Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Making Big Decisions While Grieving
When my beloved husband died, I wanted to run as far as I could from the home we had created together. Every single thing in the house had a memory attached to it. Before I got a clue about my PTSD, (I was experiencing extreme anxiety), I decided what I needed to do was MOVE! Of course! It was the house that was the problem. I couldn’t stand to be alone in it. Every inch reminded me of him and only made me more anxious.
The first thing I did was clean out every personal item that belonged to him. It may sound crazy, but it was what I needed to do at that time. Every griever has their own way of dealing with their deceased loved one’s stuff. I gave a lot away and then, as it happened, a neighborhood yard sale gave me the opportunity to sell the rest, and a lot of mine. In the back of my mind I was thinking that I needed to get rid of everything because I needed to MOVE! The less to cart around the better. Plus, it gave me something to focus on. I was keeping “busy”.
All of this happened BEFORE I went to grief counseling and started learning the tools for moving through grief. Here’s a link to my previous articles about my tools for grief recovery:
After the yard sale, I called a realtor and put my house up for sale. I remember it very distinctly. It was a Friday morning about 3 months after my husband died. The realtor said to me, “Are you sure you’re ready to do this, honey? I mean, you need to have a place to move to, you know.” I hadn’t thought about that, but I wasn’t in my right mind either. I nodded and signed the papers that day.
For the next 48 hours I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My anxiety hit an all-time high. My PTSD kicked in at the thought that I might be homeless. I didn’t have the wherewithal to begin searching for a new place. On Sunday morning I went for a long walk in the mountains. My brain wasn’t functioning well, due to lack of sleep and deep grief but I needed to gain some clarity. Even though I felt like I couldn’t spend one more night in the house without my husband, something inside told me that the stress of moving wouldn't be healthy for me. I called the realtor the next morning. She was very understanding. We took my house off the market before it even hit the MLS.
And, I’m still in the house, three years later. I’ve made the house my own.
This is exactly why grief counselors say that grievers shouldn’t make any big changes for at least one year after their beloved dies.
The five greatest stressors in life are:
1. Death of a spouse
2. Marriage and divorce
4. Major illness or injury
5. Job loss.
Grievers are already massively stressed out from stressor number one – death of a spouse. Adding another one, like MOVING, or MARRIAGE, is not compatible with grief recovery. First of all, we aren’t thinking clearly AT ALL. Grievers need their period of mourning – a very important step in the grief recovery process. If we try to step over it by ignoring our sorrow, it will only come back to haunt us later.
This is true for all kinds of grief. Yes, losing a spouse is number one on the list, and very painful to move through, but if I look back over my life, I will find many other times I felt deep sorrow or hurt and tucked it deeply inside myself: like the time I didn’t get the job I wanted or when my cat ran away. The list is long. Loss of any kind is grief. The feelings surrounding the losses need to be felt.
Our society insists on MOVING ON quickly. We don’t really get to honor our grief. This is a great travesty of western culture especially – there is more focus on productivity than feeling our feelings. If we need time to recover from a deep emotional wound, we are not granted that time, and if we take it anyway, there is almost a silent pressure to
GET ON WITH IT
GET OVER IT
Most of this advice comes from fear. What if we were allowed to just sit and FEEL our feelings?
Oh. My. God.
The world would come to an end, right?
Actually, the opposite happens. When we allow ourselves the time and space to BE with our FEELINGS, we become more healthy, productive individuals, but productive in a way that is GIVING to society. Not just running around like chickens with our heads cut off, oblivious to who we are or what we want. When we take the time and space to FEEL, we become more in tune with our deepest desires and our soul purpose – why we are here on the planet.
Transforming the House into My Home
I didn’t sell my house. It became MY home. I made a few mistakes along my journey which I share honestly in my articles. Selling my house would have been a really big mistake – FOR ME. Everyone’s grief journey is personal, and there are many reasons why a griever would choose to leave the home they shared with their beloved husband. As I have said many times, grief cannot be compared. Honoring each individual’s grief journey is one of the first things learned in grief group.
My story is that I spent the first year of grief in shock and came to realize that I was suffering from PTSD. I also came to realize that the one place I felt SAFE was in my home. Putting it on the market for three days was enough for me to FEEL what it would be like to not have a comfortable, safe place to be while I was deeply grieving. I understood that I needed this safety net while on my grief recovery journey.
As the weeks, then months, passed, after I quelled my anxiety a bit, I began to do a few things around the house. I sold furniture I never liked. I took a lot of boxes of stuff to the hospice thrift store. There was no plan. I followed my intuition and began to transform how the house looked and felt.
A couple of my more esoteric friends came over and smudged my house. They cleared every room of old energy. I opened up all the doors and windows and directed fans outward, sucking out stale air and energy. I diffused essential oils and burned incense. I wanted my home to smell like ME!
I had already cleared all my husband’s things except for a few important mementos. Many of these I gave to his children and grandchildren. I didn’t need his high school diploma or his Navy discharge papers for goodness sakes! As I was reinventing myself, I wanted my new home to feel uncluttered, spacious, like my new mind set. I went through boxes and books and dishes and nicnacs until I felt I had purged everything that wasn’t important to ME.
Slowly, but surely – it happened organically – the house was transforming.
Some large pieces of furniture needed to be dealt with. The first one was a recliner that we bought for my husband’s comfort. It was an expensive, leather Lazy Boy, the kind he could easily fall asleep in. The other was our organic California King bed. Every moment in that bed reminded me of him, not to mention it was HUGE. I simply didn’t need it anymore. It was the very last, and most difficult item to let go of. I finally sold it and got myself a QUEEN size sleigh bed which I really love.
My desire though, was to bring NEW ENERGY into the house, not necessarily redecorate. I laid crystals around and filled the house with plants. I did a lot of qigong and yoga in the living room. I played hours of healing music and moved and changed the art around. Last summer I had a new deck put on. This summer I will be replacing some of the roof. It’s a slow process, and I have to watch my budget, but I’m taking care of the necessities of home ownership that my husband would have most likely dealt with.
This attention to HOME is empowering. Through each action, each hour I spend in contemplation or Qigong, each decision I make consciously of what to keep or give away, each new item I bring into the house, the home I shared with my husband is transforming into MY HOME. When friends drop by they comment on how my home feels like I have made it MINE.
As my home is transforming, so are my feelings about it. I've come to really appreciate how important feeling safe and comfortable is for me. My outlook shifted to being GRATEFUL for my home, rather than wanting to run away from it. I’m glad I decided to stay, at least for now. I’ve still got my antennae up for other possibilities – other places I might like to live – but I can research and fantasize with a clear mind now. I can take my time and discern whether a move is right for me. Meanwhile, I can appreciate all the gifts MY HOME offers.