Blue Wildebeest babies stand up within 6 min. of birth and can out run a hyena within a day. Learning life is up to them from the get go. Such a far cry from the stubborn attachment we feel for our human babies when it comes time for them to wonder off.
Graduation time is week here in Oregon, and as I watch my neighbor prepare for that empty nest in the fall, I’m remembering the profound — and surprising — sense of loss I felt when my children left for college. I remember those moments clearly. The day I left my daughter sitting in her new dorm room and wept in the car like a baby. The day my son left his mom and dad standing in the driveway, waving through their tears. How could something so good feel so bad? I hadn’t expected to feel this way.
You’d think it would be a relief to a parent. And in someways it was. Parenting responsibility and worry was winding down and a new chapter could begin in my own life as well as in theirs. But the appreciation and celebration of that took some time.
In the big picture of losses to deal with in life, college bound kids seems minor, and it’s true. Grief is brief and mixed up with joy, but loss does feel profound at the time. They were merely moving out and on to an exciting new chapter in their lives, they didn’t disappear to some desert island on the other side of the world. It kind of feels that way, though, in that moment of departure. Seems so final.
Eventually I was able to start focusing on them instead of myself, and that helped a lot. Their exciting life was just beginning, and independence had already been nagging at them for a while. “Wee, freedom.”
Losses come in all sizes and shapes, and I’ve tried to include in my book, Emerging from the Heartache of Loss, the most effective strategies you can use to help yourself through those difficult times. Adjustment to new circumstances always takes awhile, sometimes a week, sometimes a year… sometimes five. Luckily, there is no time limit. There are no rules. Everyone’s journey through grief, whatever the cause, is their own.