The help desk: 'My mother has sold my childhood home and I feel desperately sad. What's wrong with me?'

'In mourning its loss, you are mourning your parents' marriage and your father'

Q. At the end of last year, my mother sold her house, which I grew up in, and in a few weeks she will move out to live nearer to my sister and her family. I'm in my thirties and haven't lived in the house for years, though all of us still visit there lots, but I feel desperately sad and can't stop thinking about it.

It's a large place, too big for her now she's on her own. My father moved out when I was a teenager, and died 10 years ago. My youngest brother moved out five or six years ago. Obviously, I don't expect her to keep it. I just wonder how I'm going to bear it, especially as I'll need to help her pack everything up. My husband is actually losing his mother, who has terminal cancer, so I feel ashamed to mind this so much and don't really dare show anyone how much it hurts me. What is wrong with me?

A. 'I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes – until I met a man who had no feet." That's an old Jewish proverb, and if it were really true, you'd be so glad it's not your mother who's dying that you'd cheerfully get going with the tea chests. But there is no hierarchy of distress. Things simply hurt as much as they hurt.

A home that has been in the family for years, with its layers of history and its beloved creaks and flaws, is a beautiful thing. Sometimes it seems like an old and cronky family member itself. In mourning its loss, you are mourning your lost childhood, your parents' marriage, your father.

This is not just bricks and mortar; it is heavy with metaphor. And your feelings are perhaps more painful, paradoxically, because they are less complicated than what lurks beneath. This is the accessible part of your grief, the part you dare confront, and hence the part you feel most keenly.

It's the reason why, sometimes, when a person's pet dies, they can't leave the house for days, but when they lose a parent, they find themselves caning gin and carousing with their sympathy callers far into the night. It is why grown men will sob through Bambi but think that invading Iraq was a top plan. We let our guard down only when our poor psyches sense that it is safe to do so.

Some people flit from house to house without a backward look. But for many, there is one house that is the keeper of memories, where we recall ourselves as we most wanted to be. When our old family home was sold, after nearly 50 years, I was philosophical. But more than 15 years after leaving, I can't even drive past the house where I spent my twenties and where my first child was born.

So don't be ashamed. Pass on the packing, if you can, to someone more able to cope – perhaps offer to make yourself useful at the other end. But cry your eyes out and say a proper goodbye – to your childhood, your father, your intact family and your youthful self – and maybe start putting down those layers on a home of your own.

Your problem shared

Have a dilemma? Email your predicament, no matter how big or small, to Louisa at thehelpdesk@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Law Costs

    Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

    Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

    C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution