Experiencing the Empty Nest Blues

As a parent, I have gone through many stages with my son. He is an adult now, and has been for a while. He and his girlfriend are planning on getting married, but haven’t set a date yet. She just finished college, and my son is getting close. After graduation, she started talking about an apartment, and moving out of her parents house. Not surprising, because she is ready for her own space.

We have been very supportive of this change in her life. I even bought her dishes for when she moves in. My surprise came last night when I found out that my son’s name is also on the lease and he is moving out in two months. He isn’t done with college yet, so finances are going to that, and he has financial obligations he pays every month, so we were concerned about the money. Also, he has money set aside for her ring, and had started saving for the wedding. What about all that?

Well, I am pleasantly surprised that they thought through, and planned for all of that, and know their numbers. They built a roadmap for themselves that allows for some flexibility. Now that those questions have been answered, I am battling with the morality issue of them living together before marriage. I know that today its really common for young adults to do this, but that doesn’t mean its a good thing. Its actually filled with land mines waiting to explode. Sometimes couples who plan to get married, but start living together end up never actually tying the knot. Whether from habits they cannot tolerate, or not having the money to do the wedding the way they want, or something else, it just never happens.

I don’t think that will be the case with them, as they have already thought through some of this and begun the planning. So, my heart wanted to see my son walk a cleaner, less emotionally charged path than my husband and I did. My husband and I have baggage in our relationship that we have struggled with over the years due to some poor choices when we were starting out. We always want our kids to make better choices than we did. Unfortunately, often, kids end up making the same mistakes because the school of hard knocks accepts all students, no up front fees.

Now to my real emotional dilemma. The empty nest blues. I all of a sudden found out I will shortly be an empty nester. No warning, little time, and bam, it hit me in my face! I want to go sit in the corner and cry. He is my baby, though not a baby anymore. I fully expected him to move out, and my hubby and I have joked about what we will use his room for, but now its here. Sooner than I expected, and with very little time to prep for it. Maybe that is a good thing because I now have less time to dwell on it and get into even more of a funk.

Empty Nest Grief/Syndrome is a real emotional malady that has to be worked through, just like other forms of depression. I have struggled with depression on and off over the years, and I now need to start thinking through what is in my tool kit to help me work through it.

I need to remember that we raised our son to go out and live in the world apart from us, and that we had him home longer than we expected. Him moving forward is a positive step in taking responsibility for himself. Its a good thing.

I need to be part of the planning on helping them both have a good start to their adventure. Positive thinking, planning for change, and giving encouragement instead of negativity help them, but it also helps me accept, and practice love toward them. It removes emotional barriers, instead of putting them up. I might not like all the details of what is happening, but they are adults, and life choices should never cause relationships to crash and burn when it comes to family.

I need to be honest about how I am feeling, instead of bottling it up, both with myself, and with my family. I am sad. I will miss him being around as much as he is. I feel a sense of grief at this change. Its okay to feel this way, its normal, but I cannot live there. I need to grieve, and let it go so that it doesn’t ruin my relationship with my son, his girlfriend, and my husband.

I need to resist the blame game. It is easy to point fingers at someone and say this was so and so’s idea, and so they are at fault for this choice. Really, an idea might start with one person, but both are involved in the final decision. No blame involved, and I need to hold on to the truth that they are both adults making a choice for themselves they feel is right.

I am sure there are other things, but for now that is a good start of my tools to help me deal with this. I didn’t expect this, but its here, and I need to accept it, and emotionally go forward instead of living in the land of what if’s and maybe’s. Its not my life, its their’s. They need to feel loved in this so that if there are needs for help along the way, they know they have places to go for help, and won’t be turned away due to disapproval of choices. That has never been me, and I need to remember that as I deal with my blues and not shut down and tune out my loved ones.

Life doesn’t always work out the way we would like. The outcome, though not what I would choose, isn’t really mine. This isn’t really about me, but I do have to emotionally work through letting go of certain expectations, and letting my son go to move on with his life without feeling guilty for doing it. Family is about many things, and one of those is love and acceptance, even when your children make choices you would rather see happen differently. Love isn’t measured by behavioral acceptance, it is measured out according to the understanding that we are all on a journey, and the path is filled with good and bad, and as we walk along side by side we need to be a source of help, counsel, and compassion, even if we don’t agree with every decision.

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