Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling, with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all that you are beyond that pain. –Kahlil Gibran
On Friday I wrote about my empty nest adjustments. This morning—on a day when my Facebook feed is full of “First Day of School” pictures, but we are not sending children off to school for the first time in almost two decades—my neighbour reminded me of the day we sent our youngest off to full-time school.
I was an at-home mom, so the day our son started Grade One, I went from “busy with kid stuff” all day to . . . figuring out what to do with myself. My neighbour asked me how I would deal with the transition. I told him, “I am going to enjoy my grief.”
I did grieve the loss of the treasured pre-school time with my kids. I’d like to say that I “enjoyed that grief” for as long as it took for me to change from feeling sad to feeling comfortable, but it was only a week or two into that school year that I got a puppy to divert my attention. Avoidance? Perhaps.
Now I am enjoying grief all over again. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally?), the book Rising Strong by Brené Brown came up on my library holds last week. In her section on grief, she describes three elements of grieving: loss, longing and feeling lost. I see those three elements clearly in my situation.
I feel the loss of our family unit, for we will never be “four” in the same way again. I feel the loss of connection, for we know in a general way what our children are up to in their lives, but we don’t know the specifics of where they’re at, who they’re meeting and what they’re doing. I feel the loss of a “job,” for we have raised the children, and they’re doing fine—except in case of emergency—without us.
I feel a longing for something I know I can’t have, and that is the essence of grief. I long for those childhood hugs. I long for a return to innocence. I long to feel useful.
And I have been feeling a little lost. Dinner preparation is different now—cooking for two instead of four. I no longer have to think about school lunch in the morning. Schedules have empty spots that used to be full.
For the next while, it is our time to recognize our loss, acknowledge our longing and reorient ourselves to a quieter household.
And not get a dog.