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  • Writer's pictureJim Vogel

Moving On: How a Change of Location Can Help You Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

The wake is over. A few more of your friends have left with promises that they’ll keep in touch and check on you. Several hours earlier, you had laid your loved one to rest. And now, after you close the door when they leave, you’re finally alone. If you have children, they’re probably in their rooms processing their own grief. What will probably be the hardest days of your life are about to begin.

Eventually, whether it’s months or years later, the grief will be replaced with what novelist Jonathan Safran Foer calls a “useful sadness.” By now, you and your family have probably re-established a routine and have been using some coping strategies to deal with the loss. However, there’s one coping strategy that might give you a fresh perspective on life at this time: moving to another location, whether it’s across town or across the country.

For those who are grieving, staying in the home they shared with the loved one can be overwhelming, since every room might generate a memory, and collectively, those memories might create overwhelming sadness. If you choose to move, however, the change of scenery might refresh your perspective and allow you to continue your grieving in a healthy, healing way.

If you believe you need to move, follow these suggestions:

Determine Your Current Home’s Worth

As you consider moving, determine your home’s worth so you can price it for sale. You can either perform the research online or speak to a realtor. An online search might give you a quick overview of the value, but a realtor knows the housing market better and can set a value that’s more on target. If you are going to downsize to a smaller home or an apartment, you will most likely save money on your rent or mortgage and utility costs as well. As an added benefit, you won’t have as much house to keep clean and maintain.

Determine How Much You Can Afford on a New Home

Just as important as knowing how much to ask for the home you’re selling is to understand how much you can afford to spend on your new abode. Additionally, you’ll need to research your borrowing options to determine what kind of mortgage to get and which lender to work with. Conventional loans are a good option for most homebuyers, because you only need a modest credit score, can have as high as a 50% debt-to-income ratio, and can pay as little as 3% down. Still, depending on your financial picture, there are several types of home loans that can help you move to the next chapter of your life, so speak with your financial advisor about your options.

Determine Which of Your Loved One’s Possessions You Wish to Keep

If you’re going to downsize when you move, you won’t be able to bring everything you have with you. Before any move -- even when a loved one hasn’t died -- you need to sort through everything to determine what will go with you and what will be donated, sold in a yard sale, or thrown away. It’s more difficult when you are sorting through the belongings of a loved one. Gloria Horsley of HuffPost states that you should go through this process with friends for support, and not do it all at once so you’re not overwhelmed. Unless an article of clothing has a sentimental value for you (such as a favorite tie or scarf), you should donate your loved one’s clothes to a charity or invite friends to take what they like.

Next, decide which practical items to keep, such as a favorite set of wine glasses or your wedding china. As much as possible, stick with the items that have special meaning and will work in your new home. If you’re undecided on what should stay and what should go, put some items in a storage facility until you’re ready to go through them with a more critical eye at a less emotionally raw time. Remember, the decision of what to keep and what to let go is exclusively yours, and you shouldn’t rush the process.

Determine Your Destination

Give plenty of thought to where you want to live. Don’t just pick a city because you think you might like it. Thoroughly research where you want to go. What’s the climate like? What is there to do? If you have children, are the schools highly rated? Financially, what are the local housing costs? If you plan to buy, how much would you pay in property and sales taxes? Are rental units available in your preferred school zone? Find answers to these questions before you decide on a place.

The decision to move to another city after the loss of a loved one is intensely personal, maybe even necessary for your soul, and it might ultimately be one of the best ways to help you cope with your grief. The important thing is to do what’s right for you.

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