Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Should You Move After the Death of a Loved One?

The conventional wisdom is to avoid making any major decisions for six to 12 months following a loss. However, sometimes the bereaved have no choice but a quick relocation. Perhaps the deceased was also the breadwinner, and the mortgage is too expensive with the change in income. Or maybe the home and neighborhood simply hold too many painful memories. But while moving after loss has its challenges, it’s also a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start. Here’s how you can manage the work in this difficult time.

Set Your Priorities

Before you put your house on the market, think about what you hope to gain from the move. Do you want to downsize to a more manageable home, move closer to your support system, or find a change of scenery? Will a new location grow your income or lower your cost of living? There are a lot benefits to moving after a loss, but too often we focus on what we’re leaving behind, rather than what we’re moving toward.

Find a Rental

Depending on the market, selling your home could take weeks, or it could take months. If you need to move ASAP, consider renting a furnished home while your house is on the market. Not only will you spare yourself the financial stress of taking on another mortgage before your home is sold, but you’ll also give yourself extra time to find the right house and coordinate your move. If renting isn’t an option, or you need support while grieving, consider temporarily staying with family instead.

Stage It and Leave It

Living elsewhere while your home is on the market offers another benefit. Rather than cleaning and staging your house before every showing, you can stage it once and forget about it. Hire a professional stager or follow Designing Vibe’s guide to do it yourself.

Take Packing Slow

Packing is always tough, but when you have to sort through a deceased loved one’s belongings, the stress can feel unbearable. Give yourself ample time to pack so you can break the work into small chunks. It’s an emotional process, and spending day after day on it will leave you drained and depressed.

Learn to Let Go

After a family member dies, your house is filled with memories. But as What’s Your Grief points out, “Though some of these items may be comforting, many are just small and painful reminders of the absence in the house.” While it’s hard to part with even small reminders—an unfinished to-do list, a tattered pair of shoes—it’s not practical to hold onto everything. If you’re having trouble letting go of insignificant belongings, ask friends or family for help.

Preserve Good Memories

In addition to things that have to go, you’ll be faced with piles of stuff you want to keep. But even then, the amount might be beyond what’s practical. As you decide what to keep and what to discard, ask yourself these questions:


  • Does it conjure a memory?
  • Is it a good memory or a painful memory?
  • Will I use it or look at it?
  • Do I have the space?


If you’re certain you want to keep something but space is limited, think of creative ways to preserve the memory. You can turn old T-shirts into a quilt, digitize a record collection, or turn the dust jackets of favorite books into a one-of-a-kind collage.

Accept Help

There’s nothing quite like the loneliness of grief. But no matter how you feel, you don’t have to do it all alone. Ask family and friends to help where they can, and hire services that make the transition easier on yourself. For example, a one-time cleaning of your old house costs as little as $92 - $197 and saves you a day’s worth of stress. Other services will pick up and deliver donated goods, stage your house, pack up your stuff, or even assemble furniture in the new house.


When it comes to buying, selling, and moving, planning is essential. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to think clearly when you’re in the midst of mourning. Take it slow, be patient with yourself, and outsource work where possible so you can focus your energy on grieving and healing.


Image via Unsplash

Doug WeitenDoug Weiten
Doug Weiten Realtor RE/MAX Advantage Realty 15 years Real Estate experience