Moving after Loss: The Grief of Leaving the Home You Love

Moving is one of the most stressful experiences of life. My husband and I have moved so many times we’ve lost count and we’re good at moving. We’ve lived in our present house for 20 years, the longest time we’ve lived anywhere, and made the house our own. This house has nurtured us through some tough times and now we must move.

In the fall, my husband’s aorta dissected for the second time. He had three emergency surgeries, including a 13-hour operation to graft a Dacron descending aorta to his existing aorta. It was life-threatening surgery. His chances of dying were 20 percent and his chances of being paralyzed were 10 percent. Unfortunately, he had a spinal stroke during the surgery and, though he can move his legs and feet, according to his neurologist, he will never walk again.

My husband has been in the hospital for three months. He was going to be transferred to a nursing home for short-term rehabilitation, but at the last minute, was sent to the hospital rehab floor and the care of the spinal cord injury team. For this to happen, I had to find a place for us to live immediately. In fact, I only had three days. I started calling senior living complexes and they were all full. Where could we go? If I didn’t find a place for us to live what would happen to us?

Thankfully, the last place I called had a small assisted living apartment available – the only apartment and our only option. I signed the necessary papers, put down a deposit, and visited the apartment, only 700-square feet of space. The apartment wouldn’t hold much of our furniture and I had to consider my husband’s disability in arranging it. Months from now, after we are settled, the apartment may feel like home. But it will never be the home we’re leaving.

There is a wooded area behind the house, a stopping place and nesting place for many birds, including cardinals. I love to watch the birds the birds land in the pine trees, the Spring Snow apple tree in our yard, and low bushes bursting with berries. On one of the coldest days of winter a flock of mixed birds – cardinals, blue jays, finches, sparrows – landed on the bushes and ate the red berries in a matter of minutes.

We are going to miss our home and the space. We are going to miss the flowers that bloom in the garden. We are going to miss the neighbors who live on our cul de sac. We are going to miss the location that feels like country and is within eight minutes of the city. I’m the one in charge of clearing out the house and moving us, tasks that must be done in the next three weeks because my husband will only be in rehab for about 20 days. At four in the morning I awaken from a sound sleep, my mind racing, my anxiety mounting.

The other day, I had a total meltdown. I sobbed for my husband and I sobbed for myself. Though we’re grieving the home we love and must leave, we are blessed to have each other. When our daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash, and when her former husband died in another crash, we became guardians of our twin grandchildren. The twins were 15 years old when they moved in with us and turn 22 in February. They will be moving out of the house and getting their own apartments. For all I know, they, too, are grieving for the home they learned to love.

After my daughter died, I made a promise to her: I will not fail you. I’ve made the same promise to my husband. I will not fail him, I will cherish the second chance he has been given. Wherever we are, as long as we are together, it is home.

 

 

Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • R Santiago says:

    It seems so silly to grieve the loss of a home, but the emotions are very real. I’m being forced to leave an apartment that I’ve lived in for 3 years. The building sold and the new owners want to convert it and charge a much higher rent. The actual apartment isn’t much. A long rectangle from one end of the house to the other with just one wall that separates the room at one end. A tiny bathroom. It’s not new. Not fancy. Not in the best area; not in the worst. However, the fond memories formed here have caught me off guard. The feelings of ease and peace that greeted me nightly after a day of work. The ugly yard that the owners never take care of. The greenery grows very high and unkempt, but it attracts bees, butterflies, squirrels, birds and even a cat here and there. The yard is a little piece of green heaven nestled in a concrete jungle and tucked away behind my kitchen window. Sitting at this window, that yard has soothed my tired soul many times over. The old man that lives upstairs showed me all the places in that yard where he had once planted herbs. The mint still grows. I’ve also taken countless pictures of the birds in my yard from the comfort of my window. Well, what more can I say? I’m in mourning. Thank you for your article.