I have been speaking with parents for years and I too travel the transition of an empty nest. My daughter is a happy college graduate.
"What can help me?" That is a question often asked and for good reason.
"Is this normal?"
Each life is unique and a container. Containing memories, actions, hopes, losses, surprises of joy, and unknowns.
I think of parenting like a vase. This photo shows a trunk vase with flowers from my yard. We choose different vases, change the flowers, enjoy them blooming, and see them die.
Sure, I know parenting isn't that simple. It is complex. We can make changes and still endings will happen. There are times we can't eliminate pain.
We will have to let go of those beautiful "flowers," and those times of
great happiness. I believe more happiness will come. We just don't know how or when. That is part of transition. You know you can't stop it and you don't want to be in it.
Learning to live with opposites and paradoxes is challenging. There are great books about What to expect when you are expecting and the books of now what and how to have a healthy relationship with adult children aren't as abundant. You are a pioneer of this new relationship with yourself and your adult children.
What helps is saying where you are right now. Donna thought she was prepared for her daughter to study abroad in January. She was exhausted and excited with the details of paper work and packing and sending her daughter off at the airport with a hug and another hug, followed with waves and blowing kisses. Can't you just see her in the airport?
No one wants to say goodbye to someone they love. Talk about it. Write it like a letter to yourself, "Dear Donna, I know today was filled with sobbing and pride. Now that your sweetie is far away, you feel the loss, the emptiness at home."
Whatever falls onto the paper is helpful to express.
You might just write a list of words and thoughts and not a letter to yourself. Doodle and see what expresses next.
You have educated your children and been supportive of their stages of development.
What helps is for you to be supportive of your stage of life....empty nest... YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE.
1. There are no rules.
2. There is no carved path for you.
3. This is a time of life to be gentle with yourself. Reflect on your life.
4. Get support. Try something and see what it brings you. Change your mind.
5. Adjust your expectations of when your children "should" call, "should remember to say thanks." Most parents say, "I just wish he would call more and not just for money."
Think back to what you loved doing after school when you were younger.
Nature, art, daydreaming, riding your bike, decorating for a party, What have people said you are good at doing? It was my third grade teacher who said ,"Natalie, you could be a writer if you want to. Your story is good." I forgot about that until I had empty space from daily parenting. "
You have a great eye for decorating and seeing the photo shot." I didn't even know that about myself until I shared my photos. I loved moving my furniture around and I didn't know it inspired others, as well as, made people feel so good being in my home. It is not about others saying what you should do next or getting their validation. It is about thinking what feedback has come to you. Does that feedback spark you?
Take time to do nothing if that is what you have longed for in your life.
BE. Let your day and night unfold. Over time, if you notice yourself isolating or depressed, make a plan to do something in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Little somethings. What might that be for you?
Who are you a big fan of and why?
How is your health? What do you want to add or research?
What relationships need a tweak or over haul?
Are there relatives you wish you had time to be with whether by phone or flight?
Do you want to take a class?
Do you want to rest?
It is not about being busy. Paradox is that for some, it is about being busy in order to feel good. It is about feeling what you feel when you feel it.
Getting to know yourself at this time of your life is going to feel sad, awkward, confusing, and hopeful. I am loving my freedom and feel a joy I had no idea I would be feeling.
Get support. No one needs to go through this major life transition alone.
Be realistic about change and loss. Do baby steps. Ask for what you need.
You have the right to ask and THEY have the right to pass on helping you.
You won't crumble with a no from someone. You have had people ask you, so you know how it feels.
Your children are saying what is true for them. So LISTEN. THEY AREN'T YOU.
They, too, are going through a stage of growing themselves a NEW, as I say.
They are young.
What vase will you choose this week and what will go in your container?
Take good care,
Los Angeles, Ca.
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