When my cousin died many years ago, a poem she wrote about her herself, her husband and children was read at her funeral. My aunt had the poem written in calligraphy and gave me a copy for my birthday. Decades passed and my cousin’s children married and had children of their own. One day, I realized I no longer lingered to read the poem and wondered if my cousin’s daughter would better appreciate it. But I wasn’t sure if it would open old wounds so I wrote her a letter to ask if she’d like it. She did; she’s had it reframed and she’s told me how happy she is that I passed it on to her.

I wasn’t so successful in trying to share something passed to me that really belonged to a distant cousin. I’ve learned that some people do not want tangible reminders of loss and not everyone is left with loving and warm feelings when someone dies.

So what do you do with old photos, letters, scrapbooks, or memorabilia? If you want to pass them along to the bereaved, give it some thought before taking action. I’ve found that many people are grateful for photographs that favorably portray their loved one. They might appreciate a letter that provides some inkling into feelings or experiences, again, on a positive note. These are the items that might bring the bereaved comfort during those early weeks and months.

Allow some time before offering scrapbooks, clothing, artwork, jewelry, or other household items. Consider communicating with them first, discussing an item that you think might be meaningful, describing it or sending a photo. Only offer if you are willing to pack it and pay for the shipping. And don’t take offense if they decide they don’t want your item; they might be overwhelmed with all the possessions they already have and might not want or need other items to sort through.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.

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