Her Grief: dealing with the loss of the love of my life.
They say selling your home is right up there in terms of stress, worse than divorce and nudging on life events like the death of a spouse. Well, I did not realise how stressful it can be. I am 12 years into being a widow. I thought I had put my grief to bed. However, when I decided to sell the house my late husband and I called ‘home’ for so many years, it felt like I had detonated a grenade.
During my ‘active grieving’ soon after my husband passed away, there were many days I could hardly get out of bed. Most of the time I felt numb. I often said to my friends it felt like I was on a ghost ship just drifting on a sea of nothingness, suspended between the past and a future that I could not possibly conceive.
I had okay days and horrible days. Some days my mourning was so deep there were no tears. Other days there was a steady seepage of pain and floodwaters refused to subside.
Finally, days that felt very dark changed into days that were sixes and sevens, and eventually I found a new way of being. They say time heals your pain, but I don’t think that is true. All time does is help you learn to live with your pain.
It all happened one morning – I woke up and heard a firm voice in my head that said, ‘that is enough – it’s time to move and get on with your life’.
So began my journey to sell our home. Not sure why I thought the sale wouldn’t plunge me into a deep journey of self-discovery. It has been 12 years. I had adjusted to a new life, even tried on a couple of relationships.
What could possibly trip me up with the sale?
It seemed an easy thing in my head. Well you guessed it – it wasn’t.
What I hadn’t bargained on was the fact that the sale would challenge me on so many levels.
Fixing the house up for sale seemed easy enough. I went at it with a workman like efficiency. I am proud to say, I have become an expert at using the caulking gun. I ‘no-more gapped’ every visible crack in my house into the wee hours of the night. In doing so, I also felt I was filling up little cracks in my heart that were left over from grieving the loss of the love of my life.
By the time I was done toiling for six weeks, the house looked gorgeous.
Stunning as a matter of fact. Neighbours and friends were amazed at the transformation and I let myself believe the house would sell rapidly. After all, I had done my research. I had spoken to four agents and they all agreed on the value of the property. Even the bank valuation came in at about the same price range. So the price tag I had put on the property seemed realistic. The lady who staged the house for sale told me, ‘This house is now a product – it no is longer your home’ – and I agreed – or at least I thought I had.
So what went wrong?
12 weeks after listing, the property had not sold. Plenty of interest, but no credible offers that I could work with.
It turns out nothing was wrong with the marketing plan of the property. Apparently we were on track.
What threw the spanner into the works was that my home was the last physical link to my late husband.
The longer the sale took, the more I had to deal with the idea of letting go. Why did I feel so debilitated about this? I felt frozen. All my analytical thoughts about the benefit of selling the house had gone out the window.
I let my heart take over. There was absolutely no room for even-keeled evaluation.
What happened to the idea that the home was now a product to be sold? It seem a reasonable thing to consider. Instead, as the weeks went by, after countless open homes and looking at new homes to buy, doubt started creeping into my mind.
Part of the challenge of selling the property you live in is that your ego or identity gets tangled up in it. Your ‘home’ is part of who we are, or at least that is what we let ourselves believe. So when a stranger comes into your home and makes you a ridiculously low offer, it can cut deep into your identity. For me, it cut even deeper into a wound that had not healed – my loss. It felt like no one cared I had lost my soul mate.
The reality is that the offer you receive for a property has nothing to do with you. It is all about what is going on with the buyer. But – I took it personally. I wanted someone to acknowledge that this was my home, my shelter, our love nest. The reality was, I was afraid of letting go of the house.
And here is the ugly truth. I was using the house as an excuse not to move on and start living ‘my life’.
After all, moving on from grief meant so many things.
It meant becoming clear about what matters to you, now that you are just ‘you’ instead of a couple.
It meant standing up for yourself, because no one will if you don’t.
It meant paddling my own canoe, instead of relying on someone else to paddle for you or with you.
That all seemed so very scary.
Michelle K. says ‘Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it.’ I happen to love fire, it has such a pure way of cutting to the chase. The best sword blades are smithed in a blistering fire.
For me, selling the family home was the baptism by fire that I needed – it was the alchemy that helped me let go of my grief and step into who I am today and who I will become tomorrow. Strong, resilient, feeling loved by my late husband, curious about what lies ahead and open to new experiences.
And here comes the happing ending.
I finally sold my property 16 weeks after it listed. I received an offer that was miles off what I thought I should receive in dollar terms. I ended up selling to a young couple who had a young daughter. It felt good to leave the house in the hands of young couple who will create great memories in the home that gave me so much joy.
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