When a husband dies there are immediate financial repercussions. Though experts suggest waiting a year before making any major decisions, some things cannot wait. One of these might be whether or not to stay in your present home. For the majority of women, a spouse’s death drastically affects their overall financial situation. Staying in the existing home may not be an option in the long run because it’s not affordable. But even if there is the ability to stay in the home, the emotional factors play a huge role in the surviving spouse’s decision on whether to find a new place to live. The grief doesn’t end with a move but finding a new place to live may help avoid certain triggers associated with the existing home.
Recently I checked responses on a widow/ widower website group that asked how long members waited after their spouse died before moving. The answers were cryptic and did not explain the reasons for leaving the home, though many said something along the lines of it being “too difficult” or “too painful” to stay. The interesting thing was that of the 77 posted answers, 49 respondents had moved within the first year, eight more had moved by year two, and an additional ten moved sometime over the next few years.
That left only ten people who didn’t move after their spouse died. In terms of percentages, 63% of the people who answered had moved within 12 months of losing their mate. This number increased to 73% by the end of year two and only about 14% reported that they were either choosing to stay or had yet to move. Also, only one person reported regretting her choice, a regret she tied to losing an especially beautiful view.
A caveat is in order that my review of a single website may not represent the broader population of bereaved spouses. Nonetheless, these results suggest that despite the standard wisdom, among those who experience a spouse’s death many will choose to move during the first year. Given this tendency, how can the newly bereaved make the best choices concerning a move? It’s helpful to remember that grief affects decision making which could cause us to make errors for the following reasons. When we are grieving,
-it is difficult to process new information well,
-we may be emotionally out of balance so don’t have the mental resources to carefully
consider all the options,
-we are more likely to be pushed into taking advice, and
-we are in so much pain that we may impulsively act on something that promises immediate
relief without considering longer term implications.
These effects on our thinking are the reasons behind the advice not to make major decisions the first year. Yet if you are still going to move regardless, try to discuss your options with a wise confidant or trusted family member. They may offer a perspective you hadn’t considered or point out considerations you had overlooked. Additionally, just expressing your doubts and concerns to someone who cares might help you think more clearly and feel better .
The bottom line is that a spouse’s death is among the most stressful life events a person can experience. Moving adds additional stress but may be necessary or feel necessary depending on the individual circumstances. If you can, recruit others to help you make the best possible decision and then also help you to implement it. Rather than thinking you are being a bother, consider that you are allowing others to feel useful and loving to you at a time when you genuinely need it. There will likely be other seasons where you will get to do the same for them in return.