When parents die, the children sometimes move into their parent's house temporarily as they tie up loose ends. Others might move in permanently after inheriting their parent's estate. Some people may struggle with living in their parents’ house after they die because of the stigma attached to a house where perhaps someone has died in it. While others may find comfort and solace living in the space once occupied by their parents.
A house is said to hold on to memories and we've all heard the saying, "if only these walls could talk." There's a lifetime of memories attached to some houses. Regardless of how much time your parents spent in their last home, living in their house after they die can be an unsettling experience for some. Below we’ve put some suggestions together to help you live comfortably in your parents’ house after they die.
1. Accept the Gift
One of the hardest things to accept is that both of your parents are now gone. You'll most likely feel the pain and sorrow, or other types of grief, attached to their absence within their home. Whenever there's any type of memories attached to a house that was once a parents’ loving home, there can be an air of melancholy when coming back to an empty house after they’ve died.
Trying to make your parents' home your own can be challenging and seem like an insurmountable task when you’re still grieving their loss. One of the first things you can do to help you feel more comfortable moving into your parents' house after they've died is to accept the gift they’ve left you.
Even if you're only living in it temporarily, consider it a time for you to grow closer to your parents even after their death. Whatever time you’ll spend in the house will give you an opportunity to live like they did, look through their things, and imagine what their life was like behind closed doors.
2. Bless the House
Before settling into your new home, consider having a house blessing ceremony. These ceremonies help clear any lingering energies that may be creating some emotional turmoil for you. Even if you're completely comfortable moving in and aren't experiencing any negative energies, bless the house anyway. This is a way of preparing the house for its new inhabitants and bringing forth good energies.
House blessings are common to most religions and spiritual traditions. You don't have to belong to any particular faith or sect to have your house blessed. You can do it yourself, or ask your spiritual leader to conduct the ceremony for you. A typical house blessing consists of the following:
- Cleaning and decluttering the home
- Choosing an auspicious move-in date
- Inviting family and friends
- Lighting a candle
- Reciting prayers
- Sharing a meal
3. Invite Others
Inviting others to help welcome you into your parents’ home will make things less awkward for you than if you were to move in without any ceremony. By moving into your parents' house, you may feel as if you're invading their personal space, and you may not feel comfortable taking over living there.
Inviting friends and family to help you move in can help fill the place with energy, talk, and laughter. Sometimes their approval is all that's needed to make you feel more at ease with turning this into your new home.
4. Go Through Each Room
There's nothing wrong with going through each room and introducing yourself to your new space. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the house's every nuance and hidden corners. You might want to take the time to go through your parents' personal belongings one room at a time.
Take the time needed to handle this with the care and ceremony that it deserves. There’s no need to rush through every room getting rid of their belongings.
In addition, here are some examples of what to do when someone dies as you prepare to move into their former home:
- Secure all the valuables
- Look for hidden treasures
- Locate the last will and testament
- Separate personal belongings with special meaning
- Gather items to donate
Read our full guide on cleaning a parent's house after they die for more details.
5. Ask Permission
Some might find it strange asking the house for permission to move into it. Others might see it as a sign of honoring the inhabitants that came before. Whatever your thoughts are toward it, asking for permission serves two purposes. The first is to vocalize the change in ownership and inhabitants, and the second is to take ownership of your new home.
Becoming comfortable in your new space can begin with a simple introduction and explanation of why things are now the way they are. Talk to your new house and explain what’s happened and why you’re there.
6. Make it Your Own
Regardless of how long you intend to stay in your parents' house, it's important to make it your own, even in the smallest of ways. There are lots of things you can do to make yourself feel more at home in someone else's house. If you're only there long enough to take care of all the end-of-life issues that come up when someone dies, you won't need to do much to make yourself feel comfortable living there.
But if you are planning on staying long-term, find subtle ways to start making it your own as soon as you move in. You may not want to disturb your parents' place all in one fell swoop. Take your time in getting a feel for the place, taking in all the memories, and thinking of ways that you can make this house your home.
Redecorating a home can be a long and expensive process. But sometimes it's necessary to do so to transition the place from your parents to yours.
Redecorating can be as simple as changing the color of the walls, to an all-out remodel job. You don't have to spend all of your money redoing a house to feel comfortable living in it. Try experimenting with paint and a change of furnishings.
For example, if your dad died in his sleep, you may want to start with the bedroom he died in. This will freshen up the place and lift some of that residual energy from it.
8. Throw Out the Old
Throwing out the old and starting with the new can begin with simple and inexpensive things like bed linens, bath towels, kitchen towels, and ordinary everyday things that you might already own.
Replacing these basic items with your own will help you quickly transition into your new home. When you hold on to things belonging to your parents, you'll find it harder to adjust to living in their home. Make small changes at first, and replace the larger ticket items when things start settling down for you emotionally.
9. Bring in the New
Bringing in the new doesn't necessarily mean replacing all the old things with new things. It can also mean filling your space with friends and family so that you can create new memories together in your new space.
Invite your family over to spend some time in your parents’ old home so that they also have the opportunity to find closure. If you're an only child and don't mind parting with some of your parents' personal belongings, invite your extended family to take home things that have special meaning to them.
10. Light a Candle
Burning a candle can bring your home spiritual peace and calm. Lighting a candle when someone dies is a way to honor and remember them. When you burn a candle in your new space, you can set your intentions from the moment that you select which candle you'll burn.
Here are some helpful definitions of what each type of candle means.
- White candles represent spirituality, peace, and the holy ghost
- Pink candles represent emotional well-being, love, and compassion
- Green candles represent wealth, success, and prosperity
- Yellow candles represent joy, happiness, and lifting of emotions
- Light blue candles represent calm, soothing and healing
11. Play Music
Sometimes when you don't know what to say when someone dies, playing music can communicate what words can't or fail to. Consider putting together a playlist of your parents' favorite songs and inviting your friends and family to come sit in on a listening party.
Surrounding yourself and your home with the sounds of music can help lift your mood and raise the vibrations in your space. If you're feeling especially down and need a lift when you're alone, try playing some spiritual music or meditative sounds.
12. Make a Shrine
If you're not entirely comfortable removing all remnants of your parents' life from their home as you make it your own, consider setting up a memorial shrine or altar in a special area of the house.
You can adorn a table with their photos, special mementos, flowers, and a candle burning in their honor. This can be a place for you to contemplate their lives and death, remember them, and honor them. Say a few words in their honor and ask them to watch over you as you make their house yours.
Making Your Parents’ Home Your Own
Living in your parents’ house after they die can fill you with a lot of emotion. It may be difficult for you at first to get used to living in what was once their space.
Consider all the memories, love, and joy of the moments shared in that house when your parents were alive when you look for ways to feel more comfortable living in it.