My partner and I recently moved from Toronto, where we had lived for some time, to a much smaller city. We had wanted to move for a while and had time to prepare, but that is not always the case. Sometimes circumstances change and we find ourselves in a new house, neighbourhood, city, or even country. Though we did have time to plan, I still felt some pretty serious shock and loneliness the first time we found ourselves alone in our new place after our helpful moving crew had left.
Just making the decision to move can be a big task. We certainly thought of several different places before we decided where we’d end up. And it can feel daunting: how do you decide where is right for you? And then it can feel like a cascading series of decisions follow that really big one.
Moving involves lots of logistics even if it’s just you. Add in partners, kids, or pets and it can involve all kinds of preparation. No matter if you’re a super planner or more the type to throw it all in a box and pray, it’s important to plan for more than just moving stuff. Organizing means finding new schools, work, transportation, but also social events, making friends, finding things that you like to do, and building a community in a new place. All of these take their own thought and preparation.
Planning is all well and good, but what about the times that we miss the things that made our old home feel like home? What about friends, family, and the comforts and routines we had developed? It’s absolutely ok to miss these things. Often times we tell ourselves that if we only focus on the positive things, we can put hurt behind us. I don’t think that is true and I think we need to give ourselves space to grieve any losses that come from a move, no matter how much we are looking forward to our new home.
Thinking of small rituals or ways to say goodbye can be very important for this. You can take pictures of places you loved, make sure you connect with people one last time, or do a farewell tour. All of these help remind you of the meaning these things had for you. It also gives you an opportunity to think of how you can find similar people, places, or activities in your new home. Sometimes we need to embrace being a tourist and learning new things about our new home.
In the end, moving somewhere new always involves stepping out of our comfort zone — that is obviously challenging. We need to be compassionate with ourselves about the struggles that we might have in exploring new places and developing friendships. Taking time to remind ourselves of how far we have come (sometimes literally) is always helpful. In the end, our mindset will have a profound effect on how we adapt to our new surroundings. We can think of moving as an adventure and decide that we are going to explore a new part of town each week.
We need to be patient and kind with ourselves. Sometimes it can be helpful to have support in making decisions, processing goodbyes, exploring new places, and dealing with discomfort. That is why talking to our therapist about these big moves is always helpful.