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  • Writer's pictureSenior Moves

The Emotional Effects of Moving: How Saying Goodbye to a Forever Home Is a Grieving Process


When the Senior Moves team manages a move, we focus on the positives of the experience. Our goal is to remove the stress and uncertainty (and physical labor) from seniors as they downsize, age in place, or transition to a senior living community. Yet, as senior move managers, we must address one unspoken truth: moving is emotional.

For some, moving elicits absolute joy and excitement; others feel worry and apprehension or sadness and grief. Many cycle through all these feelings. Those who experience deep sadness might wonder: "Why is moving so emotional?"

There is not a simple answer to this question. Rest assured, grieving a forever home is normal. Being thrilled with selling that home is also perfectly ok. For those who feel profound grief at the thought of moving from their home, we are exploring why and how the loss of that home weighs so heavily on your heart.

Table of Contents:

  • Emotions Downsizing Your Home

  • Why You Have Difficulty Downsizing

  • Sorting, Packing, Donating…and Grief

  • Managing the Meaning of Things

  • Experiencing Moving Grief

  • The Emotional Stress of Moving

  • Why Is Moving so Stressful?


Grief can be a part of moving. Saying goodbye to a home and keeping the items that bring the most happiness can help alleviate the feelings of loss. 

The Emotions Downsizing Your Home

"Downsizing" in real estate refers to moving to a smaller home. Downsizing is incredibly common during the retirement years. Many individuals or couples downsize from a large home to a condo or smaller home. Others move in with their older children. Some move into a senior community—where an individual moves does not necessarily make the move easier or more difficult. A move looks and feels different for everyone.

Why You Have Difficulty Downsizing

The difficulty in downsizing emerges in waves for some, but others simultaneously experience a barrage of emotions. Individuals moving to a smaller home or even a condo on a beach might initially feel excited and exhilarated at the prospect of moving and starting a new phase of their lives. Others might dread the idea of moving.

The Grief Recovery Center discusses elements of “Moving Grief;” this type of grief deals with the vast emotional losses individuals experience during a move. A move could lead to the loss of a support network (friends and family) and the loss of old familiar habits; individuals might leave behind favorite restaurants, their church, favorite parks and places, and so much more.

Sorting, Packing, Donating…and Grief

Downsizing requires homeowners to part with some or many possessions. Furniture and other items may be donated, sold, given away, or left for the trash pickup. This facet of the moving process triggers an emotional response for many individuals because sorting through items in the home leads to a feeling of loss. This home is no longer home. Not every item in the home moves on to the next phase. Grieving, in this situation, is normal.

Managing the Meaning of Things

Packing and sorting lead individuals to physically reconnect with items they might not have looked at in years. Books, cards, trinkets, pictures, and everyday items mean much more than the eye perceives.

Every item in our home represents a memory. Every room of a home rekindles recollections of events, past joys, milestones, and cherished moments. A table jolts a memory of playing a board game with kids when they were young. Old greeting cards hold the jagged scribbled names of toddlers or the perfect penmanship of lost loved ones. The wall next to the kitchen still shows the remnant pencil lines etching the growth of years.

Each nook, cranny, corner, and item plays back a reel telling the story of a lifetime in a home. Senior Moves teaches every client in this situation how to manage the meaning of "things." We help individuals understand that if an item brings happiness and holds an irreplaceable meaning, then it's ok to hold onto it. The meaning of things plays a huge role in managing a move; that jolt of emotion for an item might not last, but sometimes, parting with a piece of life is not an option. 

We love Marie Kondo's philosophy. The question: "Does it spark joy?" is apt for many moves we manage. This question is a simple litmus test: if an item doesn't bring joy or spark wonderful memories, does it really need to move to the new phase of life? 

The goal for any move is to keep every item that is meaningful. Senior Moves focuses on helping seniors understand how they can keep the items they love, and we help them find solutions and strategies for organizing these memories. We also help them realize that not every item needs to move on. Some items could be enjoyed by others, sparking another generation of joy and memories. 

Experiencing Moving Grief

Saying goodbye to a forever home takes an emotional toll on some individuals. Grief can be a part of the moving experience. The Grief Recovery Center explains that moving requires individuals to deal with a loss; while a home is not a person, it does hold very personal and important memories. 

The Grief Recovery Center recommends that individuals who are dealing with moving grief should allow time to process these feelings; say goodbye to the home. We know that this process looks and feels different for each person. Saying goodbye also doesn't mean an actual goodbye in words, but, rather, spending time before the move to remember and process feelings of joy, sadness, and all the other emotions held to the home. 

Grief also comes in waves. Even those who take the time to say goodbye and process their feelings might still deal with residual sadness or loss related to leaving their old home. Goodbye is a journey. 

The Emotional Stress of Moving

Feelings of grief also mix with another emotion: stress. When clients trust us to help them move, they also trust that we will help lessen the stress of moving. We do, of course! The process of moving DIY is stressful; individuals must manage the packing, organizing, cleaning, and hiring movers. 

We urge family members not to let seniors tackle a move alone. The stress of moving is both emotional and physical. Carrying boxes, lifting items, and managing all the other tasks involved with relocating and downsizing carry a huge emotional stress burden for seniors.

Why Is Moving so Stressful?

For us, moving isn't stressful–it's our job. The Senior Moves team focuses on relieving stress for our clients. We manage the tasks that they don't want to (or simply can't) tackle. Moving doesn't have to be stressful; with help and support from Senior Moves, seniors embarking on downsizing or moving to a senior community can focus on the joy of the journey and the new experiences and memories that await them. 

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