I Have Been Here Before – But Saying Goodbye To My Child Is A Really Hard Thing To Do

Loss and grief can sometimes rise out of changes in life that are, for the most part, good things that we experience in this world. It doesn’t always have to erupt out of something bad. As I ponder my youngest daughter leaving for college tomorrow my heart is filled with mixed emotions and from one moment to the next – I feel so freaking vulnerable and tears are hovering close by.  I am struggling to accept that it is here. Words lay heavy in my heart.  So, I write.

She is grown up and she is leaving home.  Tonight I will give her one last hug goodnight and tomorrow we will say goodbye.  For now.

It is a bitter-sweet season in life and one we must face.  A time of joy and pride as we witness our children take that very important next step in the journey they alone must take. We, as parents have slowly prepared for this transition from the time we heard that first precious cry to the day they pack their bags and walk out the door. Yet – when it comes right down to it and the hard reality sets in, there is no way to truly be prepared for the cord to be cut. It is hard to give up that control.  I’m guessing that many of you share in this struggle and can relate.

It is an exciting time for sure and of course I want my daughter’s next chapter to unfold with amazing experiences, unforgettable life lessons and for her to land in a place that she can thrive. But – I also feel a subtle emptiness settling into the corners of my heart. I have been here before.

It is simple yet complicated – we miss our kids when they leave home and suddenly we must face separation and the fear of being apart. The threads that bind parents to a child unravel a bit and somehow it doesn’t feel right. It is a harsh reminder at how fast time goes and nothing seems to slow life down as each year quickly passes by.

How is it possible that this child of mine has blossomed from that adorable, silly little girl to a beautiful young woman overnight. But it wasn’t overnight. It has been 18 years – 18 short years that disappeared in a hot minute. I want that time back. To do a few things over, or different, or the same. With all of my kids. I just want the chance to do it again and somehow slow life down this time around so that I can absorb every moment and not miss a thing.  But – I can’t.  Time marches on whether we want it to or not.

Sadly, this turn my world upside down moment has come – again. My youngest is leaving home and joining the club that her older sister’s joined years ago. She too is moving on to create a life that is separate from mine and discovering a path of her own. In contrast, my life feels disrupted, unhinged and a bit broken.  The house will feel emptier; like something critical to our home is missing.  And – a whole lot of lonesome will burrow its way in. I have been here before.

My heart hurts and as a friend of mine said when facing the same hurt just a few days ago – it feels as if my heart has gone through a paper shredder.

Yes I have experienced this before and no it doesn’t get easier with each one. Just more familiar. I remember. It was hard then and it is hard now.

I want to share a million more hugs when saying goodnight, kiss her forehead, linger in her smiles or submerge myself in her laughter or silly jokes.  Oh to do her laundry, carry her dishes up or to do a thousand other little annoying tasks for her that frustrated me before. But I can’t. She needs to break away and venture onward and upward to experience all of life’s beautiful and little annoyances herself. And she should. She will be successful and amazing most days and other days she may feel a bit lost. But they will be her days to navigate and she will figure it out.  Still – I’m going to miss her so damn much.  I have been here before.

Will she miss me? Will she still need me? I think she will but as these questions swirl around amidst my racing thoughts, I am just not quite ready to let her go.  Even though I must.

I know this is going to be so good for her and yet my heart grieves knowing that this chapter is about to end. And that is okay. I grieve because I love my children with everything that I am. I have felt this grief before.

Sending our children off to a new place in this big, scary and messy world is hard and while it is not forever it is still a loss. It leaves a hole in our hearts and creates a gap between what once was and what is destined to be. Change is hard and life will be very different in the days and months ahead.  Our children are a part of who we are and to suddenly let go is a very big ask. But we do it anyways because that is the right thing to do and we love them enough to let them go.

I will be sad and waking up each day will feel odd and unfamiliar. For awhile. Relief of hearing her come through the door so I can finally fall asleep will shift to the unknown. That needed comfort of knowing that she is safe and sound downstairs in her bed will be gone.  Hearing her bound up the stairs and the sweet words of I love you as she heads out the door will be replaced with silence for a little bit of time that will seem like forever.  Shoes will no longer be scattered around the floor and a quick hug goodnight will have to wait until she decides to come and spend a night at home. It will be different and strange.  But I have done this before.

Will she be safe? Will she be healthy, happy and make good choices every day? I sure hope so. I need to believe that and have faith that she will. Because it is overwhelming and scary out there. Fear tugs at my heart just enough to get my attention.  It’s super hard not to worry.  Then again, I will never stop worrying. Ever. That is what we do and it doesn’t matter how old our kids are or how long they have been gone from home.

So – on the eve of yet another child leaving home and finding a new dwelling that is her very own space to form and mold – my heart hurts. But there is joy mixed with the sadness and gratitude for the time we have had.  I am happy because she is happy and she is ready to distance herself and let go of my hand.  She has been for awhile.

Tomorrow will be bittersweet and it will be hard to walk away from what we have known.  To leave her on her own immersed in all that is shiny and new and doesn’t include me. And that is okay. It isn’t supposed to. This is her time to shine and figure things out all by herself. And she will. I will hug her and I will force myself to walk away one painful step at a time. But I will do it and I will say goodbye and tell her to have the best weekend ever.

And I will keep loving her every single minute of every single day.  I have always told my kids that I will always be in their hearts no matter where they are. And they in mine.  Always.

When I get to my car I will remind myself to breathe and yes I will cry.  All will be okay – I know it will.  I have been here before.

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