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How do I deal with their garden/business/interest that I have now “inherited”?

A couple of weeks ago I emailed my community asking for questions they have around grief that they’d like me to answer.  I received some amazing, relevant and very open questions and I’m slowly making my way through them.

Today’s question will be very relevant to a lot of people. Perhaps to you too.

It’s around how to deal with the garden/business/interest, etc that you may have “inherited” from your person who died.

 “How do you recommend I think about my wife’s intentions that I have inherited now? I’m talking about practical, everday things, and today, specifically about the yard. Over the years she sculpted and softened our property with ornamental gardens and plantings of shrubs and trees. She did great work in that regard, but it’s a lot for me to handle alone now. I can’t keep up with the weeding and watering and pruning. And then there are some things I just disagree with, trees planted too close to other trees, for instance. I stopped saying anything or being involved in the yard or vegetable garden as her disease progressed, because I just wanted her to do what pleased her. Now it’s all on me. I feel I’ve taken on her intentions, though I don’t even know how important to her some things even were. Or if she ever expected me to take on these “intentions”. If she could somehow communicate with me now I think she would tell me I should get on with my own life, simplify, and do what I want.”


Very often, when someone dies, the person/people left can feel saddled with something…whether a garden, a business, an interest, a friendship, etc that wasn’t theirs, but they feel they need to keep it going for their person who died. Because it was important to them.  Because they loved it.

The problem is that it’s not yours. You may not love…or even be vaguely interested in…this thing that was left behind, though you feel you need to look after it to honour them.  And it can very quickly become a source of stress (and seriously, do you need more of that right now?) and end up leading to resentment.

Here’s the deal. This is your life.  You really don’t honour someone else by putting aside what’s important to you and trying to put time and energy into something that was theirs that doesn’t mean the same to you.

Ultimately what would they have wanted for you? That you get stuck with something that isn’t you….no matter what that thing is?  Or that you go on to live a life true to you, enjoy your time, doing what you love?

You can’t live their life for them. And you don’t keep them alive by trying to keep alive this thing that was theirs. This thing isn’t them.  Keeping it alive doesn’t somehow keep them alive.  This isn’t the way to do it.

There may be instances where they have even asked you to keep something going though.  For example, if this man’s wife had specifically asked him to take care of her garden, to not let it go to ruin.

The answer is still the same. This is your life that you have to live now.  And even if someone has told you they want you to do something…I absolutely believe that deep down in the heart of anyone who loves you, what they really want for you, what would really matter to them, is for you to live a life you love, follow your own dreams….not get stuck drudging through something that isn’t you.  Because it likely won’t get easier.  You won’t wake up and suddenly feel passionate and excited about this garden…or whatever else. If anything, you’ll probably like it less and less over time.  You may end of even feeling pissed of at them because of it – that they didn’t finish this thing…that they didn’t make other arrangements…that they were involved in it at all…that they expected you to take care of it. Surely this situation is not something they would have wanted.

In the case where there is a specific task they asked you to complete – wrap up a book or other project for example.  If this really feels necessary, then can you outsource it? Get someone else to do it or help you with it?

If you want to honour the life they lived, don’t do it through trying to keep alive some plants, a garden, an idea, a friendship. This isn’t where they live.  Do it by allowing their death to move you, change you, grow you.  Do it by allowing the space you now have to be used to make your life (made up of your dreams and what matters to you) to become even fuller.

The last sentence of this question basically answers itself:  “If she could somehow communicate with me now I think she would tell me I should get on with my own life, simplify, and do what I want.”  I think so too.

Much love,