‘For Sale’– The Day Grief Showed Up as a For Sale Sign

June 21, 2022

I open the text to see a house listing— my mother‘s house. Truthfully it’s not hers anymore, we sold it shortly after she passed. In my eyes, it will always be hers, she built it and we filled it with memories for decades. Because of that it will forever be hers to me. 

I’m surprised by my intense emotion. It looks like sadness but feels like heartbreak—like I’m mourning this house all over again. Never has a “For Sale” sign felt so harsh and unexpected. The first one wasn’t easy but it was placed there by us, a choice made out of necessity. This one, placed by the new owner, a choice made for change.

It doesn’t look right or feel right. The doors are blue, aqua to be exact. The tree my grandpa planted is gone, as if it never existed. The yard is bare and empty— mirroring my heart and the hole that seems to have appeared. I know it looks different because it is different, but I don’t like it. I don’t like the changes or the feelings that have risen from the sign boldly declaring change, right there in the yard. 

I click on the link and scroll through additional pictures. The house is unrecognizable, with the exception of one room— the purple bathroom. Of all the rooms they could have changed, of course this is the room left untouched, it was my mother’s favorite. It seems fitting they kept this one delicate space, unchanged and still reminiscent of the influence she carried graciously. 

I cry a little more with each photo highlighting all of the changes and transformations that have occurred since we sold it. Funny how the house has changed just as much as I have since grief entered the equation. Grief leaves nothing untouched. It’s traces are everywhere.

I know my mother is what made that place special and it’s simply a foundation of wood and brick, but it’s literally the house that held our secrets and our traditions. It’s the house that was built by hard work and sustained by love— unwavering and one-of-a-kind. It feels weird to now see another family come and go from a house we would have never left had my mother still been alive. 

This home held meaning. It held moments and memories. I know those left the house with us, but it still feels like if I think and wish hard enough my mom might still be there. Like her life and legacy are so powerful that she’s still hidden and tucked away inside the walls of that place. She isn’t, but I certainly wish it could be that easy. 

Maybe what feels like pain is just an unexpected reminder that it will never be ours again, nor will it ever be a place where her laughter bounces off the walls or her voice echoes from the stairwell. 

I know it’s not this house that makes me sad. It’s the grief that ripples from this silly “For Sale” sign. It’s the visual display of loss and change and things that are out of my control. It’s me missing my mom in a new way, even after years without her. It’s wondering if the next family will cherish it as much as we did. If they’ll know how much beauty created the space they’ll soon occupy. 

It’s the way it felt like home, until the day it didn’t.

Today is that day. The day I said “goodbye” again. The day I realized you never stop letting go of things even after the ‘final’ goodbye. 

The day grief showed up as a “For Sale” sign. The day a home went back to just a house.

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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