Handling the Emotions of Moving Day

January 22, 2021

Updated June 20,2023

It’s moving day. By late this afternoon, your parent will be in their new retirement community.

You’ve worked hard to get here. To start with, it wasn’t easy convincing your parent to leave their house, even though it was clear they weren’t safe living there anymore. And then there were all the arrangements to look after – fixing up the house, selling it, booking movers… Helping your parent sort through all their things – deciding what to do with all the stuff that won’t fit in their new place – wasn’t a picnic either.

So, now the movers have arrived. And as you stand in your parent’s living room, the place is beginning to look so… empty. A shell of itself.

Emotions can suddenly catch up with you

And then it hits you. Once your parent leaves this house today, they’ll be closing the door on a big part of their life. This place – where you may have been raised, that holds so many family memories – will cease to be their home anymore. The thought of some other family taking possession of it seems strange all of a sudden, now that it’s about to happen.

If you’re feeling this way, you can only imagine how your parent is feeling. Maybe you’re ambushed by a moment’s guilt, but you remind yourself that this move is for the best.

It’s tempting to suppress these types of emotions when they bubble up, to focus on the task at hand and make sure your parent is well and truly settled in their new home before the day is done.

But the fact is that this move represents a huge change in their life. And with that change will come a sense of loss and, yes, even grief. It’s important to acknowledge this.

That doesn’t mean that moving to a retirement community was the wrong decision to make. But it would be a mistake to assume that the adjustment will be simple for them.

Create Closure

One way to ease the emotional burden of moving day is to create closure with your current home and community. Before the big move, take the time to say goodbye to the places that hold significance to you. Visit your favorite local spots, have a farewell gathering with close friends, or write a letter to your home expressing your gratitude for the memories it provided. By honoring and bidding farewell to your past, you'll be better prepared to embrace the future.

Blue couch surrounded by moving boxes
Plan ahead but expect the unexpected

Striking a balance

So, what can you do to get through today, striking the right balance of sounding upbeat about the move and respecting your parent’s feelings?

Remember, moving is hard. If your parent express second thoughts or sadness, don’t try to convince them they shouldn’t feel that way. If you do that, it tells them it’s not okay to be open with you. Instead, acknowledge their feelings. Say something like “I can see how you’d feel that way.” Maybe admit to feeling something similar, if that’s the case. That may be enough. Don’t jump to defending the move.

Plan ahead but expect the unexpected

It’s going to be a day of upheaval, no matter how well the move was planned. Accept that problems will crop up. Try to deal with them in stride and keep your sense of humour.

That said, think about what you can do to make things go as smoothly as possible. Make sure that you set aside anything your parent needs that day – like medications, toiletries, a coffee pot – so that the movers don’t pack them in a box. Also, consider setting aside an item or two that will make the new place feel like home soon after they get there. Perhaps a few family photos or a familiar mug.

Moving can be overwhelming, and disorganization only adds to the stress. Establishing a clear plan and staying organized throughout the process can help alleviate some of the emotional strain. Create a moving checklist that includes what you need to take care of for the retirement home as well as tasks to complete leading up to the move, such as packing, notifying utility companies, and updating your address. Breaking down the moving process into manageable steps will give you a sense of control and reduce anxiety.

Work with the retirement community to coordinate the move-in time. If possible, get a to-scale floor plan of your parent’s new place ahead of time, take measurements of their furniture, and figure out on paper where things will go once the movers deliver them. It will save a lot of aggravation on moving day, particularly if social distancing is in effect.

Get the help you need

If you’re looking for a referral to a senior-friendly mover or you’re still helping your parent to find a suitable retirement community, we can help. Contact us today for trusted referrals in the senior living space.

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