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Blog · Care & Support

How to deal with the grief of leaving your home in retirement

Moving out of your home can be a huge emotional upheaval, leading to feelings of sadness and even intense grief. After all, your home is bound up with your history – often decades worth of memories – and your identity. So, it’s no wonder that downsizing and making the move to retirement living can leave you feeling thoroughly overwhelmed.

Although saying farewell to the beloved family home is bittersweet, moving on can be a significant cause for optimism and excitement for the future.

Here are some ways to honour your feelings of loss, prepare for your move into retirement living and enjoy the excitement of the next stage.

1. Embrace the emotional stages of retirement

The first thing to understand is that grief is an entirely normal and understandable response to leaving your family home. Many retirees have been in their homes for most of their lives. Children have grown up there, weddings have been celebrated, people have been mourned, grandchildren have run around and gardens have flourished. All the big and small, significant and ordinary things of life have happened there. Saying goodbye to your home could feel like saying goodbye to part of yourself.

Let yourself reflect on that history, feel the sadness, toast the memories – maybe even hold a farewell gathering to mark the occasion and to surround yourself with people who have shared in those times and support your next move.

2. Make a plan and be proactive

Planning your move will be critical to the whole process not becoming totally overwhelming. If making lists is your thing, start early so you can feel like you have some control over each step. Depending on where you’re at in the process, your plan could include the following:

  • Getting the kids and other family members over to take the things they’d like to keep
  • Making a pile for donation
  • Packing early – a tiny bit each day will make life much more manageable than leaving it all to the last minute 
  • Being systematic about what not to bring with you – this could be the perfect opportunity to declutter.
  • Giving yourself deadlines for each stage of the move

3. Seek help to deal with the grief

You don’t have to do all of this on your own. If family and friends are helping you, delegate clearly, so you get things done efficiently. Having the support of your grown children and other family at this time can be valuable.

If you don’t have backup from family and friends, arrange for professional relocation services. They can pack up the house, move your furniture for you and reinstall your furniture and electronic devices at your new home, help remove rubbish items, deliver donated goods and sort important documents for delivery to the appropriate person.

Some retirement living providers will also offer transition services and can help with moving and settling you into your new home.

Moving can be both physically and emotionally stressful. So don’t try to take it all on by yourself. Set yourself up for the best possible start in your new home by making sensible decisions about what you are and are not capable of doing. You’d be amazed at what you can hire people to do for you!

4. Remember why you’re moving

If it’s all feeling chaotic and you’re wondering why you’re putting yourself through the stress of a move, remind yourself why you decided to downsize in the first place. By saying farewell to your old home and making the move to retirement living, you are:

  • Allowing yourself to engage socially with likeminded people of the same age
  • Setting yourself up in a place that is safe, secure and where your needs are fully supported
  • Opening your world to new hobbies and interests
  • Taking advantage of a healthy lifestyle packed with good food, good company and plenty of recreation
  • Releasing yourself from the burden of upkeep and home maintenance. 

There’s no real shortcut through the grief of leaving a beloved home. It can still be painful even when you know the time is right. The trick is not to let yourself drown in those feelings of loss but to hold them with gratitude and affection. Put practical plans in action to help minimise the stress associated with moving and resist using those feelings as an excuse for staying put. Making the move sooner rather than later can pay off in various ways.

Dealing with grief and stress is highly emotional, so if you need to speak with someone for support, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or search 'Beyond Blue always available' in Google.

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