Overcoming the feeling of loss when selling a home hit me when I recently read an article which describes the 5 stages of mourning and grief typically experienced when we lose a loved one, a terminal illness or the loss of a close relationship. I have never heard of these stages associated with leaving the home you have loved for so many years.
I have been fortunate to help seniors and their families make the transition from the home where they raised their families and have loved for an average of 30-50 years, to condominiums, senior apartments and communities. Think about it. Your home represents so much more than the bricks and mortar. It is about family, memories, neighbors, security, and what you have known for so many years. Leaving that huge part of your being can be similar or even identical to losing one you have loved in your life.
Let’s examine the five stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”.
1. Denial and Isolation
The first reaction to any circumstance that is traumatic is to deny the reality of the situation as it relates to loss. For the purposes of this subject, the loss of one’s home, it is common for loved ones of the senior moving to observe this rejection of the reality of their situation. If you are the one moving or if you are a child of a parent or parents who know that the home is no longer working or meeting the physical and psychological needs, denial of the need for a move is frustrating and sometimes depressing. It is hard for the child of a senior to watch mom or dad resist and ignore what is happening around them.
It is so difficult when facing the following; a home falling to disrepair, a home with steps that can’t be navigated, a home in an area that may not be as secure, a home that does not provide the wide hallways and secure bathrooms, and a home that once was the center of family gatherings. This is difficult to accept for any of us but at some point in all of our lives, change is a requirement if one is to remain fully active and healthy. Denial can be that stop sign that can lead to crisis management and unhappiness.
How many of you have been so angry when others that love you are trying to help but you perceive that offer to make the situation as an invasion of your privacy and intellect? My wife always points out that those you are most upset with are the result of an inner knowing that they are correct in their insights. When faced with a move that you know is right for you or a loved one, anger at one’s self as well as upset with mom or dad is a result of bereavement and loss.
As children we are losing the home that represented our youth and family gatherings. As the senior moving represents reality of the current situation which is inevitable but ignored.
A need to control the situation is a normal reaction to a feeling of helplessness. When facing this move to new housing, we get into “scolding all over ourselves!” We should have gone to the doctor sooner to fix our current malady; we should have purchased that ranch years ago that did not have the stairs we currently have in our home today and on and on. We make deals with our higher power to put off the inevitability of the situation. In the end, step 4 is the result.
We are now getting closer to step 5 and therefore can fall into a sad state as we begin to worry about the process. We begin to micromanage our finances. It is in this stage isolation can be a result of this depression. This is a time for families to talk about what is happening. It may entail a visit to the doctor as well as a family meeting. The one moving needs to be surrounded by those who truly have their best interests at heart.
This is a gift that not all of us will get to. Many may remain in one or all of the previous stages mentioned and the result may be a crises that involves immediate action and little planning. But for those who do reach this phase relating to a loss of one’s home, a peace and calm may follow. I’ve seen families who were struggling through the process of transition and displaying the anger, frustration and upset that goes with that struggle, only to become closer and as one family unit.
While helping thousands of families through this process I have seen what appears to be a miracle in so many families that were completely torn apart by the move of a parent. I have seen an older adult go from angry, bitter, and physically challenged, transform to a state of happiness and contentment in their new surroundings. Going from a situation of isolation to a life of connectivity and activity has been a gift for me to witness..
In the end we all move towards a known and avoid what is uncertain. That is built into all of us. We will remain in a familiar unhealthy situation rather than move to a set of circumstances we know will match our current needs. Know that you are not alone.
Understanding the grieving process as it relates to selling your long time home will help lessen or make shorter this process of moving from a home you love to a new situation that offers that same love and security that you have experienced over the years. “Know thyself” is the mantra. Understand we are all made of the same stuff and grief and mourning with the 5 stages discussed are expected. Acceptance comes sooner for some but for others a bit of time and patience are needed..
In the end we all want what is best for ourselves and our loved ones. We may just need to cut ourselves and others some slack. Patience, understanding and love will always bring a family closer to the ultimate goal of happiness, peace, prosperity and a safe and secure place we can all call home.
Note: Some information taken from an article by Julie Axelrod, “The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief”.