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Moving Out, Moving On, Holding On to What You Can

My friend recently packed up his house of forty years. He has already moved across the country to a new life in a place where he has family connections and warmth in the winter. He loves being free of the responsibility to mow, shovel, trim, and weed. Now, he is back here temporarily to make his departure official. He left a fine limestone house behind and sold it to someone who is ready to start a new life too. I used to live at the end of the street, and I did the same, packed up and left some years ago.

Now he spends his days sifting through his papers and all the things he already left behind, deciding what still has a place in his new life, and where the rest should go. He has plenty of time to think, good because we all need time to take stock when we turn a corner.

We review our joys and accomplishments. We remember scenes of family life, good and bad. We remember tragedies and disappointments. We remember soothing children after nightmares, sleepless nights over how to pay the bills, the anxiety of waiting for the child out past curfew. We recall moments of gratitude for grit and support when times were tough. We pack up our emotional accomplishments to bring along; and leave the physical remnants behind in the recycling bins to be hauled away to have new lives themselves. We make space for new people to move in to advance their lives.

After a loss, we receive warnings against great changes in the first year, as if a clock is ticking down the days until we will be trustworthy again. What we need instead is counsel to take stock as we go through that year and all the rest to come—what is important now; what can go? How long do we stay; when is it time to go? When a decision is carefully made, we carry it out.

As my friend put it, “I enjoyed ridding myself of so much, but at the same time listening carefully to my heart as I went through ALL those memories. And focused on the positive.”

Most people don’t think of grief as a gift, but I do. My friend does too, calling his experience in these recent days “the giftedness of grief…Moving out…grieving…moving on.” Our long friendship will survive, not lost, just relocated.


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