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Good grief: Desmond Morris shows how a clearout can help you cope with death

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After the death of his wife of 66 years, the zoologist Desmond Morris is getting rid of all his stuff. Thousands of books, artworks and antiques have to go. The objects apparently stand as too-painful reminders of lives lived together, offering no comfort in the face of his wife’s distressing absence.

Who cares about shared knick-knacks when all you want is to ask a question, have a chat? So Morris has reduced his possessions to the bare essentials in order to begin a new life. This might be considered drastic for a 91-year-old, but he seems adamant. “If I don’t I will sit here suffering,” he says. While some people might draw comfort from the memories lodged in material possessions, Morris has chosen to set himself free.

Mourning involves processing both tangible and intangible losses. You lose not only a physical presence but also an external memory bank and additional vantage point on to your own life. It can even feel a bit like losing your mind; if your mind has been tangled up in the other person’s thoughts, feelings and memories for any extended period the sudden change can seem like a mental amputation. How can you think straight when such a big cluster of your psychic coordinates has just disappeared? Perhaps losing a load of objects can help to make a loss feel more physical, and therefore processable.

There’s an exemplary grief-purge in the........

© The Guardian