After you go
I can catch up on my readin’
After you go
I’ll have a lot more time for sleepin’
And when you’re gone looks like things
Are gonna be a lot easier
Life will be a breeze you know
I really should be glad
But I’m bluer than blue
Sadder than sad
You’re the only light
This empty room has ever had
Life without you is gonna be
Bluer than blue
New ends and new beginnings…
These first two stanzas of Johnson’s song “Bluer than Blue” might capture what so many parents, especially moms, feel about their last kid leaving home.
Kids’ leaving home marks two opposing things:
They are starting a new life, bursting with adventures, hopes, goals, new friends, and more. For them, it’s a time filled with anticipation.
For the parent, however, it is an end… the end of an era, of parenting in a familiar way. It’s the end of a lifestyle filled with kid activities, school, carpooling, sports, and sleepless nights waiting up for them to come home.
The conflicting emotions of “a good thing”…
Yet paradoxically that is exactly what a parent wants and has worked for! No caring parent actually wants their kid living in the basement the rest of their lives.
So, the conflicting emotions rage…
Parents are proud of what the kids are accomplishing…
…or they’re sad that they’re making choices that seem to be in direct opposition to how they were brought up.
…or they’re fearful that their kid might get into serious trouble, and they won’t know it.
… or they’re hopeful that their own life can expand now.
… or they’re worried about aging and being too old to do anything of significance.
… or they’re happy that the house is more peaceful.
… or they’re doubtful that their marriage will last now that the kids aren’t a distraction.
It’s an exhausting and confusing time.
No wonder! The old routines are gone…
The built-in structures for social interaction with school, sports, church youth groups, camps are gone…
The ease of meeting neighbors when kids are involved is gone…
The lifestyle to which everyone has become accustomed is gone…
How does one grieve that? How does one prepare for it?
There are ways to ease the process of letting go…
I’ve personally gone through this process four times, and I’ve learned some things along the way – especially that you have to gradually let go.
It is important to begin planning, if possible, what life will look like when the kids are gone… BEFORE they actually leave.
Here are a few quick ideas…
- Schedule regular get-togethers (monthly, quarterly, or yearly)
- Share books, podcasts, TV shows or movies you know your kid would like (and ask them to share the same)
- Pay for an outing for them, or give them a gift card
- Go to important events in their lives
- Write snail mail letters or send a card
- Make it about them, not about you
Letting go when relationships are strained…
Even if the parent and child are barely on speaking terms and both can’t wait for the day they leave…
There are likely to be conflicting emotions.
This is a great opportunity to make positive changes in the relationship, and there are many avenues to pursue. It takes courage, curiosity and humbleness to do something different.
This is where I can help.
We will discuss your family dynamic, what has worked in the past, and brainstorm ideas for the future. It might also mean looking at poor communication habits or establishing good boundaries.
In addition, sometimes it is helpful to take a personality test to have a better understanding of differences in handling the same issue. In other words, people are different, and not everything can be categorized as the “right” way to do something based on a personal point of view alone.
The bigger picture of the empty nest…
Letting go is part of empty nest, but it is not the full picture.
It’s also a great opportunity to explore new ways to stay connected, because the old ways do not (cannot) work anymore.
Finding your own voice, talents and passion apart from the kids’ is important to the health and vitality of your own soul. Sharing this with your adult children inspires them to believe and know that aging is just another stage in life, worthy of its own pursuits. This could be finding a place to volunteer or a new career or education entirely.
Additionally, it will give you something to talk about that will show them more of who you are that may have gotten buried under the pressures of parenting.
I’ve been there… let me guide you through it.
As a therapist and a mom, I intimately understand this process. I’ve had my own sorrows and joys in this life transition.
I can offer hope, ideas, communication strategies, and new ways of thinking about the changes that the empty nest presents to a parent.