I can’t believe I’m starting my third year as an empty nester. Our youngest, Kerry, worked on campus this summer so we didn’t have her home over the summer and her classes start tomorrow. I haven’t written much about my process of releasing her and being an empty-nester because, honestly, I couldn’t. It has been a painful process. She was my baby, my little buddy for many years. We have always enjoyed each other’s company—give or take a few bumpy times.
In the processing of releasing and coming to terms with my empty nest, God made me face and address hard things—like how much of my well-being came from being a mom. I had no idea until my job was over. I don’t think any mom can truly be prepared for the pain, sense of loss, grief, and necessary adjustment that comes with releasing our kids.
I did two things that helped me move forward and grow.
1. Grieve—A dear friend alerted me to the fact that I was grieving, but didn’t know it. Once I recognized my emotions I could process them. Give yourself time to grieve. Allow yourself to miss them. Process, but don’t wallow. Don’t hang out in her room. Honestly talk with God about how you feel. Hand your child over to God. (He already has him.) Talk with another mom who has been on this journey and done it well. Emphasis on “done it well.” Talking with another mom who has faced her emotions, dealt with them with God and is moving forward will be key to growth in this season. I am always encouraged by even the briefest of comments from other moms who have released their kids well and are confidently living their next season of life.
2. Look forward—Even as you grieve, look to God for what He has for you next. No matter if you work outside the home or have been a stay-at-home mom, you are entering a new season of life. Take time with God to see what He has for you next. Yes, He has something for you and it will be exciting! God has been so good to fill my life with new adventures—college, writing, hosting two small groups, etc.
3. Celebrate who your child has become and who he will be. Celebrate her independence to move on. This is what we raised them for, right?! We want them to become independent, godly young adults who bravely pursue all God has for them. Also they need us to be their cheerleader! When we do so, we are giving them the confidence to move on, even if they’re a little scared. This is one way we bless them.
What’s at stake if we don’t move forward with God in this season?
- We become bitter, sad, and self-absorbed.
- We hover over our kids and smother our kids, still looking for our fulfillment in their lives. It’s hard for us to truly celebrate their successes and send them on their way because we want them within our arm’s reach.
- We don’t become the woman God designed us to be.
- We don’t honor God.
- We don’t bless our kids by being who God made us to be.
- We become shallow and stunted.
Kids want their moms to have other interests besides them. It makes us more interesting. And in doing so we show our kids what it looks like to mature, to move forward bravely. When we move forward with God, we show our kids what a confident, godly woman looks like. They need us to be their role models.
I’m with you. I know this hurts, even if it’s only half-day kindergarten for now. God cares too. He released His Child as well.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Even if it’s the three words “I miss her.” Often it helps to say it to someone who’s been there.
Recommended reading: Courage and Calling, by Gordon T. Smith
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.