I am writing this 2 hours after my 16-year-old son drove himself to the first day of his junior year of high school. This is the first year he drove himself to school on the first day. It was pretty rough for me, not gonna lie.
I was fine in the morning. I got up early, did my meditation, made my bed, and made the coffee. I felt all that “fresh start” energy that you get on the first day of school. I took the “first day of school pictures,” which are a well-known mom requirement. I was all smiles…but something happened as he drove away. It hit me: the grief.
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac started playing in my head.
”Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Now I’m afraid of changing cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, and children get older; I’m getting older too.”
It just fits way too well for this time in our lives.
Side note: I made an insta reel with it if you don’t know what song I’m talking about. Check it out here and see my cute son.
After he left, I just started bawling, and I couldn’t stop. I just felt this ache in my heart. I thought to myself, “How will I handle it in two years when he REALLY leaves??” The rest of the week I found myself in a huge funk.
I took my oldest son to college in 2019. Leaving him in Canada while I got on a plane to come home without him was honestly one of the hardest mama things I’ve done. Since then, I’ve dreaded taking my youngest to college. When he leaves, then I am REALLY ending this parenting era of my life. I will, of course, always be their parent, but it is a very different kind of parenting when they are living in another place.
It’s kind of crazy, though, isn’t it?
I mean, taking your kids to college is one of the signs of success as a parent. It’s not the only one. I’m not saying all kids need to go to college, but it is a stereotyped version of success. A kid who finds another way to be independent besides going to college is just as great. My point is that the ultimate goal of parenting is that your kids one day move out and become adults who contribute to society. So why, when they actually do that, does it hurt so much??
Is there anything other than parenting where the most desirable result (kids becoming independent) generates the most heartache?
I sure can’t think of any! If you can, reply and let me know!
Of course, we definitely spend the majority of our time focusing (or at least trying to focus) on the celebration involved with our kids growing up. But we can’t just ignore the grief and other hard emotions that come up, right?
One of the biggest challenges of being human is to hold all of our strong, precious, and seemingly contradictory emotions in our hearts simultaneously. We need to give them all the feelings the honor, and care that they deserve. When we don’t, they can wreak havoc on our nervous systems and come back to bite us later, usually in the form of health issues.
So how do we honor ALL the emotions that are coming up for you right now?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Spend some time exploring the other more difficult emotions that you may be feeling. Know that you can have different parts experiencing different feelings. You may have one part that is relieved, for example, while another part is heartbroken, and still, another part is proud. Take time to journal from all these different parts of yourself.
- Know that these transitions can often bring up any other unhealed loss from your past, even if they seem unrelated.
- Know that no matter what you’re feeling, all your feelings deserve respect and attention. You are allowed to grieve even if you know you’re luckier than 90% of the world!
- You can use whatever negative feelings emerge as inner promptings to direct you toward a life of greater fulfillment. My grief about my son, for example, makes me see that I need to spend more time working on my life dreams so that when he leaves, I feel more fully expressed.
- Don’t forget to celebrate yourself on a job well done in parenting your child so far. Usually, the celebrations are focused on them, but celebrate yourself too! None of us are perfect parents, but we can still celebrate for simply doing our best.
- Get quiet and take time to feel whatever comes up for you at the moment. Feel it in your body, your heart. Try to open yourself to whatever arises.
- Consider seeking deeper support for your journey. We don’t think of getting a therapist (or whatever support resonates) for ourselves as our kids grow up, but I tell you, it’s worth it! I got a new therapist right after my son left for college and learned so much about myself in the process. I did some deep work using my son’s leaving as an impetus for change and healing. When you think about it, the greatest gift we can give to our children, no matter what their age, is our own healing and fulfillment.
A few options if this resonates:
- Schedule a call to work with me (or any other therapist you connect with) individually. I’m offering free 20 min consults currently for moms in transition (and what mom isn’t??). If you know someone who could use some extra support, please pass this on.
- Reply to this email and type “YES” to be the first to hear deets about a new deep dive course offering I am working on right now that is set to get started with the New Moon on Sept 25! Details forthcoming.
- Forward this email to someone you think might need to hear this.
Whatever transition you find yourself in this time of year, I’m sending lots of love! It’s not easy, no matter how you slice it.