I remember the day I drove home from the hospital up in Brunswick, Georgia, with the hard realization that Rich would never be walking up to our front door again. That is a sobering and defining moment. During the 3 weeks he’d spent in the ICU, each drive home was filled with a glimmer of hope that maybe there was still a chance that I might bring my husband back to the house he’d just truly begun to think of as home.
There really are no words that can capture the emotions during that first step into a space forever changed in ways that no one can see. It’s no wonder then, when spending time on-line reading the posts of my fellow-widowed, I see that everyone handles a lovingly shared, now forever changed space, differently.
There are of course so many variables that influence the choice made to stay or move away. One of the biggest factors is one’s financial situation. Is there a mortgage, how high are your property taxes and insurance? Are there homeowner or community fees? How large is the remaining family? If there are children is it in their best interest to stay in a familiar neighborhood? Is there family nearby? Also there is age to be considered. How long can you maintain your property and home on your own, large or modest?
These are all practical considerations, but even if you are able to stay in your home, there is an emotional element to be considered. You just can’t help to relive so many unique moments that are captured in the most “neutral” form such as furniture, artwork, even a hutch filled with wedding gifts you just can’t relinquish.
After a time, when the fog lifts and the dust settles (that will also greatly vary by individual), some aren’t able to carry on in a space that just is no longer the same; or just brings unrelenting heartache. Many can’t even sleep in the room now vacated by their significant other.
For me, my home is my haven. It was the last great creative endeavor shared by Rich and I. For the most part we agreed on color schemes, furnishing and placement. When we moved here to this sprawling stucco home in the south, we faced an empty slate and together we built what I came to call Villa Haven.
Sometimes I try to explain to those uninitiated how it feels to lose a spouse. One analogy I’ve used is to picture a house undergoing interior renovation; nothing appears to have changed, as the exterior looks the same. But no matter what presents on the outside, assume that there are many inner structural changes taking place continually; whether the dwelling has remained in place or the inhabitant has chosen to start with a new shell elsewhere.
We become sort of like that hermit crab my late nephew Zac once had as a pet. When a hermit crab continues to grow, it must leave its protective shell and seek another one that suits that stage of its development, but its home is always where its heart is.