How Grief is like a Home Renovation

I’m not one who relishes in change.  When things are going along well, I like to keep it that way.

This is why we never really bit the bullet and made any major changes to the house.  Some new paint color one time made a difference but making big changes seemed too overwhelming to us.

Unlike the loss of my husband, which was sudden, I have contemplated doing a new kitchen for years.  I made sketches and pinned photos to a kitchen and living room board on Pinterest.  I envied the idea of an open concept and imagined what it would look like to remove a wall in my house.  I even met with a professional kitchen service and had them give me ideas  – and an outrageous quote.  I decided to put off any changes a little longer.

Well this year it was time.  I had put aside some money.  Before I encountered any more leaky pipes or broken appliances I had to just jump in and do this.

My first reaction was to be overwhelmed.  Why did I have to pick out the color of the cabinets? Where should the refrigerator go if the wall is removed? What color paint is trendy – or the one that I want? I don’t have any idea.

I wanted someone else to just come in, like they do on TV, and surprise me with a beautiful new home and life.

Well, life isn’t like TV.  I was going to have to make some choices on my own.  Like it or not.

That is sort of what happened after Mike died.  I did not want to have a dead husband.  I did not want to make decisions about my life and think about what to do next.  I guess that could be considered denial or avoidance.  It works for a little bit, but not for long.

So once I hired the contractor to knock down the wall and install new stuff, it was up to me to pick the cabinets, appliances, countertop, hardware, flooring, lighting, and let’s throw in a new bathroom too. Some people think this is fun.  I was a little scared.

Eventually, I was able to make some decisions and move forward with this project.

This happened after the loss of my husband.  I acknowledged that he was really not coming back and that this life was going to be different.  It was never going to be the same but that didn’t mean it was going to be awful.   I would be able to figure this out.

I would have to make some decisions to go on living.  I would need to get out of bed.  I would need to show up at work and accept invitations with others to socialize.  I would have to take care of the things that need to be taken care of – like the cars and the bills and the future.

Selecting the color cabinets was easy, but who knew there were so many different shades of white?  The color of the paint and the hardware had stumped me but finally was decided.  I ordered some things on line, a lot actually.  So far no major glitches with on line purchases.  I am hopeful.

I have the best contractor and team of professionals.  That is huge I know. They are trustworthy and neat and honest and perfectionists.  It is coming together this week and I am really excited.

Moving forward after loss gave me an opportunity to take some trips that I had always wanted to take.  I took some vacations with family and traveled on my own.  I wanted to redefine myself from the woman whose husband was murdered, to the woman who travels independently.  Maybe no one else says that, but I do.

And once I had redefined myself I gained confidence to find a new love.  I like being married.  I was kind of good at it, last time it lasted 26 years and we still liked each other, a lot.  I have been lucky to be blessed again with a wonderful new husband to love and look forward to spending many happy years together as we move into our carefree retirement years.

Changing the house from the home I lived in with my late husband and children to an updated showplace has suddenly become very exciting.  I can see it all coming together and it is looking so good.  I am impressed and I can visualize living in this space with a huge smile on my face.

Grief will always be there and I still have triggers that bring back sad feelings.  Mostly I miss my loved ones.  My mom passed away 4 months ago and it is around now, these cold dark winter months, that my siblings and I have started to feel it even more.

Mom was away in either Florida or New York, but she always called us.  At least once a week.  We miss talking to her.  I have so much I’d love to tell her about my first year of marriage again and this home renovation.  I’m sure I can ask for signs when I have a question on the backsplash or toilet paper holder.  Hope she comes through with ideas that I like, but it’s not the same.

Just like a home renovation, grief is never ending.  It does get better, but there is always something else to deal with.  After the kitchen, the popcorn ceiling in the den should really be replaced – and don’t forget to stain the decks this spring.

Taking baby steps, no more that you can handle at one time is important.  When you are ready, take those big steps just keep going.

With grief, you may need a new job, to sell a house or to move to a new place.  These are big decisions.  Take time to think about it – then just do it.

Only one way to go – forward.  It’s not always a perfect path, but there is no going back.    If it can be changed, change it.  If not, let it go.  Don’t stay there.


Albert Einstein

how grief is like a home renovation

14 Responses

  1. I am so sorry first of all that you have lost a precious gift of life as well happy that you found your life in track again. This post that you have made on your home renovation is such a post that it was like talking to you in front. Thanks for this amazing content.

    1. Thank you so much for reading. It was such a joy to see the house renovation all come together.

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Runaway Widow
Join me, Kristin, on my journey to adjust to the sudden death of my husband and learn to live as a young, middle-aged, remarried widow.

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