I recently got back from England – from Sheffield – where I just spent what I would categorize as the hardest two weeks of my life, sorting, organizing, and making my parents’ house ready for its new owners. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.
We moved there over forty years ago when I was 12, and while I haven’t lived there permanently since I was 18, it’s been a constant fixture in my life ever since, and a home away from home whenever I’m in England.
Saying goodbye to this house was so difficult, and of course represents much more than losing a house, though that in itself is plenty.
I am so grateful that I had years of practicing the Alexander Technique to help me at this stressful time, as well as the love and support of my dearest and oldest friends. I don’t know what I would have done without you.
A few friends suggested I set aside time to say a proper goodbye.
Another commented on my blog about having a final look around somewhere he was leaving once it was completely empty. That sounded very appealing to me. I have distinct memories of “exploring” the house with a friend before we actually moved in when it was empty, so it would have felt like full circle to do that again at the end.
Sadly, I was not be able to do that, as the final clearing of the house by the professionals was done after I’d left. Even so, I did, of course, have a final look around, when much had been removed and dismantled, though it was not completely empty.
It felt important to say goodbye properly.
I combined the suggestions that appealed to me most. On my own in the house for the very last time, this is what I did:
I have the photos of the house looking its best taken by a professional photographer this summer for the marketing when it went up for sale (including the one at the top of this post). They kindly gave me all of them. I also have several I have taken myself. On my very last time in the house, however, I took photos of every room, just as they were – somewhat disheveled and dismantled, but with corners that looked the same as always. Real photos.
I silently made a video starting with me walking up to the house and in and out of every room. I haven’t had the courage to look at it yet, but I’m so glad I have it.
- Keep Memories and Release
The very last thing I did was to go intentionally again into each room in turn. I consciously thought to myself that I was keeping MY memories, reminding myself that they would always be mine. I then released the room on to the new owners. It felt important and right.
One of the last rooms I went in was the kitchen. As I started thinking about releasing it to the new owners, I saw a basket sitting on the floor by the back door – it’s place for many years. That basket has been in my life as long as I can remember. Perhaps my parents received it as a wedding present.
I vaguely remember my mother using it as a shopping basket when I was a very young child. In more recent years it was used to collect papers for recycling.
When I saw the basket, I didn’t want to release it!
So, I released everything else in the kitchen and took the basket with me. It now has a new home with my friend Miriam, and I’ll now see it whenever I visit Sheffield, along with a few other items she, and other friends, have received, including pictures, mugs, the dining room table, my old desk, and even my mum’s old music cabinet.
Finally, after I left the last set of keys in a drawer for the new owners and clicked the door shut behind me for the very last time, I thought again about keeping my memories of being in the house – all of them – and released it to the new owners, wishing them well as they start making a new home for themselves and their own memories.
This is how I said goodbye. I am grateful for the many wonderful years and visits I spent there.
Now I’m back in my own home in the U.S., I feel weirdly disconnected from my life – I don’t really know how else to describe it.
I do know that it always helps me to remember, I am free to feel whatever I am feeling – that I am free to feel ALL my emotions. I don’t have to be able to describe them, or even understand them. There’s no “right” way to be or feel or do things.
I am free to be me.
How have you said goodbye when you’ve had to leave important places in your life? Have you had something of a ritual, or been intentional about it in some way? What would you like to do in future?
As always, I welcome your comments. Please leave them in the space below.