Friday, November 30, 2012

Grieving Over Welcome Changes


The sage chooses that and lets go of this.  –Tao Te Ching

Last night I was so sad.  What perplexed me is that I was sad about something that I’m also very happy about.  My last two still-at-home kids, one of them with a child of her own, are moving out in a few weeks.  After managing to get all five kids to some level of adulthood, having an empty nest is something I’ve been looking forward to.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love all my kids, and they are great kids, but I’m ready to make the transition to the next stage of my life, which, in my fantasy at least, involves having my house to myself.

Or does it?  My one year old grandson toddled into my room to see me yesterday, all grins, eager to babble at me about something amazing.  My daughter cooked a delicious dinner.  My other daughter sat down and watched a movie with me.  These are things I will miss when they move out.

I tell myself that they are only going to be five minutes away, but we all know that things will be different, very different.  And that, I think, is what I’m grieving.  The loss of things the way they are.  The loss of what I love about the way things are.  Change.

Even when faced with a change we ourselves have sought out and instigated, there is loss that sometimes makes us sad.  When I was approaching retirement last year, a choice that I voluntarily and enthusiastically made, I was sad.  I was leaving a job I had loved for twenty years, friends who were my daily companions, an identity I was enriched by and proud of.  I have never regretted my decision, and retirement has been glorious, but the choice I made meant leaving something behind, letting go of things that mattered to me.

And so it is now.  I have not lived without children in my home for over twenty-five years.  The daily rhythm of my life has included my children for a quarter of a century.  And while I’m not worried about what I will do – indeed, retired life has been so busy, I’m not sure how I ever found time to have a job – there will be an emptiness in the spot they now occupy.

I am ready for this change, and I do want it.  All the things I’m looking forward to fill me with curiosity and anticipation.  My daughters are excited, too.  And we’re all glad that we won’t be far away from each other.  We can hold our sadness, and maybe a bit of nervousness, in the same arms that embrace our joy and celebration of this major life transition.

Grieving over change, even desired change, is a part of releasing the familiarity and blessings of what we are leaving behind.  Acknowledging our feelings helps us move forward in freedom, welcoming a new day.

Have you ever found yourself sad about a change that you chose for yourself and eagerly looked forward to?

related posts: Cradling Our Feelings; Seasonal Yin Yang; The Joy of Sadness, the Sadness of Joy

54 comments:

  1. Oh yes! I have, but it's expected. Also when we're unsure of what may happen after they leave, (with children we will forever worry.) But believe me I've had nearly the same experience, and it's just like you said they will come over all the time. Soon you will get very used to having those special times with them over- movies, dinner, babysitting- teaching your little grand-delight new things, but you will also grow into that feeling of needing and wanting your alone time. My daughter-in-law knows and tells my son- slow down mom needs her time too! It all works out- and that feeling sad- happened when my daughter finally left (and she stayed here full time during her four years of college! Yay!) I even have flash backs of when she was my little girl living here, and I miss them too, but now we have new things to share. She even made our family's special dinner (Roulauden) and had her father and I over to her house- (and I brought a couple of my other grandchildren to play with her daughter) oh yes, we all stick together like glue and it works! It's going to be okay!

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    1. Karen, I smiled all the way through your comment. I love hearing about your family, and I also love hearing your reassurance to me that all will be well. You are such a sweetie. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Yes, I've had that experience of feeling sad when a good change was occurring. When I got married 9 years ago, I was 40 years old, so I lived on my own for many years before I married. That was a tough transition for me, even though I was eager to marry. It was difficult to leave behind the solitude that I had had for so long. But now I can't imagine not living with my husband, so it all works out.

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    1. Tina, That's a great example of a welcome change that can also mean giving up things that we care about. That was a big leap of faith for you! I'm so pleased for you that you are so happy with your choice! Thanks for commenting.

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  3. Oh, yes, Galen, I've felt grief in the face of desired change. So bittersweet . . . to leave the past comfort behind and head into the unknown can be exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I think grieving is a natural part of any change in our lives.
    Loved the post, my friend!

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    1. Martha, Bittersweet, that is just how it feels. Thanks for your reassuring comment.

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  4. lovely, galen! all change is somewhat stressful, even good change. i feel confident you will enjoy your empty nest immensely -- i am certainly enjoying mine ;-)

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    1. Linda, I appreciate the encouragement. It helps to remember that I'm not the only person who has gone through this transition! Thanks for commenting.

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  5. with a little planning it will be the best of both worlds for everyone!

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    1. Well, if planning leads to success, then this should be a very successful move for all of us! Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Change is not always easy and we often have to be willing to experience temporary discomfort as we build life with enthusiasm.

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  7. Our youngest daughter has left and moved back three times! Each time she comes home we mourn the loss of our space and empty nest. But each time she leaves we miss her presence, though we welcome the extra space we get back.

    Once a parent, always a parent.



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    1. Bob, That is so true. The night before I got James, I went out to dinner with a friend and said, "This is the last night of the rest of my life that I won't be a mom." Thanks for commenting.

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  8. I know exactly how you feel. This year my teenage son moved out of the house to go to college. I wanted that change and yet when the time came I was sad. It has been a couple of months and I am used to being by myself, I keep in touch regularly but at that point it was with a sad heart I let him go. Change even voluntary ones can disturb us. Thank you for sharing this, Galen. I am sure once all of your settle down down in your new found change, things will be fine.

    http://rimlybezbaruah.blogspot.in/2012/11/breaking.html

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    1. Rimly, I think they will be fine, too. At the same time, I'm having to face that what I was looking forward to so whole heartedly has a sad aspect, too. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  9. Certainly! Actually I've been awaiting a huge change (residence, and therefore sadly, schools) and it just refuses to happen. Makes one wonder about what is meant to be! But yes I was just thinking about that, the longevity of things that stay in out lives for a decade or decades, and the interesting changes and sense of loss that ensue.

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    1. Julie, That is interesting indeed. But I know, as you do, that there is a reason. I had contracts on two places this year that fell through, and then I found the perfect place (that the girls are moving into). I'm so glad now that the first contracts didn't work out! Thanks for your comment.

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  10. Good post as always. It's always sad to let our children go into their own possibilities and potential. I had similar mixed feelings when I placed my mother and mother-in-law in a nursing home. I wanted my house, my life back. But I was devastated. My sadness was tinged with guilt at letting others take care of them. Time and reflection have healed most of that. And I am enjoying life, house, husband. What a mix life is.

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    1. Myrna, Thank you for sharing your insight. Yes, I'm sure that was a very difficult decision. We all have to strike a balance in our lives. Thanks so much for your comment.

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  11. I loved reading your thoughts today. We have been Empty Nestors for quite sometime. However, we have had times when our children have moved back home for various reasons. One of them lived with us for 18 months while their husband was serving in Iraq. My daughter had 4 girls at that time and we loved having them and we became very close to them. We even moved them with us from Spokane to Salt Lake. When they went back home it was a big change and hard for a while.
    We do enjoy our freedom in our home. However, my 21 year old grand daughter is moving here this coming Monday. We hope it is only temporary. She is struggling with some issues; so we are grieving over this change. Hopefully, it is going to be a good one. I didn't mean to write a book; it was just that you post gave me something to ponder upon.
    Blessings and hugs!

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    1. LeAnn, I'll read a book you write anytime! Thanks for sharing your story. A grandchild moving in--I had not thought of that! My two grandkids are still just one year old, so I guess I have a while before that might be an issue. I'm sorry for your granddaughter's struggles, but what better place could she be for trying to work through things? I hope that it is indeed temporary. (And thanks for your son in law's service to our country.) Blessings to you, my friend.

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  12. Our last offspring moved out for the final time about 7 years ago. We are glad for the quieter house - and the fuller refrigerator - but wish we saw the kids more often. We raised them to be independent and they are. The saddest part for me is taking out the Christmas tree ornaments every year. It's easier to have a very simple tree with new ornaments than to look back with such nostalgia on those busy years.

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    1. Linda, I'm giving them some of the ornaments to take to their new apartments. I probably won't decorate too much, except for stockings. My two sons will be back home for Christmas, and I'm sure the girls will all come over Christmas Day. But you are right--it's not the same. I think I will enjoy the quieter house, too, at least most of the time. Thanks for your comment.

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  13. We all brace for the change when the day comes and our children leave the safe haven of their homes to make their own lives. We are joyful yet sad. I am sure you will be happy and peaceful, and like you said, kids are closeby. Hugs!

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    1. Rachna, Yes, all those feelings! Big changes for all of us. I'm glad I have a good relationship with the girls and that they will be close by. I'm lucky that at least so far all five of my kids have stayed in the area. That can always change, but for now I'm glad to have them close. Thanks for commenting.

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  14. Oh for sure, I have been there, but I think this empty nest thing is particular and cannot be related to much else. It's huge and good and sad. Be with your feelings, go with them and don't try to control it!

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    1. Jodi, Oh right, that control thing! Ha! Well, I'm controlling this a bit more than you know because I own the place they are moving into! But you are quite right that in this whole transition, there is very little I am in control of, especially my feelings. Good advice to just be with them. Thank you for commenting.

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  15. So well said! It really is a balance of acknowledging our feelings of grief and sadness moving toward letting go. You are doing a beautiful job, shining the light of your awareness on the transition.

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    1. Sandra, I was over at the triplex with Mia just a little while ago helping her hang curtains. It's fun to do these things together and helps us both know that we are still connected. Thanks for your kind words.

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  16. Dear Galen,
    It looks like your wise words touched many hearts and thoughts. It seems to me our biggest learning adventure about our love and family comes through these transitions: some wonderful and some not always so wonderful... . I have always believed that the contradiction(s) that occur whe we encounter these moments give the joy and strength that we need when we encounter the not-always-so-wonderful. Thanks for your ever present presence.

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    1. Cathie, Thanks for sharing your insights and for your kinds words.

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  17. I enjoy reading your posts, especially your spiritual perspective on things. I retired completely from my nursing career last year, after dabbling in part time work for a while. Yes! Retirement is busy! And I have had moments of guilt" at having left a helping profession.But I am done.

    I have had to reprioritize lots of activities and interests--luckily, I have always loved being a home maker, a cook, baker, and I have plenty of interests to keep me very occupied! In fact, I did not even begin a career at all till I raised our son, and went back to school at age 28, when he was in third grade. I loved my "at home" years! Retirement: what a treat! TIME for exercise!! Woo hoo!!

    Yes, the year our son moved out was a turning point--it was quite some time ago, but having a big quiet house again after the noise and joy of a son, his friends and activities, and his company, was.. startling!

    It's a new chapter for sure.

    No doubt they'll be back often.. wishing you love and light during the transition!



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    1. Madeline, Thanks so much for sharing some of your story. The comments on this post have assured me that I am in good company!

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  18. Galen: I try never to be sad. My wife is sad at the moment, because of something unrelated to me. It happens to everyone and it is important to learn how to deal with it.

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    1. JJ, I am not sad often, but when I am, it's okay. I don't think sadness has the same separating root in fear as other "negative" feelings do. For me, sadness often flows fluidly back and forth with joy, like the yin/yang symbol. The key, as you say, is learning how to deal with it. Thanks for your comment.

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  19. Awwww.....you have a way of touching my heart. Even though I have not had the same experience as my kids are still young, I can empathize with what you are going through.

    Well, things will start to settle in good timing. Soon, you will find yourself enjoying the new change. Take care, Galen.

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    1. Evelyn, Thank you for your very sweet words.

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  20. Yep, I sure have. I know exactly what you are experiencing. My daughter moved out of the house several years ago. I thought that I would be happy - I was somewhat, but I do miss her dearly. She doen't live too far away. But every so often I ask her when she is moving back home. She tells me NEVER! I laugh and feel sad at the same time. Also, when I broke up with my fiance - a welcome decision, but felt a severe loss. The only constant in this life is change. Some welcomed and others not so welcomed. Great post Galen. Cheers!!

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    1. I wonder if I will ever ask my kids when they are going to move back! I'm sure I will miss them dearly, as you miss your daughter, but I think I will like having the house to myself. We'll see! Thanks for commenting.

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  21. You put this so well - we mourn the loss of fulfillment we found in the things and people so close in the past, and yet look forward to what the future will hold and somewhere in the middle of the transition we feel at loose ends. it's unnerving. If there is no other truth in life, it's that change is constant. What a great topic!

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    1. Barb, I'm a slow learner, and it took me a long time to recognize and accept this truth. Thanks for your comment.

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  22. Yes I have. I felt an empty place in my heart for a very long time. But at the same time I was rejoicing in the children's successes and choices. It was a very long time before I slept good. It was only when they would all come home for holidays that I lay my head on my pillow and sleep like a pillow.

    I think that the thing that kept me in that place was a worry for their safety. I finally realized that I would never be in charge of their lives again. That was a very good thing.

    Be well Beth. I am buying the books on Amazon and putting them on my Kindle.

    b+

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    1. Barbara, That's a good way to look at it--rejoicing in your children's success and choices. As for being in charge of their lives, I wonder if I ever really was! Thanks for commenting!

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  23. Thank you Galen for a wonderful emotional post! There are two ways to face such situations; one way is as you mentioned releasing your feelings and acknowledging them to helps us move forward, and the second way is as what the ancient Chinese and Indian wisdom says - make your phase wooden, have a bird's eye view and look at it as a mere imperative, essential and just another event of life.

    But it's easy to say and difficult to follow. No matter how hard we just try to follow the Zen wisdom and be a mere witness but we get involved, and emotions tear us apart. I've been in the situation when I got married - I was happy to go but sad to leave my parents, something which most girls at our end face. And, I'm anticipating another situation to come when my daughter moves out of my house for higher studies, I'll be left with a blank but will be happy for her that she gets a chance to make her life full.

    Change is so different and difficult, but that's what life is all about. Face it, and move on. I wish that your change goes a smooth transformation and brings a new lease of life to all of you. :)

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    1. Harleena, Thanks for sharing your perspective and your good wishes.

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  24. Hi,

    Loved reading :) The most difficult part of anything is to let go. But then as they say, the only thing that is constant in life is change :)

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    1. Shreeja, There's a reason that saying has been around for so long and appears in so many languages and cultures--it's true! Thanks for commenting.

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  25. I loved reading this. Change is something inevitable but we have to learn to accept it. It can be very difficult at times esp if it involves our loved ones.But change is also good too. We move on and get better. Thank you for sharing.

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  26. a wonderfully written piece of writing.. What a nice perspective you have presented.. major changes in our lives at certain points or we may call it as transition into a new phase can be overwhelming... but we should welcome the new things and feel the thrill and excitement of a new phase..

    superb piece of writing..

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    1. deepak, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the kind words.

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  27. I am going through all the previous posts that I missed. I loved them all Galen even if i didn't comment. This one feels special to me since I had such a big change in my life less than 5 months ago. Changing country, being now a single mother, away from my family, my friends, my job, my colleagues, my home and even my little things at home. Leaving 45 years of my life behind and starting new. It was my choice (forced by circumstances), it was my dream, but it is still SO painful. The pain is much more than I can even describe

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    1. Nicky, You have been through huge changes recently. Even if it's your dream, it is traumatic and painful, as you say. When I moved here to Portland, I left everything behind in another country and started a new life as a single mom, so we have shared some common experiences. All we can do is grieve. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Blessings to you.

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