The first time I was forced to move to a new home, I had no choice. I was seven and going into foster care! But what do you do when you’re forced to leave your home as an adult? You know you “should” be coping better, but you just can’t seem to let go of the past and settle into a new life.
These three ideas for handling an unwanted, unplanned move to a new home are inspired by a “She Blossoms” reader. She said:
“I’m struggling to move forward after a life-changing move to a new home,” writes Mimi on 6 Practical Ways to Find God’s Call on Your Life. “My husband and I were forced to move to a smaller place. I had to re-home my two beloved dogs, and the home we lived in for years. I was totally unprepared. I know my dogs have great homes and I’m in touch with their new owners. But I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster ever since we were forced to move to our new home. I’m trying to be strong but occasionally I break down. I see things that remind me of my old life and start feeling bad again. I hide my feelings from my husband because I don’t want him to think I’m unhappy. He’s done so much to make it nice for me. Most people don’t want to hear me whining about this anymore and I don’t blame them. How do I get past this, and start feeling good in our new home?”
Mimi mentioned her dogs, which gave me a great idea for this article! I’ll share what it was like to adopt our three year old dog (pictured below), and how she coped with an unwanted move to a new home. I learned a lot from her resilience and adaptability, and I think you will, too.
If your move involved giving away a dog or cat, my tips might also help you deal with the guilt and grief of rehoming a beloved animal.
When You’re Forced to Move to a New Home
We adopted our little dog Tiffy when she was three years old. Her previous owner was an elderly lady who was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer, and couldn’t care for Tiffy anymore.
When Tiffy came to live with us, she wasn’t more of a person than a dog. She didn’t know how to interact or play with other dogs, so my other dog Georgie didn’t have the playmate she was hoping for. Tiffy was carried constantly, so she couldn’t walk far. She ate at the dinner table — I think she must’ve had her own little doggie plate! She feels entitled to hopping up on the table and helping herself whenever she feels a little peckish. Which is all the time.
This little dog did NOT like being forced to move to a new home! She missed her old bed, home, routine and owner. But you know what? She’s not only adapted to our place, she rules the roost. She runs the show. She bullies the dog and chases the cat.
Today, Tiffy would sacrifice her life to protect us from dangerous animals, people and insects. She not only survived, she’s thriving! Here’s what I learned from her about being forced to move to a new home…
Give yourself time
Our little dog had diarrhea for a couple weeks after we adopted her. She could only walk for a block or two, and fell flat on her face when she tried to jump off logs in the forced. Whenever she saw a car, she’d run to it and try to jump in. “Take me home!” she’d say to the drive. “I don’t like this new place, I want to go back to my old home!”
It takes time to adapt — especially when you’re forced to move to a new home. Maybe it’ll take two weeks to adjust; maybe it’ll take two years. Go easy on yourself. You’re normal if you’re struggling to cope with an unplanned, unwanted move to a new place. It’s a huge life transition. Moving is one of the most stressful changes we face. Moving to a new home is hard…being forced to leave your old home and start over in a new place can be devastating.
Grieve your old kitchen, garden, front door
As a child I learned to grieve my losses and quickly adapt to new places because I grew up in three foster homes. On the other hand, my little dog Tiffy did not quickly adjust to moving to a new home because she’d lived in one place all her life. She didn’t know anything about grieving and letting go of the past (partly because she’s a dog, and not the brightest one in the yard).
Learn how to grieve the past. We don’t just grieve lost loved ones, we grieve lost homes, kitchens, bedrooms, even bathrooms. Meaningful conversations and experiences happened there! When I moved out of my previous home, I took 10 minutes to just be still in each room. I allowed memories of people and conversations to flood over me…and I said good-bye. This helped me move into my new home with a fresh spirit. I was sad, but happy too.
Your move may be especially traumatic because it wasn’t your choice — or it was a desperate decision that left you feeling helpless and trapped. If you’re taking a surprising amount of time to adapt, you may be dealing with unresolved pain. Maybe the unwanted, unplanned move to a new place is triggering some hidden pain from your past. Maybe you just want to go home because you loved that old place! You’re not just starting over in a new life, you’re grieving a huge loss. You may even be grieving older, buried losses you haven’t worked through.
Sometimes a forced move to a new place causes old childhood memories to surface. Maybe you were a kid who struggled to survive abusive parents and couldn’t leave home. As a result you may feel overwhelmed with fear and insecurity. This might block healing when you’re forced to move to a new home.
Be honest with the people in your life. Talk about how hard it is for you to be forced to move to a new home. Don’t pretend to be strong, don’t put on a happy face and try to be something you’re not.
If you feel stuck, get help. Reach out to a wise mentor or trusted friend. Learn how to “actively grieve” your losses. Focus on the balance between grieving your old home, and claiming a new life.
Help From Courageous Women
In Courageous Women of the Bible: Leaving Behind Fear and Insecurity for a Life of Confidence and Freedom, LaTan Roland Murphy shares wisdom and inspiration from Biblical women who not only started over, they were often forced to leave their homes.
Gain courage from women who lived fully and deeply, despite the worst circumstances. Learn how to live confidently no matter what situation you’re facing. Hold on to the strength, wisdom and freedom of women who have gone before us!
Above all, fix your mind on God. If you rest your identity in Jesus — if you accept His grace, love and healing — then you won’t need the physical security of a certain home. You won’t wonder what to do when you’re forced to move to a new home, because your heart will be set on His home.
If you don’t know Jesus, learn about Him. The depth of joy, peace, freedom and love He offers is incredible…and it’s a free gift.
What do you think about these ideas on how to cope with an unwanted, unplanned move to a new home? Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below! I read every comment, but don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk.