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Grieving for a House and the Times I Shared There

In 2013 my husband’s aorta split like a garden hose. I drove him to the hospital and arrived “just in time,” according to an emergency room nurse. My husband was bleeding to death and surgeons operated on him twice in an attempt to staunch the blood. No luck. They operated on him a third time and, while they saved his life, my husband had a spinal stroke during the operation and it paralyzed his legs. Our lives had changed forever.

Since my husband couldn’t return to a three-level house, we put it up for sale in March of 2014. We thought our Cape Cod home, with its story book garden, would sell quickly, but buyers preferred the newly-constructed homes up the street. I cleared the house out by myself (one of the worst experiences of my life), and built a wheelchair accessible townhome for us. Ten months later we finally sold the house. Our realtor asked me to do a quick walk-through of the house to ensure nothing had been left behind.

I couldn’t make myself go to the house. Days passed and I still didn’t go and kept finding excuses: laundry, errands, writing, grocery shopping. Odd as it may seem, I’m grieving for a house I loved and the life I had there. My grief began when the house first went on the market. Every time I drove by I said, “Good-bye dear house.” As the months passed my thoughts changed to, “Someone will want you dear house.”

And it was a dear house, one that sheltered us from Midwestern blizzards and fierce thunderstorms. When our daughter, the mother of our twin grandchildren, died in 2007 from the injuries she received in a car crash, the house sheltered me. It sheltered me two days later when my father-in-law died. Two months later, when my brother died, the house sheltered me again. The twin’s father died in the fall and I was comforted by the house yet again. It sheltered me when I became co-guardian of my grandkids and they moved in with us.

The twins were 15 ½ years old at the time and they grew to love the house. In fact, my granddaughter would conduct mini house tours for her friends.  Two days from now, the house will officially belong to someone else, and my grief has gotten worse. Selling the house has sparked an anniversary reaction and I find myself crying for my deceased loved ones. I find myself reliving experiences as well.

Still, I have wonderful memories—family Christmases with my loved ones, birthday parties, my grandchildren’s high school graduation party, luncheons for friends, reading in front of the fire with my husband, picnic suppers on the deck overlooking the woods. Usually I’m prepared for anniversary reactions, but this one caught me by surprise. The reaction has been painful, but I know it comes from the love I feel for those who are gone. I continue to be comforted by the cozy house and the memories we created there.


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About the Author

Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 35+ years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support, and World Speakers Association. Hodgson is a Forum Moderator/Writer for and author of eight grief resources.

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