While the households of current seniors are in a whirlwind of activity, the homes of last year’s seniors are strangely quiet. After the massive college application push, the excitement of college acceptances, the joy of graduation, the exhilaration of summer plans and the preparations for college, students head giddily into a new life.
Left behind are parents that could not be any prouder or any more desolated.
The strange combination of joy and heart-rending grief is unbalancing. In the days leading up to our first child leaving home, we dared not think about the lonely days that would follow. We did not plan ahead for our own life because all we could think about was launching theirs. Suddenly we woke up to an empty spot at the table and a gaping hole in our heart.
While nothing takes the pain away, there are a few things that can make it more bearable:
1. Give yourself time to grieve.
There will be times when it is hard to function. Give yourself permission to rest and put the to-do list aside. It is okay not to accomplish much on some days.
2. Choose lighthearted entertainment.
There are periods in my life that I refuse to watch sad movies. If it doesn’t have a happy ending, I don’t go there. When my heart is full of actual grief, I don’t choose to invite more in. The same thing goes with books. While I am an educated reader and like to challenge my mind, in periods of desolation I reach for comfort books that I know and love – ones that warm my heart or make me smile. A friend once sneered at the mind candy, but I stayed emotionally balanced and she did not.
3. Stay away from draining people.
You know who I’m talking about! For a time, allow yourself a break from the complainers, the whiners, the know-it-alls, or anyone else that leaves you feeling worse after an encounter with them.
4. Find something that you enjoy.
Funnel your sadness into something productive that brings you joy. Life has been so busy, maybe now you have time to join the YMCA, take photography classes, volunteer, go back to school, or catch up with old friends. I’m not talking about something you “should” do, but something you would love to do. A new interest or friendship can be the first step out of the pain. Finding out who we are without children isn’t always an easy thing, but it is a healthy thing, both for us and our relationship with our now adult kids. If we are busy with our own lives, we don’t tend to hover over theirs. Happy exploring!
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