Saturday, August 17, 2013

Healing An Empty Heart From Your Empty Nest (Part 1 of 2)

It happens many times throughout motherhood, that squeeze in your chest, that inevitable ache in your heart that comes with change, a new chapter, the next step in your child's life. It starts when you have to leave your baby at daycare that first day back to work, the first time you drop them off at preschool, putting them on the bus for kindergarten- then before you know it, it's their first day of college.

Many mixed feelings come with these days, which can be confusing. On one hand you see the joy in their eyes, the big smile on their face, and feel happy for them- this is an exciting time in their lives- but on the other hand, you feel the grieving associated with change and moving on, they are leaving home and growing up. You can remember their birth, their first words, their 6th birthday, all like it was yesterday- how has time flown by so quickly? How is it possible they are 18 and now leaving for college? 

Many mothers feel tremendous worry when sending their child to college, what if they are not ready to leave home? What if they get sick or have trouble remembering to do important things? What if they party too hard or let their grades slip? These thoughts will make you feel anxious and the desire to not let them leave. But it is important to learn to let them, and these thoughts, go. Your child is 18 now, they are growing up and becoming their own person, and part of this is learning that they are going to make their own choices, as well as their own mistakes. As much as you will want to, you cannot protect and shield them from the real world forever. Just remind yourself that you did the very best job loving them and preparing them as you could, and now the rest is up to them.

The first step to coping with the change that comes with becoming an empty nester is to know that the feelings of grief and loss are both natural and inevitable- so welcome them. Know that it doesn't matter how hard you scrub the tub or organize the fridge, the tears will eventually come. But also know that it is okay, change is scary. But as scary as it is, change also an opportunity to start something new. With the ending of one chapter comes the beginning of another.

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So allow yourself to think those bittersweet thoughts and feel that pang of sadness, but don't put them off and be in denial until it is time to say goodbye, or you will overwhelm yourself (and probably your child!) with the abrupt waterfall of emotions. Instead take some time in the weeks before move-in day arrives to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally with the change that is coming. 

Once the dreaded goodbye has been made and you've arrived back to your much quieter house, let the waterworks come, even allow yourself to slip into the regretful ugly cry. Get that emotional first visit to their now-empty room over with and the second (or third...okay maybe seventh) breakdown that will follow after finding their favorite stuffed animal tucked away under their bed. But once you have gotten that out of your system, it is time to get going on the start of your next chapter! 

Learn how to get going on starting your new chapter with Part 2: Strategies for New Empty Nesters

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