The Heartache of an Empty Nester

I hesitate to write about a heartache that is not due to actual death. I am a mom who has experienced the heartache of miscarriage, the death of an infant and too many other losses to write about. I am astonished that I feel like my heart is breaking all over again with sending my youngest child, Elizabeth, my rainbow baby, off to college. I almost wouldn’t have believed it until it happened to me.

Feeling the signs of an empty nest
My youngest daughter, packed up and ready to head to her first year of college.

As I write, I am in my hotel room waiting to meet my daughter to make our last run to Bed Bath and Beyond and then I’m heading home, - alone. I’ve been telling people it’s a happy/sad time. Right now I’m trying to play up the happy part. On the one hand I am incredibly happy for her as she’s worked so hard to achieve this goal. I’m so proud of her. And yet, at this very moment I am mostly very sad. I have spent the last 26 years of my life focused on my kids, making lunches, doing loads of laundry, chauffeuring them to school, soccer, play dates and piano lessons (OK no one took piano lessons like I wanted) but you get the idea. I stayed up countless nights waiting for them to get home safe and sound. You might have thought that being a parent meant sleepless nights when they were babies, but it continued when they were teens as they ventured out in those first years after learning to drive a car. Quite frankly, it never stops.

The anticipation of sending my last baby off has been incredibly emotional. I feel like a huge, wimpy baby myself! I just want to cry, - and I have. I’m crying now as I take this all in. Motherhood - the good, bad and the ugly cry.

I’m really not sure what’s happening here and why it’s affecting me this strongly. I was more happy than sad for my other children. Maybe it’s because she’s my youngest and maybe it’s because she’s my rainbow baby. I’ve been told that when you experience a significant loss every other loss you’ve had can come up to the surface again. The losses pile on each other, adding up to feel like a freight train just hit!

Empty nester.
Keeping it together, holding back the tears, just before I say, "See you soon" to my youngest as she starts her first year at university.

What I’d like you to know is that this feeling isn’t new, this happens to me from time to time. My heart breaks all over again. It’s not as intense as the heart ache I felt when my baby George died, but it’s there and it is physically painful. It’s a very dull ache but I recognize what it is (Takotsubo Syndrome)

Here is my confession. I have been sleeping with my Comfort Cub for the last several nights anticipating this big loss. I feel silly saying this because The Comfort Cub is usually used in acute situations. The truth is I always keep one near my bed and pull it out when I’m having a difficult time. The pain returns to me in times of great sadness such as when my dad died, when my first dog, Ginger, passed away, and every other deep sadness in my life. Everyone grieves and feels things differently. I'm here to tell you that it is OKAY.

In the photo of Elizabeth heading off to college there’s a Comfort Cub by her side. She has had one since she was little and she loves it. I packed it thinking I’d leave it with her, but guess what? She’s not the one who needs it - I am! It’s going to join me on the long, lonely ride home and it’s going to be my sleeping companion until this heart ache subsides. From my past experience, the heart ache will subside. It will. However, I’m planning to keep it close by my side for the foreseeable future.

#collegedropoff #holdingbackthetears #keepingittogether #emptynester

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