Tips for Going Through Your Loved One’s Belongings After Death

When a loved one dies, there are many things to do, from notifying family and friends to making funeral arrangements to dealing with their belongings. Going through your loved one’s things can seem like a daunting task, and many people who are grieving put it off for months or even years. In many cases though, spending time sorting through possessions can be an opportunity for healing and closure after suffering a loss.

At Krause Funeral Homes & Cremation Service, our compassionate staff knows how challenging it can be for our neighbors in Milwaukee, Brookfield, and New Berlin to deal with a loved one’s belongings. Here are some tips we’ve found helpful:


Respect your own feelings.
Handling your loved one’s things will likely stir up many intense emotions depending on the situation. Try to be kind to yourself as you move through this process; take breaks when you need to. Remember that your feelings may drastically change from one day or even one hour to the next. Allow yourself space to grieve honestly and freely as you handle your loved one’s things.

Take your time.
As you go through your loved one’s things, do your best to have patience and be flexible. If you’d planned to go through their closet on a certain day but don’t feel up to it at that time, don’t force things to happen or certain outcomes to occur. Grief is a difficult journey that often takes you by surprise.

Ask for help if you need it.
Seek the help of a close friend or family member—people who make you feel supported. It’s also a good idea to find someone who knew your loved one, as they might be better able to advise you on which items to keep versus the ones to donate or dispose of. There are situations where families benefit from bringing in a professional to assist them. If your loved one was a collector or hadn’t gone through their things in many years, a professional organizer could offer practical advice you need.

When in doubt, snap a photo.
If you’re having trouble knowing whether or not to let go of a particular item, take a photo of it. Having your loved one’s things preserved in images may give you peace of mind and help you more easily donate or dispose of the actual physical objects.

Label items as you go.
As you sift through your loved one’s things, place items into categories such as: “keep,” “donate,” and “toss.” If the word “toss” strikes you as too harsh, try labeling these items something like “wait” or “TBD.” There’s nothing that says you must decide on what to do with these items right away. Handle both yourself and your loved one’s items with care as you complete this difficult task.


We encourage all our neighbors throughout Milwaukee County to reach out to us for support during their grief journey. Our experienced team can provide more information and answer any questions you may have.