My husband and I are moving in a month. He is paraplegic. I’m recovering from open heart surgery and have a pig valve in my heart. These factors made us decide to move to a place with support services. We are leaving our wheelchair-friendly town home and moving to a senior living community. Though the decision is the right one, when I look around our town home I feel sad.

I grieve for a lost lifestyle. Our apartment is in the independent living part of the building, yet we won’t be totally independent. Wherever we go, we will be surrounded by people. According to the purchase agreement, we must eat in the dining room 26 times a month–far different from eating in our own cozy dining room. Don’t get me wrong. These are friendly, kind people and I know many of them. Still, I need privacy. A freelance writer for 38 years, I need quiet time, thinking time, and time for my mind to rest.

I grieve because I’m leaving friends. It took us several years to get to know our neighbors. Now we are leaving them and faced with the challenge of making new friends. This requires effort, persistence, and energy. While I’m willing to make new friends, in some ways it’s another job, one that comes at a time of life when my energy is waning. Friends have agreed to say in touch, perhaps even visit, something may or may not happen.

I grieve for aging. With a snap of the fingers, or so it seems, I changed from a middle age person to an elderly person. Americans in general aren’t kind to the elderly and assume we’re stupid and no longer “with it.” But I’m still writing, producing good work, contributing copy to three websites, and giving workshops and talks. I am with it. Maybe I should wear an armband that reads, “84 years old. Still sharp.”

I grieve for less contact with nature. There are two bird feeders in the back yard. My husband and I enjoy watching the birds nibble on peanut butter suet and take little sips from the bird bath. Sparrows, cardinals, goldfinches, purple finches, and hummingbirds come and visit us. Our new apartment is on the 18th floor of the high rise. We’ll be lucky if we see a crow fly by.

I grieve for lost space. We already downsized when we moved into our town home. Our present home has 1,750 square feet. Our new home has just over 1,000 square feet. I’m afraid I will feel claustrophobic in this small space. Only time will tell what my reaction will be. When I’m honest with myself, I admit this is the last move in 62 years of married life. The next stop is the hereafter.

Lack of space, less contact with nature, being “officially” elderly, leaving  friends, and a changed lifestyle contribute to grief. As I have done before, I try to balance negative thoughts with positive ones.  We will have a beautiful apartment. We will have access to a variety of services. We will be safe and secure.  We will be downtown, close to the  library, restaurants, and shops. We still have goals. We will enjoy our grandchildren and newly adopted great grandchild.

Goodbye town home that I love. Onward to the next chapter of my surprising, amazing life.

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Harriet Hodgson

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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