Susan Miller Answers Your Questions About Adjusting to a Move

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Is it normal to still have feelings of loss and wanting to go home almost two years after a move?

SM – So many times we push our feelings aside and do what we have to do as a wife and a mom. Yes, it is normal to still have feelings of loss – even after two years. You left behind a part of yourself and lots of memories, so you are indeed normal. The important thing is don’t let that keep you from moving forward with your life. Finding a church to become involved in is a good start.

How do we know if moving is God’s will or leading?

SM – Keep praying and praying for clear direction and wisdom.  When we faced those same questions with a move, God always had a way of opening doors and making it obvious or shutting those doors to make it obvious! Seek wise and Godly counsel, too.  Sometimes God gives us a broader perspective through godly counsel.  And remember, God is not a God of confusion.

What are some major moving stressors and how can a person reduce those stressors?

SM – The anticipation of a move can be stressful.  Just knowing the many things that have to be done in every arena of life before moving day can be overwhelming.  Reduce stress by making a list, by category, of what needs to be done.

The preparation of a move can be stressful. Preparing to pitch, keep, and pack items, and deciding what to take, what is shipped, and what might go in storage, can be physically exhausting.  Reduce stress by pacing yourself and taking breaks when you get tired.

The expectation of a move can be stressful. Fear of the unknown and anxiety over what lies ahead can be emotionally draining.  Reduce stress by talking about your feelings and fears with your spouse or a close friend.

I took the After the Boxes Are Unpacked study and it was exactly what I needed. I am finally moving forward after two years of stagnation after my move. Thank you! But I am so sad that the class is over. I am not ready to be totally out on my own. I journal a lot. Can you recommend verses or something to help me to continue to move forward?

SM – I’m delighted to know that attending one of our ‘After the Boxes Are Unpacked’ classes ministered to your heart and helped you after your move! I’m so glad you mentioned that you enjoy journaling. I created a journal for such a time as this in your life! It will help you to continue through the journey of letting go, starting over, and moving forward. It’s full of scripture to help you along the way.

What are some ways women who’ve moved can begin to “bloom where they are planted”?

SM – Try one new thing each day….Get up and get out…Join up and join in…Have a new attitude…Buy fresh flowers as a reminder that you too, will bloom!

Why does moving seem to be much harder on women than on men?

SM – Moving is something a man does and a woman feels.  A man sees a move as a task that has to be done, whereas a woman feels the emotional connection of relationships and the loss of community.

I am a single mom and have moved 10 times in the past 10 years and am about to move again. How do I get over the fear of putting down roots?  I just feel why put down roots, if I am just going to be uprooted again. How can I properly raise my son, if I can’t provide him with a consistent home?

SM – Bless you, single mom!  After 10 moves, I can understand your desire to put down roots, and yet be so afraid that it will never happen.  Begin to think “permanent” rather than “temporary” with this next move. Whether you will move again after this, who knows?  But look at this move with all the positive things that will allow you some sense of permanency.  A strong foundation and stability for your son comes from knowing and trusting God.  This brings peace and assurance that He is in control. Plant flowers when you move as a visual reminder that you are putting down roots!  Unpack that last box! Hang a wreath on the door!  Make your house a home…you can do it!  Cheering you on!

Do you have any suggestions for how we can reach out to our new pastor’s wife and make this transition easier without smothering her or expecting things of her that she isn’t comfortable with?

SM – Your sensitivity to your new pastor’s wife is to be praised!  Just being sensitive to her is an enormous head start.  You might want to consider suggesting these few things that would make her feel accepted, welcomed, and included:

  • The women in your church have a coffee, tea, or luncheon in her honor.  Perhaps each woman could introduce herself and offer a few words of encouragement, or bring a small gift (or group gift) that would be appropriate for a particular need in her life.
  • Compile a list of services in the area that she might need, but not know how to find.
  • Give her an area map, with highlighted places to go and things to see (or a list of those…).
  • Arrange for meals to be taken to the family for a week or so, until they settle in.
  • Ask her how a prayer team, or prayer group, can pray specifically for her.
  • Have several women who are available to her to address her questions, needs, etc. Ask them to check-in with her once a week until she is comfortable in her new surroundings.

We asked several pastors’ wives to give us feedback on this. Read their responses

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My husband and I have battled for six long years over living in Texas. We never agreed to stay here permanently. I detest living in this heat; and all year round. I have prayed and read and tried to turn it over to God. I am at wits’ end.  I am ready to leave my husband over this. I am ordering your book.  I have moved many times, even many times in the same year. I have always been an “it’s what you make of it” person. Why can’t I resolve this?

SM – I can feel your anger, anguish, and frustration in not being able to resolve this issue. Your marriage is obviously suffering because of your unhappiness in Texas.  I encourage you not to lose sight of what is really important.  Many times in the midst of our unhappiness, we allow that unhappiness to affect our relationship with our husbands. I know I did.  I had to make the choice to change my attitude and my heart from within, to learn to be content in whatever my circumstances were, and to never give up on my marriage! Bless you for seeking help through marriage counseling. Don’t give up—and don’t lose heart! Count your blessings, and don’t let the “heat” of Texas get to you! You can resolve this—with God’s help and your perseverance.

What are some issues that surface in a marriage as a result of moving?

SM – Some of the issues that can surface are bitterness, anger, resentment, loneliness, comparison and loss of identity–just to name a few.  We can all have issues, feelings, and emotions concerning a move.  It’s what you do with them that matters! Do you handle them in a healthy or unhealthy, constructive or non-constructive way?

My husband wants to move, but I do not. The move would take us away from all of my family and I would like to be close to my parents as they age and as we begin having children. This has the potential to become a major point of conflict. Please advise and counsel as to how I should pray and how my husband and I should tackle this together. I want to follow God’s path, not my own.

SM – I certainly understand how you feel. I, too, went through the same feelings and emotions when we moved from Atlanta to Phoenix! I remember thinking at the time that as much as I didn’t want to move, I wouldn’t want to stay behind without Bill! As many times as we moved (not all my choice), God always honored my obedience, even when I didn’t have my heart in the right place. I would love to respond with an answer that would somehow unite you and your husband in your decision. I can only lead you to the One who does have the answers, the One I turn to in my time of question and doubt: Jesus Christ. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
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I have three children and have lived in the same town for 17 years, but still don’t feel connected to anyone. My closest friend died of cancer and I am divorced. My ex isn’t very involved with our children. I would like to move to a different state where I have family and friends. Also career opportunities are better for me there. Is it selfish for me to disrupt my kids’ lives by moving them to another state?

SM – You are facing an often-asked question by single moms, and the answer is never an easy one. “Do I stay for the children or move for a better life for all of us?” I know you want to do the right thing for your children now, and at the same time you are trying to think long-range as to what will be best for them, and you, in the future. Consider having a “family meeting” to get everyone’s input and feeling about moving and staying. List all the pros and all the cons about moving vs. staying. Pray about direction and guidance. Seek wise counsel. I will say moving before high school starts might be a little easier than moving after your kids are involved in the high school years. Also, “if mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy!” As a single parent, and the only parental influence in your children’s lives, your physical and emotional well-being will affect your children.

Do you have any advice for helping older children cope with mom and dad’s move?

SM – I know you are concerned about moving away from your daughter. The adjustment for both of you may be difficult at first, and that is to be expected. You can stay close heart-to-heart, as mother and daughter, as you both find ways to connect across the miles. She is entering a new season of her life with a full time job, and away from her parents. This is an opportunity for you to encourage her in that process. Reassure and affirm her, tell her you love her every time you talk on the phone, give her something to look forward to by planning visits together, and most of all, convey to her that she will always have a home to come to—no matter where you are!

My husband’s work requires us to move every two to three years to a new international location. What advice/counsel can you give to me about not having my family around for when we start a family?

SM – It will be a hard transition away from family when you move overseas, and especially when you and your husband start a family… but you can do it! You will find creative ways to stay in touch (through internet, social media, pictures, etc.), and you will plan visits for your family to come and for you to go. Find a church home (and church family) wherever you are—there are a lot of great churches in international locations. (Check with us once you know wherever you are going. We may have contacts there.) Remember that you will always have a heart-connection to your family, in spite of the distance between you. It’s like our relationship with God: nothing can separate us from his love and neither the miles or the ocean can separate you from the love of your family!

What are three major things children will want to know when they are told the family is moving?

SM – Why are we moving?
Where are we moving?
When are we moving?

Do you have any encouraging words for those people you leave behind as you move away? My biggest fear in moving is that my mom and dad will not understand.

SM – It’s always hard to say goodbye to those we love. I left behind my mom and dad during a critical time when she was very ill. The timing of our move was terrible and heart breaking for me and for her. I gave her something to look forward to in planning a visit to come see us or I scheduled a time when I would come back home to see her. I would send lots of pictures and cards and call weekly to keep her in the loop of our lives. The bond between us was grounded in our love for each other, not in the miles that separated us. Yes, being apart was not the same as being together, but we made it work through a commitment to each other as mother and daughter.

My husband has been transferred to another state and it will be a couple of months before my daughter and I can join him. I know this is going to be hard, but I believe God wants us there. Could you share some advice for our family dealing with this move?

SM – It is so important to communicate regularly (daily if possible) when a spouse must move first. Ask open-ended questions (not easily answered with a simple “yes” or “no”) and show interest about what’s going on in each other’s lives; this shows that you care. Be intentional about connecting, whether it be through phone, texting, email, or even a romantic card! Don’t let the distance between you become a gap in your marriage and parenting. Being separated by a move is never easy, but you can get through it. You’ll be together again before too long! Always “move” closer to Jesus!

When we move my husband will have his job where he will meet co-workers. I am at home with three small children and will find it much harder to meet people. I am also worried about how my children will adjust. Do you know scriptures that I can cling to during this very emotional and trying time for me?

SM – I feel your heart beat with emotions through your words. If only I could hug you right now! Find out if there is an After the Boxes Are Unpacked study in your area. Wherever there is an After the Boxes study there will be women who are ready to welcome and embrace you! Yes, this move will be hard, but God will bless you beyond measure through this! Here are references for some of my favorite scriptures: Jeremiah 29:12,13; I Peter 5:10; Lamentations 3:19-25; John 14:27; Isaiah 40:28-31 and 41:10; Psalm 37:3-5; and Joshua 1:9.

My question is really about my teenage daughter.  I see a move as most difficult for her.  She is at the end of her high school years and would like to graduate with her friends.  How do we soften the blow for our children?  They are just caught in the middle.

SM -Moving is most difficult for teens, especially for those graduating.  Some parents let their teen stay behind with a family (who offers) in order to be able to graduate with their classmates.  If that’s not an option, help her understand “why” the move is necessary, that it is going to be hard on everyone (she’s not the only one it affects), and allow her to grieve.  (Teens grieve over loss.  Sometimes they don’t know what to do with their feelings and need plenty of grace.) Yes, children are often “caught in the middle” of a move.  Keep them in the loop with what’s going on in your family.  I suggest you get a copy of But Mom, I Don’t Want To Move which will give you insight and help with these situations.
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I am so lonely in our new home because everyone has family close by and life-long friends around them. I have not fit in anywhere here. The kids are grown and gone and we live in a rural area, so neighborhood stuff is out of the question.  My husband does not understand what I’m going through. I need help and I can’t figure it out alone.

SM – I know you are discontented with your circumstances. Many times I had to choose to live above my circumstances, realizing that if I could not change the situation or a person in my life, I could at least change me and my attitude.  That change always began within my heart. Jesus Christ can heal your brokenness, change your heart, and renew your life. “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it.” (Psalm 37:3-5)

I was looking forward to moving, but now that I’ve been here for two months, the loneliness is more than I had anticipated. We’ve visited a new church each Sunday and can’t seem to find one that fits. It’s been much harder than I thought.

SM – I totally understand the loneliness you feel. Keep looking for a church home. That is a great way to find friends. Don’t expect too much, too soon. Give yourself some grace to make it. (God certainly does!) If there is not an After the Boxes study in your area, you might want to get my book After the Boxes are Unpacked from our website. I hope you’ll hear my voice of encouragement and God’s voice of hope throughout the pages. Videos of an After the Boxes study will be available for purchase and download in our online shop (by January 2017).

I have three small children. Grandparents are 2000 miles away, my husband is “spent” and unable to help much when he comes home, and I have few friends. I am lonely and exhausted most of the time. How can I “thrive” as a mom, not just “survive”? Or is that all I can do during this season of life? Help!

SM – The loss of friends when moving can be devastating and adds to our feeling of loneliness. It’s so very hard to be in a new and unfamiliar place, at home with small children, and not have any friends for support.  Focus on one positive thing each day. Look for a moms group in a local church and a Bible study for you that provides childcare. Remember, this season in your life will pass!

Can you offer any encouragement for those of us who have tried reaching out to others but find our efforts are getting us nowhere?  I truly feel like giving up and retreating into my shell for the duration!

SM – There are millions of women just like you, lonely and without friends.  I am so sorry your efforts to reach out and make friends have not worked, but don’t retreat into your shell! Join a class  of interest, a Bible study, or volunteer for something in your community. Please don’t give up and don’t lose heart! I don’t have the answers to all the “whys” when we move, I only know that God will not leave us or forsake us.  You may feel lonely, but you are never alone.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other and press on!
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Cross- Cultural

How does your book relate to cross-cultural moves? Do you have any specific information regarding missionaries and cross-cultural adjustments?
SM – I have such a compassionate heart for our “missionary movers!” I cannot begin to imagine what you and your family go through with a cross-cultural move, and all the things you have to deal with, in addition to the usual moving issues. As I tell all the missionary wives who contact me, my book may not deal specifically with cross-cultural issues, but it certainly deals with the emotions of moving, which all women face, regardless of what their circumstances are. It is full of biblical principles, scripture, and practical tips for letting go, starting over, and moving forward after a move. Many missionaries have read my book and found it very helpful. There are many good books on cross-cultural moves. If you do a little research online you’ll probably find a good selection.