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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Moving Cross Country, Part 2: Loss of a Home

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 11th 2008

 "Where we love is home, that our feet may leave, but not our hearts." Oliver Wendell Holmes.

As I discussed in the last posting, my wife and I moved cross country for the second time in four years and this has given rise to many observations about the experience. In this posting the issue will be about some reflections about the recent and ongoing mortgage crisis in our nation and the meaning of losing a home.

Have you lost your home to bank foreclosure, or some type of disaster? If yes, you are one of many who has been through one of the great tragedies affecting millions of Americans today.

There is a huge difference between voluntarily deciding to move versus being forced out of home because of defaulting on mortgage payments or even due to natural and human disasters such as wars, hurricanes and earthquakes. Certainly, the loss of one's home is more traumatic and tragic than a voluntary and carefully planned move to another part of the nation or world.

Of course, the difference between events over which one has no choice and those that people have chosen to do is a sense of empowerment and control. When tragic things happens such as being caught in a terrorist attack, earth quake or hurricane, people are left with awful feelings of helplessness. In addition to the feelings of traumatization that are left to these people, there is also depression. That depression often results from the awareness of a lack of control over life events.

In that way, those who have lost their homes to either the mortgage crisis or various other disasters. enter into a period of grief much like that experienced by those who have lost loved ones. Add to this that loss of family often occurs in natural disasters and wars, the sense of despair deepens even more.

All of this is worsened by the fact that home has a special meaning to human beings. There are a myriad of quotations going back to our ancient philosophers having to do with the role of home in our lives. For example, home is the place we associate with safety, love and nurturance. As Robert Frost writes, "Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in." But what if you have lost your home due to mortgage default or any other disaster?

In his article about "Grief and Bereavement Issues," Dr. Dombeck states that "Grief is the process and emotions that we experience when our important relationships are significantly interrupted or (more frequently) ended, either through death, divorce, relocation, theft, destruction, or some similar process." People who lose their home experience grief and go through a difficult process of mourning made worse by the fact that they need to find shelter, a safe haven elsewhere.

Today, there are countless numbers of Americans who have lost there homes due to the mortgage crisis. In some cases, their plight has been aggravated by the general down turn in the economy and the recently announced rise in the rate of unemployment.

How do people cope when they find themselves caught in tragedy of events?

If you or someone you know has been forced to go through a foreclosure on your home, please respond to this posting with a description not only of the events around this but of the emotions you endured or are enduring and how you are coping. Of course, as always, all comments and questions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD




Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Moving and Trauma - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Mar 20th 2010

Hi Phil,

Your comment is powerful and filled with emotion, insight and sadness. I urge you to find a good psychotherapist so you can begin working on your issues of defending against intimate relationships.

Thank you for your contribution.

Dr. Schwartz

Moving and Trauma - phil - Mar 19th 2010

For over ten years now I have had serious relationship problems.  I've started examining my own history in order to determine whether much of what is going on is resulting from something in my own internal past. Growing up as a child of an army officer I moved regularly from an early age. The first few moves I remember were accompanied by feelings of dread and terror--an almost violent sense of loss. My first day of school was accompanied by similar emotions (which I expressed outwardly), as were many subsequent first days of school. Being forced to leave home was bad enough--being forced to leave one's mother was even worse. At some point however the physical process of moving became something in which I found comfort, as did the thrill of entering a new school, organization or social arena and whatever emotional damage happening was being repressed. I now find these feelings of dread are what drive me away from committing to others in relationships.  But it's not a conscious process. I only realize it when I sit down and ask myself hard questions and force myself to give honest answers. What I arrive at is a premature sense of loss and predetermined decision to leave before being left. We sabatoge in order not to be left behind.  I'm sure that all of this is nothing new. I simply thought I'd share since I had it on my mind and the website was at hand. Thanks. PM

loss from home and family - Raymond Chandler - Apr 30th 2009

I can relate to this story of loss from home and family.  I had a friend lose their mother, which they took care of, and then their home due to foreclosure. After fighting for her home in court for months the financial strain took its toll and she had to move. I suggested some some storage companies to help her keep her furniture until she got to her new place. She still fought the foreclosure but still had to move out.  She’s still fighting with the courts on the issue, but with two big losses in a year’s time that terrible loss really affected her and her family. She’s sill optimistic because she said it always could be worse and she still has a roof over her head.  When she get settled in her new place she’ll still have her furniture and personal effects but her kids miss their home and grandmother.   Beyond everything she’s shown me there’s always a reason to smile because she’s still happy after the loss of so much.

Trying to cope with multiple losses - Hopeful - Nov 20th 2008

I will keep this as short as I can. First the mortgage crisis occured,we lost home,husband lost mortgage business,had to move out of state with husband's family, I had to leave mom,daughter,grandchildren ,all my family. After 3 months of not finding a job yet I learned it is true that 2 women cannot live under one roof for very long,I know they want us to leave but we have no where to go. But I am a christian and I know that God will turn this around in his due time in the meantime I am trying to cope with this devisitating situation one day at a time.I do not look forward to the holidays this year,will not be with any of my family.

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