To move or not to move can be a difficult choice

  • The author's house is filled with happy memories of Baheej, their children and grandchildren. Here Baheej is with four of his six grandchildren in a photograph taken more than 25 years ago.

    The author's house is filled with happy memories of Baheej, their children and grandchildren. Here Baheej is with four of his six grandchildren in a photograph taken more than 25 years ago. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted10/17/2020 6:00 AM

Making a move, especially a big move, has many consequences. Twenty-eight years ago, my dear husband Baheej and I made a very big move from Massachusetts to Sleepy Hollow when I went to work for Motorola.

A big move may mean leaving a house you love and where you've lived a long time -- leaving your old neighborhood and community behind, possibly to a different part of the country. In our case it was huge and complicated.


Ours turned out to be a great move, but it took a long time to adjust and find our way in this entirely new community, rebuilding a social life. And further, Baheej commuted a long distance for two years, Boston to Chicago, before he gave up his tenured job and our place in Massachusetts. Once he felt I was indeed happy with my new job here, he found a new teaching job in Chicago.

When Baheej died eight years ago, I stayed put. I did not move. I remembered how difficult that move in 1992 had been and, for several reasons, I thought I'd be better off right here. And I'm glad I stayed. I had a good understanding of the difficulties involved in a big move and did not want to start over. And everywhere I looked in the house there were happy memories.

However, when a dear spouse or partner dies, a person may be faced with the need, desire or wish to move -- if not immediately, then as the months pass.

Moving is one of the biggest decisions and changes you, or a surviving parent if their spouse dies, can make.

There are at least four considerations regarding this decision about moving:

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One may be financial because some just cannot afford to stay because of lost income. Secondly, a person may want to stay in their familiar surroundings, in a home filled with comforting memories, providing it is financially feasible. On the other hand, and thirdly, a person may find staying in the same home or apartment is too sad, with too many reminders of the loss. He or she therefore decides to move new surroundings. And fourthly, a person may simply want to live closer to grown children and grandchildren, or near other relatives.

So how does one sort through all of this?

Well, people are in many different situations and vary widely in terms of their wants, feelings and how they try to manage and cope with grief. Some thoughts about whether to move or not to move while grieving a loss are the following:

1. It's good to take your time and reflect on what is best for you. It's hard to make a good decision quickly, while in the stress and sadness of a death. Eventually a person will come to grips with what is best for him or her. It depends a lot on how you feel about your home and surroundings -- comforted or distressed over all the reminders?

2. Feelings often depend on how long you've been in your home and how attached you are to it, whether a house or apartment.

3. It may depend on whether you have supportive friends or family near your current place. There are nice people everywhere, but it is not possible to "replace" -- and very hard to leave -- your best and longtime friends, or move away from nearby family. Actually it's easy to underestimate how difficult this will be. And even more difficult under the current coronavirus "stay at home" conditions when it's hard to make new friends or join new groups, or attend group activities, services and meetings.


4. When moving to be close to children, grandchildren or other family, think about their jobs there, where they are now. What are their career paths? Are you relatively sure they plan to stay put? It is quite possible they will be transferred or move for a promotion or a better job opportunity, And, if so, is their current location a place where you'd like to be -- even if they move away?

5. If possible, in all the above circumstances, make a gradual move. Make a trial run. Not all people have this luxury, but it can help a lot in making the right final decision.

If you are considering a location where you've already spent lots of time, either through visits or vacations, then you are already a step ahead. If not, perhaps you can find a way to "move" on a temporary basis without cutting yourself off from your old setting. Give yourself a chance to get to know the new area -- and see how it feels to actually be living in the new setting.

Taking this gradual approach 28 years ago helped us a lot. By the time Baheej and I made a permanent move, we had bought a house and knew we liked the location and would be happy here.

So the point is: Making a big move is very complex with many considerations and consequences. It's a very serious and individual decision. Not all decisions need to be immediate. Taking some time to think it through is a good caution.

To move or not to move? It can be successful either way, depending on your considerations.

Wishing you or your parent all the best.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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