Q.  My husband died several months ago, and people keep asking me whether I’m going to sell my house and downsize or move somewhere else entirely. How do others decide what to do?

Therapists and counselors who work with bereaved spouses commonly advise: Wait a year or so before finalizing the decision, unless you have no choice for financial or other reasons. 

Why? Because a spouse’s death turns your life upside down, taking a huge toll on your physical and emotional health. You’re probably in no condition to think as clearly as you must about staying in place or moving. A decision that looks good at four months after the funeral may seem like a mistake later because you’re still reinventing yourself in a new role. 

Issues to Ponder

We’re all individuals in differing circumstances, but basic questions to ask include:

What kind of lifestyle do you want? Are cultural and/or educational activities important to you? If so, are classes or the arts accessible (and maybe free) where you live now? If you’re a golfer or tennis player, are courses or courts nearby? You need to set priorities. One widow, who lived happily with her husband in a house on several acres, felt isolated and unsafe remaining in it alone. She opted to sell and move into a condo in a nearby retirement community instead.

How will a move affect your support system? The danger is you can lose your network of friends of long standing. On the other hand, one widow told me, “I realized that most of my friends had either moved or died. My children were grown and had their own lives. They had to travel to see me regardless of where I lived.” She put her house on the market, bought a city apartment, and never looked back. “My husband was 13 years older than me, and we had discussed what I’d do when he died. I told him right away that I’d sell the house and leave the area.”

How important is medical care? Are you in good health, or do you have a chronic disease or condition that requires regular doctor’s visits and/or hospital care? Will medical services be more accessible elsewhere? How about public transportation if you no longer want to (or can’t) drive?

Does your plan work financially? Can you comfortably cover the choice you make? The value of your home may have escalated astronomically — or be hard to sell due to high property taxes.

Resist pressures from others to rush a decision.  To them, it looks easy.  But you’re the one who will live with it.  

***

Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest SympathiesWhen the Man You Love Is IllWhat Do You Say When, and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.

Image via iStock/RapidEye

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