««Leaving home: the beginning of an exciting new chapter.»»
I stood in the driveway — waving and weeping — as my son drove himself off into the sunset. Or what really happened… off to college. We didn’t want to spoil this important sendoff, so our emotions were pushed down as we helped pack up his car. But when he actually drove off, a different story. That goodbye seemed like forever at the time. The feeling of loss was profound.
The word “grief” used to be reserved for when people died, not when they were just driving off to school. I knew, of course, that children had to leave home, so the attachment I felt at that moment surprised me. “Could my boy take care of himself?”
I’d been through this before when my first born left home so you’d think I’d already know it wouldn’t be forever. They just aren’t living with YOU anymore, silly. But at the moment of separation, honestly, you’d think I was never going to see them again.
In the case of my daughter, we drove her there and helped set up her new living space. I choked it back as we left but was weeping by the time we got to the car. In my mind, she looked so vulnerable, so small. “Could she take care of herself? Would she be all right?” It wasn’t until we got that first phone call from the dorm a week later that I could breathe again. Relief was audible.
In hindsight, my strong emotions at those times were totally unrealistic. By the time your kids are 18, they can’t wait to be on their own. I’m now fairly certain that my daughter was celebrating her freedom the minute we closed the door, and that my son rocked to his favorite heavy metal band all three hours of the trip. Just look at his smile before takeoff! Aaah, parenthood, what we don’t know could fill volumes.
Loss comes in many flavors. I know people who didn’t bat an eye when their father died, but were clearly traumatized by the loss of their youth. They’re mortified by getting older and do everything possible to keep it from happening. The comparison seems absurd, but that change is very real to them and is impacting their whole life. Sometimes it takes a long time to adjust to things being different than before.
When I first decided to write a book to help people through their grief, my intent was
that it be about all loss, not just the kind that happens
through death. And one of the first reviews Emerging from the Heartache of Loss got was from a woman who wished she’d had it during her divorce.
Every year about this time my thoughts turn to all those mothers who might be going through the same roller coaster ride I did. Fathers, too, but they’re good at hiding that soft side of themselves.