Last week my youngest son received the news that he had achieved the grades he needs to take up his place at university. All his hard work has finally paid off and he is now about to embark on the next stage of his journey. I am of course incredibly proud of his achievements and excited to see where his future will lead.
As my son prepares to leave home in two weeks’ time, I should be celebrating his first steps into independence. But instead, I am finding myself plagued with guilt as I am feeling an increasingly foreboding self-absorbed sense of loss and loneliness.
I have never lived on my own, my identity has always been attached to someone else, a daughter, a wife, a mum. The last seven years it has just been me and my youngest son at home.
To some degree, the recent pandemic and lockdown has accentuated this co-dependency as my son and I have had to rely on each other’s company and support far more than previously.
Now I am faced with just being me.
The problem is – in all honesty, I have absolutely no idea who ‘me’ is.
My primary function for the last twenty-five years has been to be a good mum and support my children and this I have done successfully, but without this reason to exist I am feeling a lack of direction and self-worth.
I am lucky that I have a job I enjoy, with great work colleagues which will certainly give me a sense of purpose Monday to Friday 9-5 but most of my social engagements previously have revolved around my son’s activities, his friends and the parents of his friends.
It is the loneliness of the weekends and especially the long dark evenings as winter draws in that I am dreading.
Having suffered previously with episodes of anxiety and depression I know this transition is going to be difficult. I am already recognising some signs such as feeling tearful, difficulties sleeping and experiencing periods of irritability and low mood. But I also know that this situation is temporary and by taking the right steps and with the right support, it will improve with time.
Although as parents we actively encourage our children to become independent, the experience of letting go is still understandably painful. We are also anxious about how they will cope away from home without us. After all, we have nurtured and protected our offspring from the womb to adulthood and centred our entire lives around them.
I am pretty certain I am not the only parent experiencing this mix of emotions right now, and I hope that sharing this may resonate with others in a similar situation and help them to realise they are not alone.
There are steps you can take to fill the void that is left by your child moving out of home:
Live in the moment
Remember to enjoy the time over the next few weeks before your son/daughter leaves home. Try to make some special memories to hold onto.
It is a great time to consider pursuing a new interest or pick up an interest that you previously haven’t had time for. It may also be a good opportunity to study for that qualification you always intended on doing or to learn new skills.
Establish a new purpose
Finding a new purpose such as volunteering for a good cause or becoming involved with community projects can help prevent the loneliness and introduce you to new social groups.
Stay in touch with your children
Just because your child is moving out it doesn’t mean you can’t stay in contact with them, in fact your son or daughter may find that an occasional chat with Mum or Dad helps them to cope with settling into their new life. Many of us have become pretty good at using technology and remote communication over the past six months, use these skills to schedule in video calls with your son or daughter to help you feel more connected.
It is also important to reach out to friends and family and tell them how you are feeling. Be honest and open with the emotions that you’re experiencing, this may also help you to receive advice from others who have gone through the same experience.
Remember it is perfectly normal to suffer anxiety and sadness when your child leaves home but if this continues over a prolonged period of time then it is worth considering talking to your GP or seeking professional support.
Although I know I am going to miss my son and the upcoming weeks and months are going to be hard, I am determined to try to embrace this next stage of my life and turn it into a positive period of growth and self-discovery. Who knows I may even find a whole new me…
Big thanks to Marie for writing this blog. If you need support, visit our website here to find out how we can help.