Dealing with negative thoughts

by Swim

How do you keep yourself from letting negative thoughts intrude on your day? There are days when I feel bulletproof – negativity and drama will roll right off me. Other days I am rattled by small things, and when I find myself rattled I scold myself for being rattled and a downward spiral begins. When you find yourself in one of those moods, how do you pull yourself out?


59 thoughts on “Dealing with negative thoughts

  1. IDK — ask my therapist, that’s what we’re working on now. ;-) The best I have found is to argue with myself, because usually those thoughts come from something in my past that I now have the experience to recognize was not actually true. Basically, I treat the nasty lady in my head who says those things like an elementary school bully, and I tell her straight up that she’s full of it, that she knows that’s not true because XYZ, and that she just needs to shut the hell up and leave me alone. And then whenever that doesn’t work, and I have trouble seeing that it’s not true, I bring out the inner coach: I say so what if it’s true? How is sitting around feeling sorry for yourself going to make anything better? What are you going to do about it?

    One of the things that has stuck with me for years (decades) was a particular Oprah/Dr. Phil interchange, where she was clearly frustrated because she was struggling with her weight, and it was so hard to have to be so careful about everything she ate and exercise so much and still be overweight, when she looks around and sees all these people who eat twice as much and work half as much and are perfectly thin. And Dr. Phil just said, “But that’s not you.” I tend to get stuck at that same point a lot — focusing on fairness, on how I think things should be. But that breeds paralysis; it becomes an excuse not to try (another favorite Dr. Phil-ism: “do you want to succeed, or an excuse to fail?”). So I try to kick myself out of that rut by basically telling me the same thing — yep, you’re right, it’s not fair — so what are you going to do about it?

    @Swim: so why do you get so angry with yourself for getting rattled? Seems to me like that’s a normal human reaction; I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get rattled over something or other. So why does it upset you to the point that it starts a whole spiral? Seems to me that the problem is not your very normal response to a stressor, but with your disproportionately strong and self-critical reaction to that natural response. It’s kind of like if my kid started crying because he scraped his knee and I jumped down his throat for being a baby. You’d never treat your kid that way; so why are you treating yourself so harshly?

  2. I am a naturally positive and laid back person, but if for some reason I am awake at night, all sorts of negative thoughts come flooding through. It got really bad at certain points in life. I try and make sure that I fall asleep every day and keep super busy every day to keep these thoughts at bay. DH goes through this too. Since it affects my behavior and how I treat others, I have considered seeking the help of a therapist from time to time. Things are okay now thankfully.

  3. I’ve gotten better at battling negative thoughts. Like LfB said, sometimes I can reason through them and just tell myself that its not true. Other times, I can actually get to the point where, yeah that’s true, but I don’t have to be perfect. And then….sometimes neither strategy works. In which case, I like my dog, my dog likes me. I can pet the dog.

    My mom moved into assisted living this past weekend. My brother and I spent a lot of time boxing and sorting stuff. I brought most of the paperwork home to sort, and some other stuff that I wasn’t strong enough to say, I don’t want this. There will likely be a full dumpster for the next couple weeks. Still, in going through my mom’s paperwork, I have found stock certificates and letters that my grandmother wrote to my dad, so I don’t feel like I can just chuck everything into the dumpster sight unseen.

    Most of the stuff is irritating and I am mad that I have to sort through Macy’s bills from the early 2000s. I have come across loans to my siblings, no loans to me, even when I could have used the money. There is no recourse in talking to my mom about any of this, if she doesn’t have dementia, between her hearing loss and forgetfulness, there are no conversations possible.

    So, RMS and Meme and anyone else, how did you keep your equanimity when you took on this task? And if I just chuck is all, what do I need to worry about for taxes, estate stuff, etc?

    And actually on the sibling fairness situation. There are five siblings, one has taken on the lion’s share of caregiving, two have washed their hands of the situation, and one thinks mom is doing just fine. So, if I bail on this task, it gets dumped back on the sibling who has done the caretaking and I’m not ok with doing that.

  4. Cassandra,

    If you’re pretty sure there isn’t anything of urgent importance in those boxes, can you just put them out of the way somewhere until you are better able to go through them?

  5. “If you’re pretty sure there isn’t anything of urgent importance in those boxes, can you just put them out of the way somewhere until you are better able to go through them?”

    I am pretty certain that if I do that, my kids will have to go through them. Also, it is possible that my mom put together her funeral arrangements and they are somewhere in the boxes. And there are the 1099s for tax season to find.

  6. swim – I offer no suggestions as I am with you fully. The last week has been tough with the nighttime “what ifs…” or “what nows” or any other negative thought that comes through. It’s probably a combo of poor sleep, stress at work, and not figuring out the best way to help myself. Sadly, today I am in such a state that I’m too negative to actually think clearly about the post. I’m just rolling down this spiral and wondering where the bottom is.

    LfB – I like that thought. I have to remember that – if my friend/child were having a similar response, would I chastise them? (At this very moment no. I would let my BFF vent and then help her figure out solution, if there is one.)

    Cassandra – I wish you well. I’ve watch many family members have to deal with this division of labor. I am sending you lots of internet hugs and casks of wine.

  7. Cassandra: Can you hire an organizer to come in and help you with it? Two heads are better than one…

  8. I am usually a fairly positive person, but I feel a little inadequate or adrift now and then. I am very good at identifying the reason for my feelings and often times the solution is to be patient and wait it out. That doesn’t make it easier…

  9. For me negative thoughts or feelings (feelings more so lately) are harder to jettison. Until fairly recently, I could just move my brain onto a new topic fairly easily by switching tasks or engaging with another person.

    More recently, I get stuck in that negative spot longer.

    I know it will be 3 years in April that my mom died and my dad died 11 months before she did. I completely relate with Cassandra’s comments. I needed to get my mom’s stuff out of her retirement community apartment quickly, but the decision fatigue would set in and I ended up bringing home WAY more than I should have. Part of that was paperwork, which I still have more of than I likely need. On the “stuff” side of things, I have made it through just over 1/2 of the stuff sorting and making final decisions. The problem now, like the Marie Kondo thing, is I am to sentimental stuff. I can only work on it for very short periods before feeling overwhelmed. My SO and one daughter have been very critical lately that I can’t get through this stuff fast enough for them. Neither seem to recognize how hard it is to go through this category.

  10. Cassandra – I agree that if you can get someone – I used a couple of friends – to just be there and help you keep your piles organized and/or run the shredder, it seems easier. It is amazing what gets filed together. When my aunt died, she had gotten to almost a hoarder state. It was clear she had been trying to sort things, but then would mix up her “trash” and “save” boxes.

  11. One thing I forgot: when I am stuck and feeling negative and can’t break the cycle, the best thing that I can do is push myself on something hard that both takes me out of my head AND reminds me that I am a badass. The gym has been that for me for the past couple of years, in particular crossfit and strongman training. Because it’s HARD, and it makes me want to quit but I don’t, and it’s so all-encompassing that I don’t have the mental energy left to fret about all that other stuff, and it’s something girls never did when I was a kid and so wasn’t ever something I thought of myself as being “good” at, so pretty much anything feels like an accomplishment.

    AND don’t underestimate the benefits of a short-term reward like that. Some days it feels like my life is all short-term sacrifice for long-term reward. Patience with kids, patience with clients, swallowing my frustration because I know that reacting emotionally will be counterproductive, going to work and saving money for the future instead of chucking it all and being completely irresponsible, etc. etc. etc. It’s all for a reason, and it’s all good choices that I wouldn’t change for the world — but there’s *never* an immediate payback. Clients take years to fix their problems; with my kids, it’s years or decades before I figure out if I did the right thing for them; and retirement takes most of a working lifetime. And when you go day after week after month when it seems like you’re slogging, with no one noticing your effort and no visible sense of progress, well, it is very hard not to get down and wonder if you’re on the right track, or if there’s something wrong with you and you’ll never get there.

    And at that point, there is just nothing like going to the gym, spending an hour throwing yourself into something you don’t think you can possibly make it through, and then finding yourself lifting something or jumping something or pushing something that you suddenly realize you couldn’t have done before — not even 20-30 years ago, back when you were in your supposed-prime — and being cheered on and congratulated by people half your age. It is a fundamental reminder that I am capable of more than I think I am, that I am not some pansy little past-it going gently into that good night, that I am a force people need to reckon with. And nothing shuts up the nasty lady in my head quicker than that.

  12. I can get into a negative spiral really fast so I try to guard against it. At work, we seem to always have these crises erupt, with possible consequences that seem really dire. For example, there was the provost that was going to reorganize all the departments in really bad ways, and the time that someone else tried to decree that we would all have to go teach on Staten Island. None of these things ever come to pass, because we all push back, but these things can make me feel very panicky in the moment, especially since everyone around me is also panicking.

  13. Like Houston I’m generally a positive person, so if find negative thoughts have gotten ahold of me and I’m really perseverating on them (is that a word?), my quick checklist is –
    – Have I run? Or, in my current state where I’m still recovering from injury, have I had a good hard workout some other way? If not, get it in. Nothing keeps me emotionally balanced like a good work out.
    – Is it 9:30 at night and I’m like an overtired toddler who can’t hold it together but also can’t sleep because I’m convinced XYZ terrible thing is happening/going to happen? If yes, take an ambien and go to bed.
    – Have I screwed up in some way and I can’t stop thinking about how I could have handled a situation better? (Also known as, did I lose my temper on a kid?) For this one, an apology to the kid and then a walk/talk with a trusted girlfriend – who has parenting experience but also enough emotional distance – really helps.

  14. Like Houston I’m generally a positive person, so if find negative thoughts have gotten ahold of me and I’m really perseverating on them (is that a word?), my quick checklist is –
    – Have I run? Or, in my current state where I’m still recovering from injury, have I had a good hard workout some other way? If not, get it in. Nothing keeps me emotionally balanced like a good work out.
    – Is it 9:30 at night and I’m like an overtired toddler who can’t hold it together but also can’t sleep because I’m convinced XYZ terrible thing is happening/going to happen? If yes, take an ambien and go to bed.
    – Have I screwed up in some way and I can’t stop thinking about how I could have handled a situation better? (Also known as, did I lose my temper on a kid?) For this one, an apology to the kid and then a walk/talk with a trusted girlfriend – who has parenting experience but also enough emotional distance – really helps.

  15. Word Press is really giving me a hard time. I tried posting under Tar Heel but looks like that got flagged as spam as well. Will probably be a double post from me at some point.


  16. Ooh, this is a good topic. I’ve improved in this area, but still have a long way to go.
    The improvement was sparked by realizing how much of a difference it made to my son–it was really unhealthy for him to see me upset. I can’t say what I did, I just stopped letting myself “go there” if he was around or going to be around soon. Sometimes forcing focus helps, but a lot of times it’s just dropping the other and being open to whatever else comes in. I’ve gotten better and better at it, but all I can say is that it’s similar to making myself go to sleep. You know how sometimes you have too many thoughts running through your head and can’t sleep, so you just intentionally shut down and refuse to entertain them? That. And you know how sometimes that doesn’t work and you’re up a couple more hours? That still happens sometimes, so I’m going to check back later and see what people have said

  17. Cassandra,
    There are merits to the “ripping the bandaid” approach, but you have just moved your mom. Everything is still raw. Leaving the boxes be for awhile doesn’t have to mean that your own kids will have to sort through them in 30 years. Consider allowing yourself the time and space to grieve before dealing with the papers. And do ask a friend to help. The Totebag would take turns with the shredder if we were nearby.

  18. Negative thoughts — well, I take anti-depressants. I also listen to really upbeat music and bop around.

    Cassandra — first, my sympathy. Next, DH was a huge help. He went through tons of paperwork to find the equivalent of stock certificates and important letters. Then he tossed the dross and let me cry while I went through the significant stuff. I would absolutely hire someone to sit with you. For me, sooo many difficult feelings came up going through the stuff. I was super averse to feeling all the feels, and it would all still be there in boxes if I’d tried to do it by myself.

  19. Cassandra – This weekend my mom was sorting her paperwork. She saves every receipt, checks it against the credit card statement, then files all of it in a folder for that credit card. She keeps the receipts in case she wants to return something. The first receipt I looked at was for grapes, bananas, and tomatoes, a total of $7.89. Sigh. Someday, apparently, I will be in your shoes. On the brighter side, at least it’s all in a folder.

  20. I can’t say my strategy for dealing with negative thoughts would work for many others, but I’ve adopted a type of Stoicism that helps me cope. At this point it’s almost like my religion.

    We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

    Boy, have I suffered in my imagination over the years. I’m in a sweet spot right now with no immediate crises and at an age where I have gained some hard fought wisdom. But I can easily see hardships on the horizon as I and some loved ones get older, so I hope I can hold on without breaking apart too much. At the same time, I may be able to retain my sense of impatience with “imagined” suffering and do all right. I don’t know.

    I’ve never had to clean out a parent’s belongings. It sounds like a very difficult task and the advice given here makes sense. I have enough of a challenge cleaning out my own stuff without the extra emotions involved in handling a parent’s possessions. Sometimes when I’m cleaning out things that bring back memories I feel as if I’m moving in slow motion.

  21. small hijack. this was in the comments section of a NYT food article today.

    Port Angeles, WA
    @Jay Amberg I grew up in the Virginia Tidewater, too many years ago, and deep fried frog legs were a local treat. Gosh, they were good. Alas, so many species of frogs are endangered now, I would feel guilty indulging.

  22. My screen saver at work rotates from a bunch of pictures of my kids, mostly when they were a lot younger and a lot cuter than they are now.

    No matter how bad a day I’m having, if I iconify enough windows to see the screen saver, those pictures make me happy, even if just for a moment.

  23. I find that challenging the thought (is this really true? What’s the real reason I think this?) helps and from a practical standpoint, the Headspace app has helped me considerably.

    Cassandra, hugs to you. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this stuff. I found it worked best for me to go at the boxes of papers several times in several different depths. First, cursory flip through to see if there were bills that needed to be paid, stock certificates, tax forms, info that is immediately useful, like account numbers. I made a mental note of cards and letters but didn’t look at them to determine if they were significant. Then I put the boxes away and circled back around in a couple of weeks. Next time through I probably shredded some easy stuff ( those receipts from 1989 for a mattress that was replaced in 2000, bank statements from accounts closed in 1999). Rinse, repeat, with increasingly sentimental stuff. My mom has been gone almost a year and I just this week went through the box of pictures, family bibles, and scrapbooks.

  24. I’m like Dell that if I wake up in the middle of the night I really ruminate in stuff. Lately it is all the things that in hindsight I should have done differently in parenting my kids. I can tell myself I did the best I could with the knowledge I had, but man I can be brutal in my criticism of why I didn’t get better info at the time. I read recently about a technique to use journaling before bed a couple nights a week with the specific intent of working through the problem, not just venting or ruminating. I haven’t tried it yet, but at each 3:30am self-flagellation session I swear I’m going to try it.

    During the day and with everyone else in my life I’m pretty positive and encouraging. It’s just the middle of the night that brings out this side of me.

  25. My mom lived in Bethesda and I was in Boston, still working at the time we moved her up here. Everything was left behind until we got her situated in the permanent asstd living. Soon after I hired a real estate agent to sell her apartment.The agent referred me to a senior move specialist. I took a first pass through the upstairs file cabinets and did not have trouble tossing the 1954 tax returns and that ilk. I also boxed up four or five boxes of stuff, mostly pictures , some correspondence, and the past 7 years of financial records. to move up to my address. Mom was very organized. I put the correct color tape on the furniture that was coming to my house, and a different color on the furniture that was being moved to the assisted living. I returned to Boston then the sr move consultant went through Everything Else, including a very dusty storage locker that was off limits to this allergy sufferer. And tagged a few more items to send to me. Hired the mover. After the movers left Mom’s long time cleaning lady and her husband disposed of or sold everything else, and cleaned the apt top to bottom. Not cheap. But efficient. If something that should have been saved was not, well, I had never seen it in my then 55 years on the planet, so I don’t miss it. There are still some boxes in my attic of financial papers to throw out. Most of the inherited junk is DH’s.

    Remember, there are some advantages to being an only child. There may be a committee/jury in my head, we all tend to have one, but no living breathing committee.

  26. “Nothing keeps me emotionally balanced like a good work out.”

    Tying this discussion to yesterday’s, I like to commute by bike. Among other things, I find it good for my mental health.

    We live on a hill. Riding to the office is a great start to the day, blasting down hill, then working up a bit of a sweat the rest of way, taking a quick shower, and getting to my desk feeling energetic.

    And once I’m here, I’m forced to get a good workout riding uphill to get home, and like Lark, a good workout helps me work out my stresses and frustrations, and by the time I get home, I’m pretty much wound down and don’t need to unwind.

    Hard workouts, like riding home (at least it’s hard for me), also mean I fall asleep very quickly, and thus don’t lie awake thinking of things, negative or otherwise.

  27. As for bad thought spirals, I used to suffer from those all the time when I was responsible for so much and did not see how it could all be done. But no more. I occasionally relive past failures and embarrassments, sometimes at bedtime. And I still get overly frustrated with controlling types in my volunteer efforts and get worked up. I am not a go along to get along type. Completing a project like home redecorating or a physical challenge is my go to for restoration. I even feel accomplishment today because I cancelled two auto renew items (and that always take a while) and put three more on this year’s calendar a month before the renew date.

    But this is a good stage of my life. I expect if/when DH passes I will be in a bad way for a while and will need my family and friends to help me get to the next stage. But until/unless I am tested like Job in my own flesh, my life has had so many losses and trials very close to my heart that I already know that these too shall pass. I also appreciate the unexpected gains and ease of my present state.

  28. “with my kids, it’s years or decades before I figure out if I did the right thing for them”

    Sure seems like you’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback lately WRT your DD.

    I would suggest that sometimes you could just lean back and reflect on how she’s turned out. That should chase away quite a bit of negativity.

    You could also look at pictures of your car. Or take it for a spin.

  29. Like Mémé, I also take pleasure in completing small tasks. E.g., I find I’ll enjoy a TV show a lot more right after I finish cleaning up the kitchen that I would watching that same show while the kitchen is still messy.

  30. Thanks to RMS and Lark, I’ve just learned 3 new words.

    Besides perseverate and cromulent, I also learned crapulent.

    Interestingly, did not bring up a definition for cromulent, but did suggest crapulent, which I clicked on out of curiosity.

    crapulent[krap-yuh-luh nt]

    sick from gross excess in drinking or eating.

    Sounds kinda like crappy, but I think those two words have completely different etymologies.

  31. To try to alleviate my spiral I just talked to myself in the shower, rehearsing what I’m going to say when this whole thing comes to a head in the next week.

    I got a strong lesson today in science being a full contact sport. I thought I was passed that but sadly here I am. I just hate this feeling.

    You know what also helps? A pint of gelato all for me… and I wonder why I’ve gained 10 lbs over my target weight. :)

  32. Rhode – Good luck on your stressful work situation. Do try to get enough sleep since it’s so important to restore our physical and mental health. And also try to keep telling yourself that even the worst case scenario at work is highly unlikely to cause you extreme turmoil unless you let it. You have so much going for you, personally and professionally, so try to relish it now even though you’re juggling so much.

    I’m trying to help a relative with anxiety issues and one thing he admits is that he doesn’t get enough sleep. He “knows” that’s a problem but he’s not addressing it as much as he should. Ironically, he’s a mental health professional so he knows all this but cannot seem to help himself very effectively.

    Maybe because of this thread I woke up early this morning with a little anxiety after a slightly distressing dream (about car trouble, which has strangely always been a stressor for me). The dream was actually kinda funny because it involved getting stalled on a road alongside Queen Elizabeth sitting in a lounge chair on the sidewalk and we were trying to get her attention to let her know we needed help! But she was ignoring us and eating bonbons. The mind works in weird ways. Middle of the night anxiety is the worst.

  33. On average I am a positive person, so I don’t dwell too much on the what if something bad happens. I have found daily prayer to be a great source of comfort. It’s not the asking for a miracle but more the strength to do my day to day to the best I can. I have also discovered that friends and acquaintances can be an unexpected source of comfort. I feel the presence of God through them. This is not a popular Totebag position I guess but as the years pass, faith (or spirituality for some) may help some with dealing with the ups and downs of life.

  34. July – thank you. I do try to get enough sleep. This week I haven’t been as good about it and I think that’s adding to things.

    Louise – I completely understand. I find myself searching out friends when I get super anxious, even for a “hey stranger!” Even if I never tell them my problem, just having them there is support enough. Like they are happy to see me, I must be worth being seen. There’s a great warmth with that notion.

  35. I had a waking transition dream this am in which I was in a strange hotel and keot thinking I had missed my tour bus. Woke up 2 min before alarm to realize today is vacation week grandkid ice show outing. We are taking the T into town as an extra treat for the suburbanites. Not anxiety producing per se, but just tiring.

  36. A little totebaginess from DD. She said they were using Naviance at school yesterday and she picked engineering for her major. But then she ran into trouble because “there are 80 different kinds of engineering and I didn’t know which one to pick.”

    On the non-totebaggy side of things, she said one of the counselors talked to them about the different kinds of colleges and schools – four year colleges, two-year colleges, trade schools, etc. – and it was such a waste of time. I explained to her that a lot of her classmates are in families where nobody has gone to college and don’t have the same exposure to it that she has had.

  37. Hijack – got some Athleta gift certificates and am playing hooky to hit the mall today – what are the things that people have been recommending there? Leggings? It’s not a place I normally shop so don’t know what to look for.

  38. @ LfB – I love the speed light shirts – they have little grippies at the bottom to keep the shirt in place while you are working out. And the ‘all in crop’ capris are my favorite workout pants.

  39. Athleta – Ahhh DD’s favorite store where she will buy yet another pair of black leggings.

  40. @ cassandra – I was thinking about you last night and the task ahead of you. It seems to me this is a time when you could use help from someone who knows and loves you but has some emotional distance. Is there a college roommate you could fly in for this? I actually did something very similar for my college roommate this past year – flew out to her hometown to help her sort through things a few months after her mom died.

  41. LfB – I love the fleece-lined leggings from past years but didn’t like the ones from this season. Their capri leggings for yoga are good. I also like the hoodies and shirts with SPF (great in the summer) and the bathing suits.

  42. Love the powervita fabric at Athleta. I have a bunch of different leggings and pants in this fabric. So soft and stays in place.

    They’ve been running frequent 20% addtln sales off the sale prices. Don’t be afraid to tell the salesperson that you just missed the sale because of snow and can she honor the price. Only works if you find something on sale, but they have great customer service and might honor the additional 20% off since they just ran for Presidents weekend. I picked up two jackets a couple of weeks ago. Great jackets and almost 65% off retail.

  43. Athleta Sculptek jeans are the best fitting and most comfortable jeans I’ve ever worn. I have them on right now. I’m also a big fan of the leggings with the pocket on the thigh. Great for your phone and tissues.

  44. Cassandra, thinking of you and others because we are dealing with some similar issues. Thanks to many of the posters, I’ve made sure that DH knows that we are not alone in dealing with these issues.

    LfB, I think you might have mentioned that you don’t love shopppng. Don’t hesitate to try on a bunch of styles because I tried different pants that July, Ivy and Lemon love at Athleta, but they looked terrible on me. Same for a pair of pants that Louise likes at Lulu. I really wanted them to fit, but they just didn’t look good on me.

    The sales people at the Athleta’s near me tend to be women like us. Most are retired from other careers. They’re not the 20 somethings at Lulu so they totally get it, and they can save you a lot of time because they know what works on different people. Also, I don’t think they work on commissionnso they’re never pushy.

  45. I love so much at Athleta. They have really comfy sweatshirts & hoodies that are just a little nicer looking than my old college sweatshirts. Some are even okay for me to wear in my casual office. The only thing I would watch out for there is that the fabric weight really varies – some sweatshirts are extremely heavy and some are almost t-shirt material in weight.

    Like Ginger, I LOOOOOOVE the sculptek jeans. They are incredibly comfortable, fit perfectly and hold their shape.

    I have some outerwear from there that is really nice too – a rain jacket and the recycled plastic layering coat.

    These are my new favorite joggers, and they are now on sale.

    I also wear this a lot in the spring/summer/fall. It works as a swimsuit cover up as well as a general light layer for cool mornings/evenings, etc.


  46. Thanks for everyone’s kind comments. I suspect that I will be ranting on here for a while. My apologies in advance.

    Lark, I like your idea of bringing in my BFF from grad school, but I suspect we would be daunted by the task and need to go visit a spa in Napa. Hmm, feature, bug????

    Rocky, your comment are about not wanting to feel the feels is spot on. I already went through my childhood, I don’t really want to revisit it.

    And there is just some much WTF stuff. Apparently my aunt gave my mom an envelope full of stuff..E.g. all of my siblings and my birth announcements and our wedding invitations, some of our kids’ birth announcements, and copies of my dad’s obituary. Also some badly taken pictures with the tops of peoples heads cut off. My mom also had a copy of my dad’s death certificate, on which is written in LARGE, capital letters, DO NOT COPY. I feel like just tossing the whole envelope. No one has had a house fire, and everyone knows when they got married and when the kids were born. I remember sitting in the funeral home writing the obituary. I don’t need a copy of it to remember that experience, even if I wanted to.

    I don’t know that I want anyone else to see the detritus of my mom’s life. Some of it is just sad and I have no idea how the person she was in her twenties became the mother I knew in her thirties and forties. And some of it makes me angry because she didn’t rise to the occasion and be the adult that my sibs and I had to be before were 25.

  47. Athleta is so expensive. I am just not willing to spend that kind of money on clothes that are just kind of utilitarian. I pick up hoodies and track pants at Target.

  48. Cassandra, when my mother passed away (very unexpected, way too young), my sib and I had to take on the task of sorting through all her stuff. I had a 6 week newborn to haul around too. It was so sad and hard to do. She had so much stuff, but a lot of it was stuff that was very hard to part with. We did an initial sweep, took all the things we wanted, and then hired a company to cart away the rest. It was just easier to deal with that way. Can you do something like that?

  49. When I got the stuff from my moms I found pictures from the 40s. My mom was happy and hopeful not the embittered worrier of my lifetime. I was glad to see them but Dahl too

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