Whether you’re ready to be done with a big house or life has made a choice for you, grief is part of moving.

It’s easy to understand our grief when life chooses for us.  We make the best of a bad situation, do what has to be done and we get on with moving.  If we can name whatever it was that pushed us to move, that gives our grief form and shape which helps us understand it.  (We may not like it, but we can understand it.)

But when we freely choose change and move towards it with energy and excitement only to find that grief followed us on our great adventure!?    What the heck??”    The unexpected arrival of grief muddies what we thought was going to be a joyous time.   It feels confusing and awful and it’s lonely… because folks only want to hear about the good bits of our new adventure.

Welcome to life.  Round and full and rich, life has more facets than anyone can imagine and because of that, it’s inevitable that there will be aspects of your move that you didn’t anticipate.  Or couldn’t.   (Consider the folks who moved to new digs, just in time to be locked in by covid…)

There will always be things that we don’t know and that means there will always be things that surprise us.   If you learn to expect at least some surprises, life will feel more manageable.

Just as going into situations expecting surprises helps us handle them better, understanding that grief follows change, allows us to leave ourselves time and space for feeling it.    As you sort and pack and move, leave time for revisiting old memories.  And leave room to be surprised by the things that bring up those memories!

Purging, packing and leaving things behind can bring up surprising feelings.

Recognize that some things hold memories while others hold hopes you had for the future.

Give yourself time, as you pack, to let go of the dreams that may or may not have come true in your old space.

Leaving behind old tools and possessions can feel like you’re leaving a part of yourself behind.   Even when you’re ready to give up the responsibilities, letting go of the satisfaction you used to get from fixing, creating or entertaining is a big deal.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not a real loss.   It is.

There are dozens of changes associated with downsizing.   Know that they’re there and make space for them.   Whether you’re choosing to give things up, or feel like the choice has been made for you, there will be grief.    Be gentle with yourself and know that it will take time, both to let go and to settle in and find the rhythms of your new space.

Written by Catherine Mitchell, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist serving the Durham Region