It was mid-October and we had been in the new house a month or two. My daughter LOVED the new house. She had her own room with a bunk bed, a tree house, a hot tub… and a big yard to play in every day. Except for the evening when we moved, most of her attention over these weeks had been on how fun and exciting it was to live in our new house.
But on this particular evening, 8 weeks in to living at the new house, my daughter uncovered feelings of loss about leaving the old house. When I was tucking her in, we were praying (part of our usual routine), and she asked if we could pray a blessing for our new house. As I was praying for the new house, my daughter let out a sob and turned and threw her arms around me. “I miss the old house SO much!” she said. The tears came readily, and she quickly had big fat tears streaming down her cheeks, and sobs coming from deep in her belly.
The light had been out, so I turned it on dimly so she could see my face as I listened to her, propped up on my elbow. At first I just made little noises of compassion, occasionally adding, “You really miss the old house!” or repeating other phrases she had said.
Then she started talking about the particulars of the old house, like “There were four steps leading up into the house and it was perfect for my sli-i-i-nky! (sob, sob) And this house doesn’t have enough steps for my slinky to go down!” She would cry for a minute or two and then remember something else she loved about living in the old house, like “Remember how you would pull that cutting board out of the kitchen counter and pull my high chair right up to it, and then I could eat breakfast right next to where you were doing the dishes! (sob, sob) Now I never get to stick so close to you while you do the dishes!” Or, “I miss that couch with the big cushy cushions—we made the BEST forts with that couch! (sob, sob).” With each thing she mentioned, as she started to slow down with her sobbing, I would quietly add, ““Good-bye steps!” or “Good-bye favorite-spot-at-the-counter!” or “Good-bye cushiony couch!” at which point her sobs would deepen again. When the sobs lessened, I would repeat the good-bye, until it ran out of steam, and then she’d move on to a new “favorite thing” to say good-bye to.
It was sweet to hear the long list of things that mattered to her so much about our life together in our old place—details that made up her experience of “home” there. The old house was actually a tiny little cottage that was right next door to the new house. After she’d been crying heartily for about 30 minutes I suggested that we go look out her bedroom window from where we could see the cottage. We sat at her window, her on my lap, for another 15-20 minutes, with her looking longingly at the little cottage, saying, “I loved that home SO much!“ and sobbing deeply, with big fat tears, remembering more and more about what she loved there. At one point she said, “I feel like if I never see inside that cottage again my heart will break into eleven pieces!! (sob, sob).”
Eventually her sobs settled down, she wiped her face and said, “I’m ready to go to sleep now, Mommy.” I tucked her in and she slept deeply for twelve hours. The next day there was no sign of the upset of the previous night, and she was back to enjoying her life in our new house. I imagined how different my life would have been if with every move I had had the chance to say good-bye—with attention and in detail—to each and every tiny thing I loved about the previous house. I took this to my next listening session, and had a good hearty cry myself. Once again, following my daughter’s lead, I got to clear out a little section of my own old hurts that had previously gone untouched.