6 Tips to Embrace and Overcome the Emotional Toll of a Move

Making a move can be a very exciting time in a person’s life. A new chapter, a new home, a new community all present many possibilities and much to look forward to. At the same time, there are often mixed emotions. It can be bittersweet as you leave the place that you have called home and start a new chapter.

You might be moving for many reasons, both good and bad, happy and sad. Whatever is motivating you to move, there are emotions attached to the decision. Embracing and acknowledging your emotions is vital to your mental and physical health.

Here are a few actions you can take to overcome some of the emotions you may experience during a later life move.

1. Say a Proper Goodbye. You form an emotional attachment to the place you call home. It is where you have lived, slept, and created memories that will remain with you forever. When you move, you are altering your life. Therefore, it is important to accept that and say goodbye to that part of your life. Celebrate with friends by throwing a party or hosting a dinner. Or, you may want to mourn over a few somber drinks. Either or is perfectly acceptable. Other ways to say goodbye include: Writing a letter to the new owners. Hiding a time capsule. Having a professional artist create a picture of your home.

2. Treat Yourself. It is very easy to overdo it when moving without realizing it. You eat poorly, have disrupted sleeping patterns, and generally feel exhausted. You are trying to get it all done while balancing other family/life obligations. Give yourself time to pause. Plan to take an evening off and order in from your favourite restaurant. Take a trip to the beach or go for a walk in the woods. Schedule down time and do something that you enjoy and find relaxing.

3. Prepare to Introduce Yourself. You aren’t imagining it; introducing yourself to strangers is completely intimidating. As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression”. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur working on their elevator pitch; a brief 20-30 second persuasive speech that sparks interest in what a business or organization does. In your case as an individual, this might include three pieces of information and a final fourth step:

  • Who you are and where you come from. “Hi my name is…”
  • Why you have moved. “I am very happy to be in this neighbourhood. I chose this area because…”
  • What makes you unique and/or your greatest accomplishments. “I retired from a career in…I enjoy…”
  • Finish with an open-ended question.

An open-ended question is one that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. It will keep the conversation flowing. This might include questions like: What are your favourite things about this neighbourhood? What local shops would you recommend? I was wondering about the social calendar; do you have events that you prefer and would recommend?

Find a mirror and practice speaking your elevator pitch out loud. Practice, practice, practice. This will help build your confidence as you enter a new community and meet your neighbours.

4. Make the First Move. Will someone come to ring your doorbell to welcome you to the community? Sitting like a waiting duck can be torturous. Don’t depend on others. End the anxiety by taking control of the process and setting the tone. Make a plan to go out and meet your new neighbours in your community. Attend a scheduled social event or find a common area, such as a public garden where people gather. Schedule time to be in the right place at the right time and make an effort to make conversation.

5. Find the Social Butterfly. If making the first move is too far outside your comfort zone, then try and make ONE move. Like a student befriending the smartest kid in the class, you should seek out the neighbourhood extrovert. Chances are, they may even come to you before you get to them. Don’t be afraid to make the ask, “Would you mind introducing me to some of the neighbours?”. This will take some of the pressure off your shoulders and they will likely be happy to help.

6. Keep Your Loved Ones Close By. Plan to stay in close contact with the important people in your life. This is especially important the first few weeks after your move. Schedule family dinners or coffee dates with friends. If they are not able to visit in person, plan to use technology to connect. Seeing a familiar face or hearing a familiar voice will bring you comfort as you adjust.

Embracing all the changes that come with a move is hard. If your move sadness is debilitating or lingers longer than expected, reach out to a professional for help. Be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time. It will feel like home, eventually.

Ellan Dickieson is a registered Social Worker and the Founder of Senior Transitions Made Simple. She empowers seniors overcome later life challenges and live out their vision for aging.