Organizing for Control

When someone we love dies we feel many things.  Sadness, anger, fear, relief, and many others.  What people don’t always realize is how much the loss of control affects us after a loved one dies.  We’ve talked about how we don’t just lose the person, we lose the relationship, we could lose where we live, we could lose friends and other relationships.  So with all this secondary loss, we feel like we have to regain control somewhere and this is something I feel that we never quite get over. At different periods of time, we have to cycle through this need for control again that is triggered by our grief even years after a loss.

In the past few weeks, I’ve talked about how I’ve been going through a storage unit and going through another round of purging in my life.  When my mom died, I had no means to stay in the house that I had lived in with her so we had several storage units just to put stuff in until I was able to decide what to do with all of it.  With lots of help, I have just one left and we have been able to get it down to a manageable size.  With all of this going on, as well as other things I currently feel are out of control, all of this purging and reliving memories and learning about new events has put me in a spiral of needing to control something.  That something, probably to my husband’s relief, is our one bedroom apartment.  Mind you, we don’t live in an urban area, so our one bedroom apartment is actually a comfortable size with a kitchen, dining area, living room, desk space, bedroom, and a rather large ADA compliant bathroom and closet.  But the need to revamp and organize and control all of it has been a prominent fixture in my brain the past three weeks.  I have used every gift card I have been able to find at any place I can find organization shelves, cubes, and pan holders.  In a matter of a week, I have organized almost my entire kitchen, the bathroom counter, part of the hall closet (I would have finished but I had to order yet another shelf), part of our clothes closet, and ordered another organizer for our living room.  If all of this is not a result of needing control over a part of my life, I don’t know what is and I can tell you that it started by going through boxes from my past.

When we have to relive hard things again even years after a loss.  This is part of that pain that just doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away.  Yes, we can manage it and we tend to forget about it after time, processing, and a plethora of coping skills to get through daily life, but these days and moments of the need to control after we feel too much are going to happen.  I am incredibly lucky to live with someone who loves organization just as much as I do, so he happily supplements my need to reorganize everything but I also know this is not always the long term solution to the problem.  Did I feel the best I had felt in awhile when I came home and not only the bathroom countertop was organized with new corner shelves but was also now clean? Yes. But does that fix my grief? No. Does it help me feel less crazy and some relief? Yes. But sometimes acceptance of these feelings is the hardest and most powerful things that we can do to help ourselves.  The sooner that I accept that there are things that I can’t always control, the more empowered I will feel in my life.  Where do you find your energy goes? What helps you?


Published by Bryna Talamantez

LMFT specializing in grief counseling for children, teens, adults and families.

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