Grief and Loss and…Real Estate!

June 27, 2011 | By | Comments (0)

You’ve probably heard about the 5 stages of grief and loss before. First codified by Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the stages are meant to encompass the near-universal process that humans endure when coping with a loss:

1. Denial (This can’t be happening!)
2. Anger (It’s not fair!)
3. Bargaining (I’ll do anything…)
4. Depression (Why go on?)
5. Acceptance (It’s going to be OK. I can’t fight it)

And while I’m not minimizing the gravity of grief or of this psychological construct, I recently had the occasion to go through a bizarro-world, modified version of the stages, when dipping my toes into real estate.

Yes, real estate. Especially in the jungle that is New York City real estate: It will break your heart and it will send you hurtling headlong through the stages of grief. Here’s what happened:

Couple meets condo. Couple looooves condo: great light, terrific finishes, good school district, AND at a totally doable price! (Can this be for real? This is New York City, after all!)

Couple makes offer. Offer is accepted! (Wow, this is going so smoothly!?!)

Inspection ensues. Condo passes with flying colors. (Seriously, pinch me!)

Couple arranges loan and prepares to sign purchase agreement and fork over 10%. A closing date is even penciled in.

Lawyers get involved. Several smart, well-meaning, fine-print-reading lawyers. Overnight, deal falls apart due to a building code technicality. One I’d have been happy to ignore, but we were roundly advised to obey.

I was crestfallen. I’d mentally “checked-out” of our neighborhood and said bye-bye to all of the annoying things about our rental apartment—for which the lease would have ever-so conveniently expired just as we were closing! I had big plans for life with my very own washer/dryer AND a small but REAL outdoor space. Heck, I’d even joined the local parents’ listserv group!

Okay, that’s my totally melodramatic tale of woe, and the following is my journey through the 5 stages of grief and loss.

1. Denial: This is not happening. Someone will change their mind; we can change someone’s mind. We can find a loophole. (Lots of furious checking of one’s email.)

2. Anger: I hate lawyers, I hate building codes, and I hate New York City.

3. Bargaining: Frankly, I don’t think I went through this one. There’s nothing to bargain with: either we get the place or we don’t.

4. Depression: Sigh. Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just going to mope for a while. I’m just going to park myself in front of this rattling, sputtering air-conditioner and rest a while (the new place had a near silent central HVAC!!). We’ll never find another place at that price, with those specifics. I give up… Boo hoo.

5. Acceptance: In truth, I think I’m only juuuust entering this stage—paddling as I am in my pool o’ pity above. But I’ve peeled myself off the couch, seen a few other places with potential (I will love again!?) and started to move on.

While I’m mostly goofing around with this exercise of trying to shoehorn house-hunting into this rubric, on the other hand I actually found it helpful during the process, to view it this way—to see it as a small, real, but still legitimate, loss.

Have you ever looked at a troubling experience through the lens of something like this?