Q. I’m thinking about selling my house, but I’ve heard that a widow should wait a year before doing so. Why is that time frame important?


After your mate dies, you’re likely to be numb, in shock, and barely able to put one foot in front of the other. This state gradually begins to ease for most of us, but it isn’t a straight line. There are setbacks and flare-ups. It can take a very long time to think clearly. Under such conditions, you’re in no position to make a life changing decision like selling your house or apartment—unless the loss of your husband’s income or other circumstances leave you no choice. What seems like a good idea now may look very different later on because you are in the process of building a new identity and figuring out who you are now that you’re on your own. 


Another good reason to slow down: Selling your house can be an unexpectedly stressful undertaking at a time when you’re fragile. This is true especially if your late husband was the one who always handled such matters. A huge number of details and “small decisions” fall on your shoulders. You’re in charge of choosing and working with a real estate agent and an attorney to handle the contract and closing. You probably have to pull out and cull through files of house-related information that have been stored in the recesses of your closets for years. It’s exhausting, even back breaking work. Anxiety adds to the burden if some important papers seem to be missing and you must hunt them up. As the closing nears, you must contend with decisions on which furniture to take or store and possibly arranging to sell part of the house contents. Utilities and the security alarm, cable, fuel oil, and home insurance companies must be notified of the sale, as well.


Yes, you can (and should) ask for and rely on help from family and friends. But much of the work can only be done by you—or takes too much time and effort to explain to someone else. If you’ve lived in your home for many years, you must also cope with the sadness of leaving the scene of so many memories.


For all these reasons, try to give yourself the gift of time.


If you have a question for Florence, please email her at fisaacs@florenceisaacs.com.


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


Image: Flickr Creative Commons / Images_of_Money

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