My youngest child finished 5th grade this year. “My” last year of elementary school. A precious phase of life I’ll never have again. This ending hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I repeatedly found myself sobbing as I drove down the road.
Suddenly, a second round of kids became appealing. But being 45, divorced, and not actually wanting more kids made this a poor option for me.
All of this emotion was made more confusing by the fact that I was genuinely excited about middle school. I was thrilled when my oldest son made that transition. I love watching the middle school kids walk down the street – hanging with their buds, wearing their cool clothes, doing their own thing. I love that I can cut in and out of the carpool line – an elementary school taboo. Unlike many a parent, I have never felt wary about middle school.
So why, then, all the tears? How was I simultaneously thrilled at my daughter’s promotion and totally beside myself? I felt a bit whacko.
But that’s the funny thing about grief. We think we’re crazy because we don’t feel
exclusively one way or the other. At the exact moment we have one feeling, an alternative feeling pops up to make us second-guess the first feeling. Hence, this definition of grief: conflicting feelings about a change in a familiar pattern or behavior.
A-ha…. I was having a totally legitimate grief response to 5th-grade promotion. Grief that I would never have these years again, grief about the unknown future, grief that soon enough – as evidenced by the end of elementary school – I would have no kids at home. Ouch!!
So whether your “babies” are going off to pre-school or leaving home for good, and you find yourself in a similar situation, know you are not alone. And know you are not crazy. Empty Nest is just one of 40 different types of loss we can experience in a lifetime. Grief is not limited to death.
Alas, what was I to do? The only thing I could do, which was to admit my grief and take action. I had to resolve it. So I buckled down, and in the hours before
the promotion ceremony, I worked the Grief Recovery process. Many tears were shed. But peace was made with the end of this phase of my life.
What a gift to both of us – my daughter and I both get to move freely into the future without being shackled by the sadness of the past. There is no better way to enjoy the remaining years that I have with her!
I know I am not alone in this. What grief has hit you this graduation season?