There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for healing from the loss of a loved one. The emotional tailspin leaves many people without a sense of direction. Finding healthy ways to express your feelings, through friends and others close to you, rather than internalizing and retreating inward is a critical step. Ultimately, coming to terms with your grief is a process that may take years.
Some people can’t imagine moving after the death of a loved one, but others can’t imagine living in the home that they shared for decades. However, you may discover that relocating and starting fresh is the best, healthiest option for you during the process of saying goodbye. Take the time you need before you make this major decision to move because adjusting to a new environment without the comfort and support of your loved one is hard, too.
When You Decide to Move
Make sure that the decision to move is your decision and that you are not pressured or influenced by family or friends. Do not apologize for taking the time you need to process and to grieve. Avoid creating additional stress and pressure on yourself by setting realistic timelines. Walk away, breathe, and take care of yourself when you need a break.
Paring down a lifetime of stuff is hard to do under normal circumstances. Deciding which of your loved one’s possessions to keep or donate can become emotionally wrenching, so be patient and listen to your instincts.
If you’re moving to a smaller home, consider creating a memento of your loved one’s things. For example, it’s probably not practical to keep every item of clothing — snip squares from each item and turn them into a memory quilt or pillow. Choose one or two items from a beloved collection, photograph the rest, and create a picture collage to hang.
Create a curated collection of paper keepsakes and other items that you can store in a box. They will be available whenever you want, but it won’t be an overwhelming amount.
Selling and Buying
In addition to living in a new home where you can create new memories and heal from your grief, downsizing to a smaller home carries with it other practical advantages. It makes sense financially to live where upkeep, maintenance, and taxes cost less.
You’ll want to find the value of your current home. Five ways to learn your home’s value include using online valuation tools, getting a broker price opinion or competitive market analysis, using the FHFA house price index calculator, or hiring a professional appraiser.
The next step in the process is finding a real estate agent you can trust. If you’re older, consider hiring an agent who specializes in senior sellers and buyers. The National Association of Realtors recommends working with a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, who will assist you with every step in the process, from selling and buying to coordinating your move.
Preparing a home for sale can be a lengthy process. Besides decluttering, there’s deep cleaning, repairs and maintenance, a fresh coat of paint, curb appeal, staging, and more. Work with your realtor, who will be an immense help during this process. And as you look for a new home, provide your realtor with a list of your requirements and “nice-to-haves.” Scout out different neighborhoods to find the perfect fit.
Infusing Your New Home with Old Memories
Photographs make the perfect decorating addition once you’ve moved. Hang a gallery featuring your loved one or scatter pictures throughout the new home’s rooms. If you’ve made a memory quilt, drape it over your favorite chair. Create a biographical scrapbook that includes pictures, letters, cards, ticket stubs, and other items.
Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting your loved one. It’s not a betrayal to let go of the pain and take steps to honor your loved one while also rebuilding your life. Practice mindfulness. Seek counseling, join a support group, and become your number one priority in this fresh start.
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