Today I met a woman who was an emotional wreck and trying too hard to keep it under wraps. Her family seemed to have no idea how much she was struggling so I walked up to her when she had stepped off to the side and introduced myself. She was trying so hard to not cry that the second I spoke to her the thin wall broke and she started sobbing. I grabbed this stranger in a gigantic hug because I knew she needed it and somehow she knew that she could trust me.
I held her as she sobbed, letting her tears soak my shoulder. I let her break in the way that she needed but was scared to show her family. I let her deplete the tank that she had overstuffed with emotions without asking any question. When she was finished I didn’t demand strength, I instead offered the tissues out of my pocket. Slowly she started to explain to me that her oldest child was moving away and she didn’t know how to process it. She had gone through massive trauma directly before having this child and likely had an unhealthy bond to him, but knew that she couldn’t hold him back to keep her whole. I told her that unhealthy bond or not, the first child leaving is never easy for anyone.
There is a helplessness that happens when you know they are facing daunting tasks and you can’t be with them. You hear parents talk about this all the time when their child is sick and they can’t fix it, no matter how old they are.
Parents come to me and talk about the depression and heartbreak with children moving out and I offer them all the same sentence.
No one teaches us what to do when they spread their wings and fly. It’s a blank manuscript. You get to fill in the pages. Just like they get to fill theirs.
No one has the answers.
So I gave her my number and told her I was always willing to talk to her. Hell, I was always going to have a shoulder to offer without judgement or demands. I led her to the bathroom for her to put herself together again before she walked back over to her beautiful family. As I watched her go I had a moment where I just knew that this happened to open my eyes to what comes next. Every stage that you are aggravated with your children for will pass. It will shift into something else, sometimes more aggravating if we’re honest. However, it will be over before we know it. They will get big enough to not need to live with us anymore, and we won’t see them daily. They may move next door or they may move hours away.
The end result is always the same.
Emotional parents watching their child’s back as the walk away from us.