How to Manage Moving Grief

Asma Rehman, LPC

What does it mean to be grieving?

Grief, as it is commonly misunderstood, isn’t just about recovering from a loss brought on by death. So what is grief? What does it mean to be grieving?

Going by the straight definition, grief is: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss.” 

This definition is a pretty good one, but Grief Recovery takes it one step further: “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”

Because grief isn’t just about loss in the commonly understood way. We all experience loss in all types of change, but rarely do we recognize the emotional process we go through in extreme changes as grief.grief

Why do we experience grief with a move?

Just like with any big changes, moving brings a loss with it.

While you gain new experiences, new opportunities, new relationships and a new environment, you also lose those from your old life. Your past home, your friends, your job, your routine, they all stay back while you move on.

When this happens, we can be overwhelmed by an array of strong emotions.

Sadness, over what we have lost. 

Excitement, over what we have to gain. 

Fear, over the unknown. 

Frustration, over the time it takes to adjust. 

Anxiety, over making the “wrong” decision. 

All of these emotions are strong in and of themselves, but when we are feeling them all at once it can be especially difficult to navigate. The fear is in conflict with the excitement which is in conflict with the sadness which is in conflict with the frustration, and on and on.

Recommended Reading: Grieving Relationships We Didn’t Have


griefThis process, this range of conflicting emotions that comes with change, is called grieving.

How can we manage it?

While there is no quick fix for grief (just like the rest of our feelings, the best thing we can do is give ourselves space to feel it) there are a few ways you can ease the overwhelm that comes with it. Recognizing your grief and giving yourself a chance the experience it instead of trying to push it away will help you through the process without feeling like you’re totally losing control.

Here are a few ways you can work on managing your moving grief:

1). Give Yourself a Chance to Say Goodbye

Even if you are moving for a positive reason (a better job, a nicer home, a new step in a relationship, etc.) you are still leaving a place you called home. And no matter how long it was your home, it provided you a space you needed in your life. Give yourself time to express gratitude for the experiences you had there, the comfort you found, the happiness you had there. Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting all of those good things. Giving yourself a chance to reflect on what you built in that place and expressing gratitude for it can actually help you feel more at ease with your move. You have gotten all you need to from this home, and now it is time to move onto the next.

Recommended Reading: 13 Journal Prompts to Practice Gratitude

2). Give Yourself a Chance to Say Hello 

Part of what makes moving so scary, is often we have this sense of not knowing what comes next. You had a routine at your old home, you knew what was coming each day. When you move away, everything is new and different.

Just as it’s important to say goodbye to the phase of your life that you’re leaving, welcoming in the new phase is vital. Reflect on how you grew at your old home, and think of how you want to grow in this new phase of your life. Remind yourself the reasons for your move. Spend time thinking of the opportunities you have to gain, and what you want to make of this new environment.

3). Don’t Block Out Your Old Life Completely

Transitioning into a new place is hard. Don’t make it harder on yourself by completely getting rid of your old life. Do you have routines you like to stick to? See if you can work them into your life at your new home. Do you usually get together with a friend for lunch? While you’re adjusting and transitioning, see if you can have that lunch date over the phone. Small things like that can help the transition easier, and help you manage the conflicting feelings you have over the move. It helps you establish something new without completely cutting off the old.

If you’re dealing with grief and need assistance, our licensed therapists at Grief Recovery Center can help. You can also get online counseling if you live in California, Colorado, and Texas.

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7 Responses to How to Manage Moving Grief

  1. Steve A February 13, 2022 at 7:01 am #

    I moved when I was 14.5 years old it was devastating leaving family friends familiarity
    sports teams the weather move to a place
    I felt like I was in another world anxiety
    depression anxiety angry fearful scared
    loneliness aloneness it was hell 50 years
    later still hell

  2. Lauren November 16, 2022 at 1:37 am #

    My entire childhood I moved around so much, from different towns to even different states in different regions of the country. Right now I live in a region of the United States that I’m completely unfamiliar with, I’ve lived here for about 2 years now. And for a while I didn’t know what I was feeling, there’s always been these constant feelings of disconnection, loneliness, and grief. And no one here understands what I’ve been through, and they never will. People underestimate these feelings a lot, but they are important as well. It’s just so frustrating. I miss the life I had so much, and I know I’ll never be able to go back to it, even if I moved back.

    • Tanz January 13, 2023 at 10:56 pm #

      I know how it feels to be somewhere it feels like no one will understand what you’ve been through. I didn’t move around a lot as a child but I made a big move last year and still miss my family and friends. It’s still hard and hits me sometimes how almost everyone that I love is so many thousands of miles away. Today, I was wondering how it’s crazy that I can’t easily hug friends and family and the feeling of missing them and being able to talk to them easily, due to differing timezones is only increasing as the day goes on. It’s hard to be this alone in this. But your comment helped me feel that bit less alone so, thank you. I pray you find home where you are soon.

  3. Caged Bird July 8, 2023 at 3:50 pm #

    Even after stumbling across this site by chance, the sting of being forced to relocate still doesn’t get any better. You see, I’m moving to another province for the first time and I have spent all of my life in Ontario. I guess I was in denial until I started seeing more packed boxes every day. A part of me was intrigued by the idea of living in another province, but the transition will probably leave me with a full blown agoraphobia since where my family and I will be moving to is completely in the middle of nowhere. To make a long story short, I’m only moving away from everything I know for my family and that I don’t have any other choice. I feel so trapped.

  4. Anonymous December 4, 2023 at 10:41 pm #

    I just moved from the States to Canada. I knew, at some point, I’d be homesick. Well, it hit me. The grief is all encompassing at times. I don’t regret moving at all. I love it here. It’s beautiful and the people are all so friendly. But, I miss home. I miss my friends. I miss the familiarity. Some days, I cannot get off my couch. It’s heavy and I don’t know how to process it all.

  5. Isaac January 7, 2024 at 10:19 am #

    I just left my old home that I had lived in for eight years. 12 days later I still can’t move on from it. I’m only eleven, so I’d lived there the majority of my life. Even now I still cry quietly to myself until I fall asleep. I feel so lost, like I left behind a part of myself moving here. Some days I can’t even find the motivation to get up out of bed because I no longer have a place where I can just go home to and feel safe.

    • E.T.M. June 8, 2024 at 10:18 pm #

      You seem very intelligent. I know how painful it is to be so intelligent at such a young age. I realize it’s been a few months, so maybe things are different now. Still, I hope you have found some comfort. But you still have many years ahead of you. There is plenty of hope. You may lose your home, but never your hope.

      I find myself in the same situation now. Again. It’s the most painful thing.

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