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August 2010

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mohavedatura in advice_rehash

Something from Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence,

I am in my mid-20s, and my best friend and I were very close. At the start of this year, we were in a car crash. I survived with a few broken bones. She was the driver and died on the scene. Everyone was devastated. My question relates to her material belongings. As I understand it, her grieving parents are slowly going through her possessions. Am I, as someone who spent years in a very tight friendship with this woman, entitled to go through her possessions, as well? I'm chiefly interested in gifts and trinkets that I gave her that would have sentimental value. I also lent her a book that would be nice to have returned. It would mean a lot to me if I could have some of her things (or at least have some of my things back). How do I gently broach the subject of her belongings with her family? Do I wait and risk having all the things I value thrown out? Should I just let it go, and know that I had and lost a good friend?

- I Lost Someone, Too


Dear Lost,
I wish I knew what book you'd lent your late friend, because I would be happy to order a copy for you myself, rather than have you assault these grief-stricken people and tell them there's a volume on their daughter's shelf that actually belongs to you. No, you do not have standing to rummage through her things. You've lost a friend and been through a terrible trauma, so I am trying to be generous about your unseemly desire to regift to yourself the items you gave this young woman. I'm assuming you two actually exchanged presents over the years, so what you have by way of remembrance are the things she gave you. You certainly could pay a call on her parents to see how they're doing. Keep in mind the pain you might evoke after all, you lived and their daughter died. If they offer that they'd like you to have something of hers as a memento, try to restrain the impulse to load a moving box worth of stuff. If they don't, be grateful that you survived a deadly accident, which is the ultimate gift.

Prudie


Personally, I think Prudie was unreasonably harsh. I hope the letter writer does not read this and experience (likely renewed) feelings of survivors guilt.

Comments

I think she's too harsh too. I'd love mementoes of a passed friend. :( And... hey, if she's got some of my stuff, it's still my stuff.

My friends and I collect all sorts of weird things, a rock from a beach we had fun on here, a brochure from an event here, and to others it looks like nothing. We don't both have them. I also have 'shared custody' items.
I'm late on this but I agree that Prudie was far too harsh.

My take on this is that getting these things back is less about simply having things and more about wanting to have things tied to her friend. When my brother died fifteen years ago, I inherited all of his possessions except for his car which went to our older brother. I did give a number of his things to his very close friend because he was grieving, too, and they meant something to him.

My brothers have the same father, who isn't my father. (We're all children of the same mother.) While going through boxes I found a bunch of photos that featured his father's family, including photos my brother was in. There were only single prints and no negatives so giving them up meant that I didn't have them anymore but there was no doubt in my mind that giving these photos to his father was the right thing to do.

Heck, I gave some of his things to my friends who had known and loved him but weren't friends with him independent of me. They still mourned him.

I know my situation isn't exactly the same because I chose these items for giveaway but in all honesty, if someone who'd loved him had asked me for something, I would NOT have begrudged the request.

My brother's death taught me that things are just things; none of his things, no matter how nice, could ever mean as much to me as he did. But things can be valuable symbols for people. While my brother was still alive, we had a running morbid joke about how he expected that I would take care of his furniture once it was mine. During the long, dark hours of aching while my grief was still fresh and raw, I got a great deal of comfort from sitting in my apartment surrounded by that very same furniture.