How to stay in your home after the loss of a loved one

By Lucille Rosetti/Special to Keep Your Home California

Everyone copes with the death of a close loved one in their own way.

There is no manual for grief, no set time for the healing process, and no certain set of steps to get you through the heartache.

When a loved one who lives with you passes away – a parent, spouse, partner, child, sibling, or friend – every moment in the home can be a devastating reminder of your loss.

For some people, a fresh start in a new environment is a logical step. Maybe the house feels too big and empty. Perhaps too many memories are holding your recovery back.

However, for those who choose to stay, it’s important to turn your home into a place that honors your loved one’s memory without overwhelming your emotions. Here are a few tips for moving through grief while remaining in your home after the death of a loved one.

Organize your home

 For many people, a good cleaning of the home can help with healing when dealing with your loss. If your loved one suffered through a long illness, you may have medical equipment and supplies that you want to organize. If you were the primary caregiver, other responsibilities in your house may have fallen by the wayside. It’s common for some people to deal with major change by taking the time to organize their home. The following are some ways to reduce stress:

  • Organize your closet or a space in your attic to store unused medical equipment.
  • Rearrange your living room to accommodate guests.
  • Arrange furniture in your dining room so that people can flow in and out, and meals can be eaten together at the table or buffet style on the go.
  • Create a space for managing the paperwork that goes into planning a funeral and closing accounts.

 Purge belongings

Letting go of the belongings of a deceased loved one can be a bittersweet process. There is a very real feeling of closure that can come from this, which makes purging both sentimental and practical items scary and uncomfortable. However, if you choose to stay in your home after the loss of a family member, you’ll want to eventually address the situation. Take your time and be kind to yourself during this emotional period. Here are some helpful ideas:

  • Put items in storage. Don’t assume you have to immediately sell, donate or toss anything.
  • Give items to family members who will enjoy the sentimental value or could use them to brighten up their own home.
  • Take it step-by-step. Start with organizing items by categories like “store,” “keep,” “donate,” “sell” and “unsure.” Then, if needed, give yourself time and space to decide.
  • Take photos of possessions that you may want to remember but no longer have the space – emotionally or physically – to keep.
  • Keep only one or two most cherished items of a collection that your loved one put together over the years.

While it’s important that you allow yourself to move through grief in a way that makes sense to you, it’s also a good idea to avoid making major decisions soon after losing a loved one. Storing items in boxes, the garage or attic, or even renting a storage space gives you a little emotional buffer before purging.

And, of course, please remember Keep Your Home California, which can provide some much-needed mortgage assistance during such a difficult period. Extraordinary medical costs and/or the death of a family member could be considered a financial hardship, and you could be eligible for assistance if the loss of your loved one has made keeping up with your mortgage payments more difficult. The free mortgage-assistance program has helped almost 80,000 homeowners.

If you have questions about Keep Your Home California, please call the counseling center at 888-954-5337 or visit Also, Conserva Tu Casa California offers the entire Keep Your Home California website in Spanish.

The Keep Your Home California counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Calls can be taken in virtually any language.

Lucille Rosetti created to share tools to help people through the grief process.

Feature photo by Monkey Business Photography/Shutterstock