My friend Carla is stressed out because she’s moving. In addition to asking for boxes my husband and I saved from our own downsizing move three years ago, she’s asked for advice.
And rather than give her the traditional and very practical advice found on the internet, I’ve told her to pay attention to the emotional – the heart dimension of moving.
When I moved, which was quite distressing, I read all the practical suggestions, like using checklists and backward timelines, securing the right packing materials, and hiring a professional mover – what I call the ‘hands’ part of moving. But the advice felt incomplete because it didn’t address how I felt about moving.
This is seldom talked about but essential. It’s the ‘heart’ part of moving – all the complex emotions that accompany leaving one’s home. It can be hard to sell a home that’s been in your family for generations, that’s been renovated over many years, perhaps where you raised a young family. These are losses that can cause grief and mourning.
And grief makes it harder to accomplish the practical tasks. What looks like a simple job of packing boxes, especially when it involves downsizing, is complicated by the loss of a stable home and its contents and what it all means. It can threaten our identity as a homeowner or caretaker, a member of a family that’s proud of its place in a community, or someone who’s been safeguarding family heirlooms for years.
Even though moving is a major life stressor, not all moves bring up feelings of sadness. A young adult moving from the family home to a new apartment usually gains greater autonomy reflecting visions of a bright future. But moving from a home of many years to a small apartment as a senior citizen means accepting the new limitations and constraints of aging.
Not wanting to let go and ignoring the grief that comes with such a move makes it harder. It’s far wiser to admit that it’s real and make space for it in our hearts and minds as we pack those boxes.