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What did you or do you plan to do with your child's bedroom and belongings?

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Jessica Elder
What did you or do you plan to do with your child's bedroom and belongings?

Bereaved parents often talk about making difficult decisions around what to do with their child's bedroom, clothes, and other belongings. Different things may be helpful to different parents. Please share what you have done and how you made that decision.

John Ott

Right at first we just closed Nikki's room and visited when we needed to visit.   We did not want to change anything or get rid of anything.    The room stayed like this for about 2.5 years.   One day I brought the subject up to my wife and she shut me down "leave the room alone".    Soon after that short conversation she came back and we started a conversation on, if we did something with the things in her room, what would that be.    We decided to pay attention to friends and family and their needs as it related to children. This is what Nikki would want.   It started with the furniture and a friend who was looking to furnish her kids new bedroom.   When we moved the furniture out we felt good knowing that this is what Nikki would have wanted. After the furniture went we boxed up those things we would never give up and put into our storage.   Over the next year toys, and different things found new homes.  Soon the room became a spare bedroom.   There are still things on the wall and in the closet that will always tell us it was Nikki's room 

Donna Beech

Very soon after Jonathan's funeral (at age 15) we found our younger son David (age 12) in Jonathan's room, building a tower with his brother's K'nex set.  So we immediately realized that Jonathan's room will stay as it was before he died, not just for my husband and me, but more crucially for our other son.  Same with his David grew into them (and that didn't take long, since the chemo and radiation had stunted Jonathan's growth), he wanted to wear his brother's clothes, especially T-shirts.  On the one hand, it was extremely painful to witness this huge void in David's life.  On the other hand, I was grateful that he felt comfortable going to his brother's room.....and I was also grateful to have such an important reason to leave the room as it was, and to not have to deal with packing things up or giving them away.

When David outgrew his brother's T-shirts, I decided that I really wanted a quilt made out of some of them.  There are wonderful quilters at Camp Sunshine's November bereavement session for this very purpose.  So I took a deep breath and picked out 15 T-shirts, 2 hoodies, and his bathrobe.....then I asked David if he would be okay with having them made into a quilt.  He said yes.  We now have a beautiful quilt hanging in Jonathan's room.......with red and black backing......his favorite colors.  I'm very proud to show it to special visitors.  It was made in 2011, four years after he died.

Today, Jonathan's room still looks as it did before he died, still decorated as he wanted it.  But last summer I cleaned out his closet, sorting through the many games that were given to him through his four years of treatment, and deciding (with David's help) which ones to keep and which ones to give away (to younger nieces).  I've re-claimed that closet for Christmas and other seasonal decorations.

When David was in high school, he usually practiced cello in Jonathan's room.  Now, when he comes home from college (he's a sophomore), he'll still occasionally practice cello in Jonathan's room.  In fact, the cello that he plays was Jonathan's.  I'm really touched and grateful when I see this beautiful connection between David and his brother.


My son, Joseph, was about 2 1/2 when he died and my younger son, Thomas, was 4 months old. Thomas was born one week after Joseph was diagnosed and they were supposed to share a room together.  This room was already set up for the two of them to share when Joseph was diagnosed.   We had a 2 bedroom house at the time.

When Thomas was born we didnt move him into their room b/c there was so much going on with Joseph (midnight medications, feedings, night nausea, etc.) so we kept the boys separate.  Thomas slept in our room with us and Joseph occupied the boys' room even though it was set up for the two of them.

When Joseph died, just 4 months after he was diagnosed, we had to make a decision about where to put Thomas.  With only 2 bedrooms, we couldnt elect to keep Joseph's room as it was.  About a month after Joseph died, I went through the whole room, cleaning and straitening but still keeping it set up for two boys. Before I went through the room I photographed the whole thing including his bed (the way he left it), his toys that I found behind his bed, his shelves and teh trinkets that were on it, everything.  The 2 hours or so it took me to go through the room was actually enjoyable b/c in those moments I actually "forgot" the context of why I was doing what I was doing and, for those moments, it felt like I was setting up and cleaning a room for my two boys.  It was a much needed and nice few hours of denial.

I felt the need to switch the room around a little bit (even though we kept Joseph's bed in the room for years) because every time I looked where the bed was I expected to see him and the felt like a knife in my gut.  In hindsight, I shouldve asked my husband if I minded I clean and switch the room.  I didnt do that only because, in our house, those jobs were traditionally mine so I absently failed to ask him how he felt about it or if he wanted to particupate in it.  That was a mistake on my part.  When he came home we was extremely sad, not mad, but extremely sad about what I had done.  He hadnt expected it and it was hard on him. In hindsight, shouldve thought it out a little more and been less spontaneous.

After I finished the room my greif washed back over me. I looked around the room and, although it looked really, really good and still celebrated both boys, it would only house one and that was too sad for words.  I am "glad" I reworked the room because it felt more "alive" that it it felt when it was untouched (and starting to collect dust) after he died and we needed it to be functional for our other son but it was hard.  Like everything after your child dies, it was hard.

The room now also houses my third son, Bryan.  We left Joseph bed in there for a little over 3 years after he died (he died 5 years ago though it feels like yesterday that he was here.)  For a short time we had 3 beds in the room (its a big room), one for each boy.  Now, there are only 2 beds - my husband (at my request) got rid of Joseph's bed one day when I wasnt home.  It was hard but it was time we did it.  Even though the room only has my 2nd and 3rd son living in it, the walls are decorated with photos of all 3 boys and Joseph's life is celebrated all over the room with displays and his toys.  I think the boys really like having Joseph be a part of the room; they seem to accept his presence in the room wholeheartedly.

Although I would have probably elected to keep a space of Joseph's "untouched" if I had more rooms to work with, there is something "nice" about the fluidity of the bedroom.  I feel that the fact that its decor is ever-changing gives Joseph the ability to "grow" with our family (i.e., when we hung superheros in the room we made sure one represented Joseph - "Superman," of course!).  I feel happy seeing his place grow and morph in our family's lives.

My advice to anyone considering changing or not changing their child's room would be, "You will know when it is right and what is right.  You will know what to do when you are ready."  Until then, save what you need to (even if it a  half eaten candy bar) and dont feel any pressure by anyone to do anything with your child's room or belongings until you are ready. AND, dont make the mistake I did: ask anyone in your house who may be affacted by the change how they feel about it.

You will know when it is right.


After our beautiful 14 year old daughter, Guru Simran died we wanted to leave her room as is. Before she died we had to move her downstairs to another bedroom because she needed more space as I stayed in her room with her as well as 24hr. nurses. She had asked us to paint her room 3 different shades of blue, a very light blue, a little darker blue and a periwinkle blue which we did. We did this in both rooms actually. At first we did not want to touch a thing in her room. Her smell was still in her pillows and her clothes which made us sad and happy. Happy that we still could smell her and unhappy that she was not here with us. We offered for her friends to come over and each take one of her favorite t-shirts.

We thought that might make them feel better. They were always borrowing her clothes and I saw a few of them wearing them in the months that followed. We removed her bed when her friend came to live with us because he needed a double bed. They were close and we felt that that was okay. My husband does not want to part with any of her clothes or belongings. Her basketball trophies are still on the shelves and her photos, paintings and stuffed animals are there.

Her dresser is still stuffed with her clothes. Her closet is full. It will be 5 years since her passing on September 24th.

We put a small rug in there which parents of one of her good friends brought us back from India. We pray and meditate in there. We have an alter and have soothing spiritual music going 24/7. We buy gifts and put them on her alter. Every trip we go on we usually bring back a gift. The nafter it has been there for awhile we give it to someone for various occasions.

She created a $5 box that is still there and most every time we receive a $5 bill we put it in there just the way we used to do when she was alive. It was called the "$5 found box". When we wanted to go on vacation we would raid it and use the funds for that. Now we like to give $5 to homeless people or for good causes. It reminds us that her spirit keeps giving.

Condolence lettters, cards form her and pictures we have come across end up in there as well.

It has become a museum sanctuary.

My husband goes in there every day and says goodbye to her every day before he goes to work. I find it harder to do that. I don't need to go to her room to do that. She is in every fiber of my heart and being.

We have given away a few of her stuffed animals but have mostly all.

Do whatever you need /want to do with your child's room. There is no right or wrong. Do what's in your heart and don't pay attention to what others think. It is your right. A parents love is eternal.








Our daughter passed 13 years ago at the age of 13.. At the time she was sharing a room with her ister who was 3 years younger. She had a hospital bed in the room. After she passed the bed was picked up and our daughter did not want another bed inthe room. We let her decide and during the summer she asked if she could decorate the room. she wanted a mural on the wall and a friend of mine whi is artisic came  and they decided how to decorate. She used stencils and included butterflies which was her siste's favorite.  She rearranged the dressers and kept her sister's clothes and dresser in the room. She on her own went through certain clothes she wanted. We packed up most of the clothes and gae them away some to friends. we also had a quilt made with a few items that were favorites. At the time she also had a huge Beany Baby collection, It has been in a doll house on display in our family room for years.  If anyone comes over with little kids I never wanted them to touch the collection. Now I don't mind litttle ones playing with them. Some of her favorite dolls are stillon a shelf in the bedroom. Our younger daughter is now married and the room is used as a guest room for her or other family members who come to visit. 

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