There is more in psychological literature about the impact of moving on children, than on adults. I have no doubt that moving has negatively impacted our children, they tell me as much very plainly. It is extremely painful to know that I've put my children through similar upheavals that I went through as a child.
I remember one move taking place the day after a sleepover birthday party. While the other little girls slept, my friend's father woke me up, fed me a bowl of cold cereal, my Dad softly knocked on the door and I quietly left. That was my goodbye to my friends. It was that move, or maybe another, when we left on my older sister's birthday. She was very upset about the move, her being the oldest it hit her hardest it seemed. When we stopped at a gas station my Dad bought her a treat, but no one else. When I complained that I wanted a treat too I was told to be quiet, it was her birthday and the move was hard for her. I quietly thought about my sleeping friends and thought how hard it had been for me too.
Last week, when I went to the therapist, as we were wrapping up she listed some of the things she thought we would work on in future visits. Grief was tucked into the list. After I left I thought about that, what did I have to grieve, no one close to me died? One of the things I considered is great numbers of friends I've made and then left behind, most of them not keeping in contact. As far as my heart is concerned, they died when I moved. That connection was severed.
I'm afraid I'm coming off as overly dramatic. When I look up grief online it lists death of a loved one, war, rape, or other major trauma. Moving is not any of those things. But when it happens with regular frequency throughout your life, accompanied by other stressors, including depression, it becomes a traumatizing event just the same. There are a few things I found about the psychological implications of moving.
Relocation Stress Syndrome: This is a syndrome defined by the American Journal of Nursing, and other nursing publications and associations. Specifically, this syndrome is attributed to elderly patients in nursing homes. There is evidence that people suffer in real ways from moving, including: loneliness, depression, anger, apprehension, dependency, confusion, anxiety, withdrawal, changes in sleeping and eating habits, insecurity, lack of trust and need for excessive reassurance. Sounds familiar.
Trailing Spouse: There is an article called The Effects of Relocation on the Trailing Spouse which looks interesting but I could only get access to the first page. Wikipedia has a simple page on trailing spouses, which are spouses that follow their partner to a new job or academic assignment. The most interesting aspect of this, to me, is about the loss of identity: "Difficulties associated with loss of identity and the subsequent period of reshape and remodeling that ensues in the new environment." The only way I've been able to hold onto my identity is through online interactions and church. Without both of those I would be a complete mess, instead of sort of a mess and still functioning at some level.
There is a good article from the APA: Sociological Implications of Corporate Relocation on the Family System by Barbara Cummings. One aspect of this that hit home, which I had never seen described so well, is the closing of the family system.
"In times of stress the tendency is for the family system to close in order to protect itself. This may result in behavior changes for family members, who after repeated uprooting, may be so enmeshed in a closed family system that they are no longer able to develop close friendships outside the family. This may leave the family less well equipped to deal with family crisis at times when outside support is needed and no close friends or extended family members are available."Again, without our church support we would be in serious trouble, both for help in times of crisis and as a place to find new friends with common values.
That same article cites a study by Feitler-Karchin & Getting: "Moving was one of the most stressful events that can occur in one's life, particularly if the relocation is one that has not been made by positive personal choice."
Mobility Syndrome : Another article I found, although from 1976, said: "The wife is seen as the greatest potential sufferer of a domestic upheaval; her attitude and personality are lynch-pins of the successful mover."
When we moved to Iowa the culture change was intense, and I resisted falling into suburbia. Eventually, I had a day where I broke down and pled with God to help me find a friend. A name popped into my head, so I gathered the little courage I had left and went to her house. She welcomed me, and I felt like she was a blessing in my life, an answer from God. We did things together at least once a week, and our children got to be friends, we even went out with our husbands together. Then around the same time we moved just a few miles away this summer she stopped returning my phone calls and texts, turns her back on me at church, and more. I'm spent, it was the last thing I needed. I don't trust people, especially women, and I doubt God's care for me.
I wrote more, explaining where I am now, but I can't trust enough to publish it. Because of my increased publicity for my writing, people in my everyday life, from my church, probably read my blog. I can't share more, I don't trust.
This is some of the load I've been carrying, which I've tried to ignore just to get through it. As I write this it reminds me of how I used to get through running up a hill. I'd push harder, instead of slowing down, because I wanted to hurry and just get through it. I also saw the side benefit of increasing stamina and health from pushing myself to my limits. Unwittingly, I've done the same with moving, pushing to get through, to get to the new place and make the best of it. I'm strong, I can get through it, I'll make new friends, I thought. My heart says enough, I can't push it anymore.