Re-entering the real world after our daughter died was painful. Simple trips to the grocery store became a minefield of grief. It was so emotional to recount our loss to the unknowing cashier and felt devastating to see others avoid us only to scurry down another aisle.
It wasn’t only the grocery store that was hard. The route I walked while pregnant, the coffee shop I frequented, the gym I practiced yoga, all the usual spots where we lived our life no longer felt safe because my emotions never felt safe. I never knew when the grief would unexpectedly hit, I was constantly on guard unsure of who knew about our loss or to whom I would have to share our story, and navigating the awkward and sometimes trite condolences people offered triggered such anxiety.
Returning to our house was not much easier.
The home that we had nested in for months preparing for our daughter’s welcome, her nursery that I had spent hours in, folding tiny clothes, rocking in her chair and imagining her playing in that room, it all felt so devastating, painful, and hollow.
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Life had changed beyond recognition. The small town that my husband had grown up in, the one we imagined our children growing up, no longer comforted us. Friends that he thought would support him seem to resume their own lives and we felt isolated and alone. In fact, even the drive into town now felt so sad, lonely and a betrayal of what might have been.
Neither of us worked in the town in which we lived so there wasn’t anything holding us to staying there.
Now that the life that we had imagined no longer existed, we needed to imagine a different future.
We needed to move.
It felt urgent.
It felt necessary.
It felt right.
The decision was months in the making so it didn’t feel rash, but time couldn’t move fast enough. I felt trapped in my home as to avoid people in town but simultaneously felt a prisoner in my home that mocked the life that was supposed to be mine.
After we gave our notice and found a new home, the reality of leaving the space that was supposed to be my daughter’s room became real. We had not packed it away after she died and I couldn’t bring myself to do it to move either. My husband lovingly took that task for me and after I photographed each small detail, he packed her belongings into boxes. Seeing those boxes was the most devastating part of our move. Once we were in a new home it was real.
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She never existed in our new space, only in a memory of a house that was supposed to be a home.
Now I know that moving may not be for everyone, it may not be possible, and it may not even be the best decision for many families. This is a huge life change and not one to be taken lightly. I would recommend taking the time to really dive into what it is that you’re really hoping for and what you’re trying to escape while understanding that your grief will follow you to a new home or a new town.
Once we settled into our new home and new town, my anxiety did lessen. Our new home became a safe haven and the grocery store no longer held the same triggers. But ultimately, moving is a personal choice. For my husband and me, it was the best thing we could have done during that deep time of grief but it may not be for you.
Here are some questions I would consider when contemplating a move during grief:
- How would I feel away from the home that I created for my baby?
- Would a fresh start feel comforting or isolating?
- Is it financially possible to move?
- Am I looking for a new home or an entirely new town?
- Do I have a support system where I currently live?
- Will I have a support system in my new town?
If you intend to remain living in your town, here are some strategies to navigate your grief:
- Send a letter to your gym, dentist, coffee shop explaining your loss
- Prepare grocery store conversations
- Practice self-care after a difficult encounter and every day
Did you consider moving after your child died? What would you have done differently? What would you say to someone contemplating a move after their child has died?
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
Amie discovered a new appreciation of life after spending only 33 days with her daughter. She now raises 2 sons and takes advantage of every free moment to write, educate, and offer hope to bereaved families. Learn more about the books she has authored, her daughter’s non-profit foundation, and Amie’s life on her blog.