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The grief of an empty nest

We don't talk enough about grief

in motherhood.

Instead, we side-step it and lament our empty nests like this:

If they would just listen.....

If I could only spare them my mistakes.....

I need to fix this.....

I don't know how to help them......

It feels like I'm losing them.....

I'm so sad....

My dreams for the future are disappearing.....

I don't recognize myself....

As moms, we’re comfortable talking about being irritated, frustrated, or angry with our kids. These are the feelings we name, claim, and blame when our emotions run off course.

But when we ignore the sneakiest emotion of all, grief, we get stuck in a continual cycle of worry and fear. Before long, it seems impossible to have hope for the future.

So let's rip the band-aid off.

Let's talk about the sadness that settles down in our chests.

Let's acknowledge the low-grade fever of restlessness that becomes a constant companion.

Let's begin to manage our fear of the future so it won't keep us locked to the past.

Do any of the following sound familiar?

Pretending you're fine when you're not.

Pretending your kids are fine when they're not.

Questioning what's next for you?

Wondering if your child is ready for their future?

Concerns about whether they can emotionally handle independence?

Did you do enough? Teach them enough?

Will you have the close family relationships of your dreams.

Or see your grandchildren as often as you'd like.

Or if they'll keep you in the loop or even visit at all.

If so, focusing on your fear could be preventing you from walking through your grief.

Emotions of anger, frustration, or irritation can also be barometers for our grief.

When you notice them, ask yourself, could this be grief talking?

Worry is another convenient place to hide grief.

Sometimes our worry is merited but often, we're uncomfortable talking about sorrow and maybe even regret. Instead, we scroll through worst case scenarios as our mind looks for a problem to fix rather than facing our uncomfortable emotions.

Let's face it, it makes us uncomfortable to feel sadness about sending our precious peeps out into the world, so we simply skip over that part. But when we do, it circles back around.

Leaning into hard spaces of loss is an important part of transition because

processing grief is an avenue that takes us from one season to the next.

Grief is uncomfortable and unpredictable.

So we often try to bypass it.

But by shutting down the healing process before it starts, we prevent our kids from moving into the future because they're emotionally hog-tied to the past. We also prevent God from healing us to wholeness from the inside out.

He designed us to live fully integrated.... body, mind, and soul. If we don't lean in and get curious about all of our emotions, or if pretend they don't exist, we get stuck in unhealthy patterns of relating with our older kids. Maybe you'll recognize some of these.

Hanging on tighter when you need to let go.

Offering advice without being asked.

Demanding "command performances" for family events.

Lashing out when your feelings are hurt.

Passive-aggressive or snarky comments.

Cycles of co-dependence where you tell yourself you'd feel better

if your child would only do, or say, or be 'xyz.'

We tell ourselves we want our kids to be independent but these patterns actually create an unhealthy co-dependence that makes it impossible for them to confidently step into their own lives.

In other words, our unacknowledged or unprocessed grief becomes a lasso, securing our children's lives to us instead of releasing them into their future.

As a result, we stay stuck in frustration or perpetual irritation with our kids

because grief is insatiable.

They can never do enough, be enough, or come around enough, to fill up our sorrow.

We don't have to stay here though.

Our emotions of loss as our kids grow are reasonable and valid.

But the only way out, is through.

Entering the stagnant waters of pain is the only way to reach fresh springs of joy.

It's only when we ask God to meet us in our sadness and heal our broken hearts, that we experience new opportunities for richer relationships with our kids.

We don’t talk enough about grief in motherhood and as a result, we have generations of moms clinging on to kids of all ages like their lives depend upon it.

Because unfortunately, they do.

It's the root of so much of our anxiety that we've all but labeled a Rite of Passage.

Our co-dependence fertilizes anxiety.

Our anxiety tethers us to grief.

Our grief lassos adult children to the past.

Adult children tethered to the past don't become fully mature or independent.

When moms face their grief as the nest empties,

families experience freedom.

I’ll say it again, we don’t talk enough about grief in motherhood.

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