Empty Nest Syndrome: saying goodbye
My daughter and I at High School graduation
They never tell you....
how hard it will be when they grow up and leave home, at least I didn't really hear them if they did tell me. I never heard anyone say that I would feel as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest and I might really think I may die of grief. (This coming from a single mother who had her own life and was living it.) Zoe had been distancing herself from me quite a bit in the last year of High School between work, boyfriend, school and friends. It was almost as if she were weaning herself off of me so that I wouldn't take it so hard.
My daughter Zoe had been talking about moving clear across the country for almost a year. Did I really believe she would do it? I'm not sure if I did or not. I guess I was hoping she would change her mind or find a school closer to home, who knows what else I hoped. All I know is I think I was in denial for that year. I just let her talk and was supportive helping her problem solve what she wanted to do if she chose such a route.
I didn't fill out a single form, file paperwork or apply for grants, Zoe did everything. She found a job and even managed to save up over 6 months rent so that she wouldn't have to panic, find work right away and could concentrate on school. She is very level headed like her mom and I am proud that she is that way, makes me worry just a little less. Zoe got her grant money, filled out papers over and over again even as they continued to lose them or make revisions that needed to be resent. She did all the work as I stood back and watched in amazement.
Part of me wanted to know that she really wanted to do this and see just how motivated she was to making such a dramatic decision to move. Moving from Tennessee to California would have been traumatic for someone who had never seen the world and luckily we had traveled a lot. We have been to foreign lands, seen other cultures, had lots of experiences that would prepare her for just such an adventure. I did my work preparing her as best as I could.
As time started ticking down for her to leave the grief started to over take me. I would cry at the drop of a hat. I cried in the car, cried over tv commercials, cried talking to friends. I cried so much I wondered if I could ever dry up and be empty of tears. I tried to not show her just how sad I was and that I was ok with her decision. The more I tried to stuff it the more it came out at inopportune moments. Finally I just had to be honest that it was killing me.
I'll never forget the conversations we had regarding her leaving. They were honest, raw and emotionally charged. I have never felt so vulnerable and cracked open as I was with my daughter on those days leading up to her moving. I remember one conversation where the two of us could not hold it together. We both just hugged and sobbed our hearts out. I truly felt mine was breaking and that I may never be the same again. I then gathered up my wits for her, became the adult and reassured her that I and everything would be just fine. How could I love anyone as much as I loved this person I gave birth to 19 years earlier?
I remember telling her "I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to say goodbye to you." It was the most honest statement I have ever made in my life. I had know idea how to let this beautiful child go out into the world where I couldn't protect her on a daily basis. Tears stream down my face even now remembering how raw I felt. We just sat and talked about how hard it was for both of us to make this next important step in our lives.
I told her everything I ever wanted to say to her. How proud I was that she had grown into a beautiful, talented, smart, funny, strong, independent woman. How she exceeded every imaginable expectation I ever had for a daughter. How I never would have imagined when I first was pregnant that this would have been the most life altering experience I will ever have and the most rewarding. I told her everything that was in my heart that I had every thought to tell her.
Part of me wanted to say these things because it felt as if I might never see her again. Obviously that's irrational but my brain and heart were not working properly. I truly felt as if I was going to die, not see her again and wanted to be sure not to leave one thing unsaid just in case. I know, overly dramatic but that was me on those days. I don't regret a single second and am glad I handled it the way I did.
After speaking to her boyfriend and his family they didn't get this opportunity and they regretted it. They wanted to do this and just couldn't. I didn't want to have a single regret and I don't. I said and continue to say everything I want to my child. I want her to hear everything and only wish I had parents who could have done as much. Guess that's the lesson learned is that I can be the better parent and actually parent my child to the best of my ability even during truly incredibly difficult times.
My advice to parents who will be starting this process of separation is "don't let a moment go by without talking to your child about this event. Don't let the fear keep you from saying exactly what you wished your parents had said to you. Don't pass up this opportunity to tell your child how very much they mean to you and how much they are truly loved." No regrets that's how I try to live my life. So glad I don't have them. Good luck parents, graduation comes soon.
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