Have you thought about moving after losing your spouse? When someone who was a constant presence in your life is suddenly gone, it can be jarring beyond words — especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Your home may feel empty, and the memories may be too much to bear.
The urge to move after such a loss can be overwhelming, but experts advise waiting at least six months to be sure this is the right step for you. Once you decide to make such a major change, here are some tips to ensure your new surroundings bring you comfort and peace.
A common option for seniors who are transitioning in their lives is downsizing. As we’ve noted in previous articles, downsizing can be especially challenging if you’re moving from a longtime family home.
If you now find yourself on your own, chances are the home you shared with your loved one seems ridiculously spacious. Maybe you don’t need those extra bedrooms and bathrooms any more. Or maybe the money needed to maintain a large home could be put to better use. A smaller space could actually suit your daily and financial needs better.
While the average sale price for a home varies, you should be able to find a smaller home for considerably less. Redfin offers an easy-to-use formula to help you determine what you can comfortably afford. Be sure to check state and federal tax laws regarding moving from a large home to a less expensive one.
Move to a Retirement Community
Downsizing to a smaller home makes sense in many scenarios, but what if you’re just not up to handling the care and maintenance of any size home? In that case, maybe a move to an independent living community is worth considering.
With independent living, you maintain your daily activities but have access to professionally cooked meals, housecleaning, fitness classes, social events and other amenities.
Check out a variety of communities to see which ones make you feel at home. Go on tours. Compare pricing, services and amenities. Talk to a few residents to get a first-hand account of what it’s like to live there.
Food is extremely important so schedule a meal to eat lunch in the dining room (assuming it’s open due to COVID restrictions). In the end, ask yourself two key questions after visiting a community: 1) can I see myself living there? and 2) would I be happy?
Take Time to Sort Belongings
Whether you stay in your existing home or move, eventually you’ll need to sort through your loved one’s belongings. It may take some time for you to be ready, but consider it part of the healing process. As the “What’s Your Grief” website notes, sometimes it’s best to deal with some items sooner than you might think.
Before you start, decide whether this is something you want to do alone or with a family member or close friend. Everyone’s different. Some people want company while handling this difficult task. Others prefer privacy.
Break each sorting session up into chunks. Maybe you can do it all at once. But you might also stumble upon items that bring back a flood of emotions, so give yourself ample time to think and sort. Consider memorializing those truly special pieces such as clothing, letters and photos via a pillow, blanket, scrapbook, shadowbox or picture frame.
Hire a Moving Team
Grieving isn’t something you have to do alone, and neither is moving after losing your spouse. A senior move manager can be a crucial member of the team. Moving.com explains that these professionals assist older adults and their families with both the emotional and physical aspects of the transition. They do the “heavy lifting” so the move is refreshing rather than overwhelming.
Hiring an actual moving company will be critical to the process. Sure, you might have family members and friends who are more than happy to help move smaller items. But for heavy pieces such as furniture and pictures, professional movers who can safely load and unload are a necessity. Before hiring a company, be sure to ask about their services, experience, references, fees and insurance.
Expect to Still Grieve
Although the move can be refreshing and point the way forward, don’t expect grieving for your loved one to stop. Grief is complex and no two people grieve the same way. According to grief therapist Claire Bidwell Smith, “Sometimes grief lasts a lifetime. It comes and goes. It can also morph into different shapes and filter into different areas of your life.” In other words, there will still be difficult days. That’s okay. It’s normal.
Moving after losing your spouse is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do. But leaving the house the two of you shared can play an important role in your transition to a new life. Moving just might provide the change of scenery you need to start adjusting, healing and finding your happiness again.
Thank you to Mary Shannon at SeniorsMeet.org for contributing this article.