Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

The Move

Monday, February 3, 2014
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The house that Dick and I shared for 13 years was the one where we raised our 2 kids.  I had a mixture of good and bad memories associated with our house because Dick was sick and died in the house.  After his death, all these memories swirled together, like mixing chocolate sauce into vanilla ice cream, with no separation.   Sometimes it was just hard to make sense of all these memories packaged up together in the place.

I also was wondering if this house was one I could manage on my own.  Yes, my children were teenagers when Dick died, and they did help out a lot.   But as I was trying to make decisions about all of this, a thought floated into my mind.  Do I want to try to manage all of this on my own?  Is it all worth it?

After Dick’s death, the idea of moving was temporarily put off by the fact that I could afford to stay in the house until my daughter graduated from high school.  I wanted to make things as normal for us all as possible.  So we stayed in the house, moving through life, from Dick’s death in 2008 until 2012, her graduation date.  Moving was always in the back and in the front of my mind, like starting a diet on New Year’s Day.   I know now that this time was a blessing because it gave me the chance to think and plan for this huge life event.

When Beth’s high school graduation arrived, I knew in my heart I had to start the process of getting the house ready to sell.   I saw a real estate agent and she suggested that I paint every room of the house.  What a task to undertake!  How was I going to do it all?  How would I get started?  While this was going on, I had just started back out in the dating world, and I had met a wonderful man, Tim.  The timing was uncanny because a few months after starting this new relationship, I told him that I needed to sell my house.  His reply was “What can I do to help?”  We started painting in November, 2012, and we didn’t come up for air until April, 2013!  11 rooms painted in all!  Wow!  The sense of accomplishment was powerful but the sadness of selling it became more real.  I put my head down and kept moving forward.


The other thing that I dreaded was sorting out all the things in the house.  There were so many items that I figured I couldn’t use in a smaller version of my house, so I slowly gave things away. Thank goodness for those drop-off centers at Goodwill that take your items so quickly. It doesn’t give you pause to do anything but just hand it all over to them!  I also sold some things that gave me great pleasure to know someone else would be using them.  But then there were things that tugged at my heartstrings.  Dick’s broken, old, family toboggan was sitting in a corner of the garage. I kept putting off what to do with it.  I realized that I couldn’t use it so I put it out on the garbage heap.  I kept looking at it, not sure of my decision.  Then a loving, gentle feeling came over me.  It told me it was OK to put it there.  Someone would scoop it up and put it to some sort of use.  I had to let my attachment go to that item.  It stayed on the heap.  I hope someone is enjoying it now. 

In April, I put the house on the market.   It took all winter for the house to get ready, but then it took the spring, summer, and a bit of the fall for me to catch up to the prospect of leaving my house.   Living through 7 months of “Hi Mrs. Sousa, we have a request for a showing in 1 hour.  Is that ok with you?” was a challenge.  I couldn’t look at anyone who wanted to look at my house, so I ran out of my house to avoid that sadness…that pain.  Thank goodness it got easier over time.  After 7 months on the market, the house was sold to a young family.  That was exactly what I wanted:  a young family making new memories in the house, just like Dick and I had done 18 years ago.  It was much easier to let the house go with that idea in mind.  It was so simple, really.  That frightened and excited me.  I can do this.  I can move on.  This will not kill me.

The three of us are in the new place now--a 3 bedroom townhouse.  Since my kids are both in college, I’m renting this place to see where things take us.  The move here has been very smooth.  I continue to go through boxes and find homes for things that are important to me.  It’s amazing that when you have room to store things, you store them.  Moving them to a new space really helps you make decisions about how necessary they are in your life.  I’m learning to live in a smaller, more efficient space for me.  I’m realizing that I now have a new canvas upon which to paint the story of my 2nd act—the new part of my life without Dick here but with his spirit still in these walls because we are here.  It’s actually very freeing. Much more freeing than I ever thought.

My next goal is to put up pictures on the walls that bring me joy not sadness.  I’ll unpack some things from boxes, and if they spark happiness, I’ll display them.  I want to be surrounded by positive energy.  I would like my home to reflect the evolution of me, 5 years after losing a great love of my life.  I know this is possible.  How do I do this?  Like the great question, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  This move is my one-bite-at-a-time.  I’m very proud of every step that I’ve taken to get me to this place.  If I can do it, anyone reading this can do it too.  


Hi Gerry, I am dealing with a similar situation. My wife passed away in 2010. Our son is now in 3rd grade and her daughter is still very much a part of our lives. I kept the house to keep our family together and the kid's lives more harmonious. I have similar thoughts and plans to sell when my "stepdaughter" graduates from high school in 2 years. Reading your though are helpful. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you for sharing your story. I will save it and read it again when I get closer to "that day". I love my house,but it's going to be much too big for me to handle alone after my next son moves out. Also I'm beginning to feel that all the memories here are inhibiting me from trying to move on with my life. I'm too comfortable with the familiar and what I really need is a fresh start. My kids and I will just have to make new memories. Easier said than done. Maybe if I start preparing myself now, it will be a little easier when the time comes.

I love this blog. You took a hard situation and made it good. I love how you talk about your new place as a new canvas. I can feel the hope and joy in this piece. It helps me to as I am facing the "move". This is the only home I've known since I left my parents. The memories aren't just in this house they are in my heart. Thanks Gerry.

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