeeper on

    Thank you for listing “the realization that a lifetime goal will never be achieved” as a cause of grief. So true, yet not recognized nearly enough. You’ve helped a lot of people by including this.

    Another excellent post by Jacki Hollywood Brown.

  4. posted by Nana on

    One helpful piece of advice from the Jewish way of mourning: make no major decisions for thirty days after bereavement. [Of course, it isn’t always possible.]

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