oodbyes are a part of life. Sooner or later, we all have to let go of some of the people and the places and the things we love. For most of us, it’s something we’ll have to do again and again--and it never really gets any easier. But goodbyes are the first step in moving on to the next phases in our lives, and we will face them. Knowing how to face them will help make the transition a little easier. And the one goodbye we all have to look in the eye at one point or another? The childhood home.

Written on the Walls of Your Childhood Home

Home is a tricky word. In most cases, it’s the people we love most in the world, the ones who make us feel the safest and the most comfortable, and the way we feel when we’re with them. It’s game nights in the living room where your younger brother makes up words with his Scrabble tiles because you’ve been undefeated for the past three weekends; it’s late nights baking brownies with your mom because you both forgot it was your turn for snack day the next day and you won’t have time to cheat and pick up cookies from the grocery store in the morning; it’s tears dried from your cheeks when you face your first major deadline and wonder if you’re ever going to finish it. Home brings out our most sentimental and sappy bits.

It’s not a place, but so often when we think of “home”, there’s some kind of place, some specific location on the map where we can point to all of our fondest memories. Maybe it’s behind four walls of brick and mortar; maybe it’s your old regular coffee shop in the town square, where you used to meet your best friends for coffee on the weekends back when you all still kept in touch. There’s a place out there where our hearts are anchored, so even if we still have the people we love most around us, it can be difficult to say goodbye to that place. It’s the physical embodiment of the memories we hold dearest. It’s the place we feel the safest returning to when life gets tough. If that goes away, then what do we have left to cling to?

Some homes will quite literally fall apart. You may never get back the building you once grew up in, but remember that the memories make the home, not the other way around.

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Your Childhood Home

For most of us, our homes are places we leave and come back to again and again over the course of our lives. Early on, we might just leave for a weekend sleepover at Olivia’s house. Later, we’ll leave for longer periods of time as we venture out into the world to study and find ourselves. And even when we finally move out, we still return for holidays and birthdays and anytime we need our mom’s help to work through the mess in our heads when we face one of life’s trials.

Inevitably, though, we’ll all have to look at our childhood home for the last time--whether we’re aware that it’s the last time or not. We’ll have to come to terms with leaving behind the place where so many memories once lived. We’ll have to learn how to keep them with us instead of anchoring them to a specific location. We can’t hold onto our childhood homes forever, and here are some reasons why:

Your parents have passed.

It’s awful to think about, but just like we’ll all eventually have to say goodbye to our family homes, we’ll also have to say goodbye to the people who raised us in them. We’re born and then we live and then we die, and thus is the cycle of life. Eventually, your parents will pass, and when they do, you may be left in charge of handling their estate. In some ways, this might be healing, albeit bittersweet. You can sit with the house for a bit while you reminisce on the experiences you had there. The time you’ll have to actually say goodbye to the physical house is much greater than it would be in other scenarios.

Your parents are downsizing.

Most people start to think smaller as they get older. Especially when it comes to those who’ve reached retirement age, the idea of downsizing might be particularly enticing. It can be a way to decrease clutter and to just live overall happier and more relaxed lives. Your parents may be in this boat. Maybe they’re seeking out warmer weather, or maybe they just don’t feel the need for a house so big when there are only one or two of them living there. In either case, if your parents are looking to downsize, this means they may be selling your childhood home as well. Depending on how close you live to your childhood home, as well as how well your and your parents’ schedules align, you may not actually have the chance to say goodbye to the house itself. You may need to seek out other means of letting go.

Your childhood home is worse for wear.

Nothing is built to stand forever. What once bore your heavy footfall up and down the stairs and along the narrow hallways might now be unfit for anyone to live in. It might be overrun with termites, or infested with toxic mold, or torn to shreds by an unforgiving storm. It might be unsafe for anyone to live in--your family or otherwise. And if it’s unsafe, it will probably need to be torn down to reduce the risk of hazard and harm to anyone who might come into contact with it. Once again, you may need to find other means of saying goodbye to your childhood home if you’re faced with a situation like this.

Letting go isn’t easy, but it’s necessary to moving on and growing as a person.

How to Say Goodbye to Your Childhood Home

Losing a childhood home is, well, a loss. You may experience some grief in the process, but say goodbye you must, and you will get through it. Whether you’re given the chance to take one last walk through the house or not, there are an abundance of ways to say goodbye to your childhood home and to heal from the loss you may feel because of it.

Talk about how you’re feeling

You’ll leave your childhood home with a lot of memories. Some of them might be good and some of them might be bad, but regardless, you’re going to be left with a lot of feelings. And whenever you feel overwhelmed with those feelings, it’s always best to talk about them. Whether that’s with a family member or a friend or a partner, any little bit that you can get off your chest will help you to start healing. If you think you might need it, seek out a therapist. Grief is grief, and there are services out there that can help you get through it.

Let yourself grieve

Speaking of grief, try to remember that it will get better eventually. The pain you may be feeling at your loss might be overwhelming at first, but over time it will start to fade. In the moment, though, it’s perfectly fine and perfectly normal to just let yourself feel it. Wallowing in the pain for a little bit can make it all the more sweet when you do start the healing process.

Saying goodbye to a childhood home is going to be a transitioning period no matter what. For some, it might feel like the end of an important chapter in your life, or maybe even the end of an era. Change is rarely easy, so treat yourself with kindness if this does leave you feeling an overwhelming sense of grief. You’re not alone in this.

Find something to hold onto.

One thing that can really help some people to transition is finding a keepsake, something from their childhood home that they can hold onto even after it’s gone. Even though the memories are what make a home feel like home, sometimes we need a physical reminder to project those memories onto. If possible, visit your old home before it’s sold and see if there’s something you can take with you. If this isn’t possible, contact a family member to see if they might have something from your childhood home that you can keep as a momento.

Leave something behind.

For some of us, it’s not the absence of a house for us to return to that bothers us, so much as the fact that we won’t be a part of the house anymore. Before it disappears forever, do something to leave your mark on your childhood home. Don’t deface it, but maybe add a final mark for your height on the wall in the kitchen, or write a note on the wall with a pencil.

Whenever you have to move on from something you’ve grown attached to, there are always going to be some negative feelings attached to that. But try to remember that your memories are something you can always hold onto, even if your childhood house isn’t still there for you to return to. And even more importantly: there are so many more memories ahead of you.

Mar 4, 2020

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