It’s only been a few weeks since they set out on their own and you miss them like crazy! The house is so quiet. No more laughter around the table. Your heart is breaking and no one can fix it. In this swirl of loss and emotion, it’s easy to forget an important factor: You’re not the only one who misses them.
Yes, mom, you hold a unique and special place in your son or daughter’s life. You experienced them (and they, you) like no other. From the first ultrasound to the last sack lunch and stack of dirty laundry, your lives have been intimately entwined for 18+ years. You loved (and sometimes fought) from a deep well of emotion.
But, for a moment, let’s take a step back.
You're not the only one who misses them. #emptynest Click To Tweet
I want to consider others who helped create and shape the lives of your kids.
- Dad. His input definitely looked different from yours, but it carved a deep groove in their heart, non-the-less. As the oldest daughter in a family of seven, my dad made a permanent impression on me. He cheered for me when others didn’t. Stood up for me when he probably shouldn’t have. And instilled in me a belief in myself that was different because he was… well, he was the first man to speak into my life.
Dad gave each of us kids a long, handwritten letter when we left for college or the world beyond home. I still have mine and pull it out every so often to remember his intentional presence and contribution in my life.
- Siblings. Now, they might have fought like cats and dogs when under the same roof, but if your family is like mine was growing up, nobody else messed with our brothers or sisters. (smile) Although it often takes 20 or 30 years to find it, a strong connection and affection holds anchor between siblings. They see life from a similar perspective that no one else shares. They may act like it’s no big deal when they go their separate ways, but don’t be fooled. It matters more than they can articulate.
- Friends. Friends come and go. That’s a fact of life. But friends who have spent the last 5-10 years together, growing up, making mistakes, learning hard lessons, celebrating victories… when they suddenly take the leap from being kids to being independent, there’s a profound sense of confusion and loss. They want to act all grown up, like it doesn’t really matter. But when no one’s looking, they find ways to show it really does.
It’s hard for them to imagine they’ll ever have better friends, although they likely will. In the meantime, an inner loss tugs at their heart. It’s important for you to acknowledge this loss. It’s important for them to walk through the process of learning how to hold on while moving forward.
- Other family members. Everyone’s family make-up and circumstances vary, but usually at least one uncle or grandparent or cousin played an important role in your child’s life. They were family, but not the one who disciplined and said “No” all the time. They spoke the same words you’d already said, but your son or daughter was able to receive it differently from them.
Your family members hold a vital role in your kids’ lives. They help build a foundation of belonging. Of stability. Of values and role models. Although no family is perfect, protect these special relationships your child grew to treasure and let it bring you all closer together.
I just read a report telling that about 80% of college students experience homesickness, either moderately or extremely. This reflects the level of change these young adults have just experienced. They may not be affected enough to ditch school and head back home. But moving to a new home and “job” and group of friends is not easy. They miss the comfort and familiarity of home.
But remember, “home” includes all who surrounded their life when they were still living under your care. Besides those mentioned above, it may have also included a boss or church family or coach. Also teachers and neighbors and the UPS driver who always said hi. It’s important in your grief to acknowledge the influence and importance of these other pieces to your child’s heart. How?
- Listen. Let others express their loss, knowing their feelings are legitimate.
- Recall memories about these friends and family when you talk to your kids.
- Have their friends over for dinner, take photos, and text to your son/daughter.
- Make plans to have a meal together when they come back for visits.
- Put together a care package from friends, family, and neighbors.
Don't forget to acknowledge and value others who sowed into your kids' lives. #emptynest Click To Tweet
It’s so important, mom: Don’t let isolation trap you during this transition. Don’t allow yourself to feel like no one else knows what you’re going through. Instead, get together with others who sowed seeds of joy and knowledge into your son or daughter’s life. As you laugh and listen and remember together, the weight of sorrow seems not so heavy as the seasons keep on changing.
Share below those who made your son or daughter’s life more rich.
How can you thank them and walk out this next season together?