Hoarding as a Reaction to Trauma and Grief September 3, 2020

Grief Hoarding

Many of us have spent many pandemic hours scrolling through streaming services such as Netflix.   Shows such as “Hoarders” or “Buried Alive”  captivate our attention. Grief hoarding is the root of many of the stories. The sheer magnitude of the disordered thinking it takes to acquire such large amounts of what appears to outsiders as garbage, is captivating. What about you, have you ever struggled with clutter or questioned how close it teeters over the line into hoarding? Today I am going to talk about how hoarding can relate to trauma and grief? 

Clutter or Hoarding?

Every counter top is filled with stacks of papers and odds and ends. Maybe there is a storage locker out there where you pay $50 a month to store old mementos. You have a two car garage but can only fit the front half of one car in. Has your collecting turned to grief hoarding?  Maybe you have a loved one who passed and you can’t bear to get rid of their belongings. A closet of his shirts, a bedroom filled with her toys left just as they were the day they died. Has your own grief kept you from removing clutter and crossed the line into hoarding. 


Grief Hoarding

When a loved one passes away they leave behind all their physical belongings. Clothes, furniture, books, dvds and more. It can be a really emotional process going through their stuff and getting rid of it. For some it becomes a major issue and turns into grief hoarding.

Hoarding Vs. Collecting

Collectors– “Have a passion for gathering things”. Collectors have a passion or interest in things such as stamps, dolls, model cars. Anything can be collected based on individual interest.  Collectors typically organize and display their collections.

Hoarding-Hoarders “lose their capacity to show things in a sorted out way.” Parts of doorways and walkways become blocked. Items fill rooms and spaces and make them unusable. The space becomes nothing more than a storage space. Hoarders have an inability to throw things out, seeing everything as something that may be able to be used for “something” in the future. 


Grief Hoarding as a result of trauma

There are an estimated 19 million people in the United States who have hoarding disorders. The onset of their hoarding behaviors often began with some form of trauma. The death of a loved one can trigger what turns into a hoarding disorder. Some studies suggest hoarding can accompany traumatic brain injury, tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, neuro degenerative disorders, generalized anxiety disorder and dementia. “Late onset hoarding has often been linked to loss or trauma.”

What to do when we recognize grief hoarding for what it is.

Now we have a little idea about the difference between collecting vs. hoarding and recognize the connections between trauma and grief hoarding. Have you ever questioned if you or any of your loved ones struggle with a hoarding disorder. Maybe it’s a neighbor who has piles of things pouring out of their property. I hope that what we have learned today gives you a different perspective on the behavior of hoarding. Anyone who struggles with this is hurting and needs help to process their grief and trauma. Filling an empty space in your heart with things can quickly get out of hand. Reach out for support for you or someone you know.  In addition to working through the process of cleaning up find some grief support to help heal. 


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