Tears rolled uncontrollably down my face as we drove away. We just moved our daughter to the University of Arizona for her Freshmen year. Turning my back to walk away and leave her there was the hardest thing I had done. I could no longer protect her. Our life and our relationship as we had known it for over eighteen years were changing in a big way. The five-hour drive home was a complete daze. Although I knew this was a new phase of life, I really didn’t know how I was going to cope with this chapter. Are you a parent that recently moved your first child to college or is this event pending in your near future? If so, you are probably feeling very emotional and lost. I do have good news for you that may help you feel better. Read on.
First, more of the bad and the ugly. If you are like me, all composure you may have gained on the trip home was lost the moment you opened the door to your house and stepped inside. Britt was away from home many times when I opened that door before, but this time was more permanent. I could feel the absence of her spirit and energy in our home. I sobbed every time I walked by her bedroom door. Seeing her vacant seat across the dinner table would bring a tear to my eye. While washing dishes I would reflect on how she helped me so much around the house and again more waterworks. Grocery shopping was a trigger. I would habitually go to grab her usual favorites or needs and then remember I don’t have her at home to feed anymore. Seeing a car like hers or any classmate that was still in town was sure to trigger my emotions again. It was bad! I grieved hard for weeks. As if I was mourning the loss of a loved one.
After about two weeks I finally entered her room. Again, a cascade of tears flowed like waterfalls down my face. Her room was so plain and lifeless. It lacked her personality. Most of the pictures were gone and off the walls. Her awards and trophies were no longer on display. The room lacked décor. Britt did not take all of these things with her to college. This was the mature and responsible side of her, yet a little confused with the new chapter of life too. She thought she was making it easier for us by packing these items. Britt was closing the high school chapter and moving on. I informed her that it was still her bedroom. She would still be coming home to it. I just couldn’t bare looking at it so empty and lifeless. I was going to change that.
First thing I did was select photos of good times and memories with Brittni and order reprints online. When they arrived I hung them along the wall using rope and clothes pins. She had photos across her walls like this before. It really helped liven up the space. I also ordered and framed a photo of our kids together and placed it on the nightstand. Then hung a large graduation portrait on the wall. This became my “Brittni Shrine”. I could walk in her room anytime I was missing her and feel comfort in seeing her. I would lie on her bed gazing at the photos and yes, sometimes cry. Often times when she called or Facetimed me I would sit in her room. Yes, you will likely communicate with your child often. They don’t just leave and forget you. Remember they too are experiencing many new emotions and adventures.
About two months after we dropped Britt off at school we went back for Family Weekend. I suggest attending Family Weekend if that is an option for you. This allowed us to see her midway between her leaving home for college and then returning home for the holidays. While there we walked through a day in the new life of our daughter and gained more comfort, confidence, and pride in this next chapter we were living. It was difficult to leave her again but not as intense as the first time. We were all adapting little by little to the change. That’s what life does to you.
I would also suggest adding a new hobby or interest to your life. This really helps fill some of the emptiness you are feeling by having one less child to care for. It gives you another focus and outlet. The week after we moved her I revamped my fitness and nutrition plan adding more emphasis there. This has been very rewarding for me. You can read more about that in my Fitness Over 40 post. More recently, I started blogging. As a matter of fact, Britt’s room is my current blog space. I call it my Blogosphere. Being in Britt’s room gives me comfort and inspiration.
The good news is that things DO get easier as time goes by. You will eventually cry less and rejoice more in your child’s success and growth. The newfound relationship with your child will be quite amazing for you as you now communicate and do life with an adult child. The adult that you brought to this world and raised to be the awesome person they are today. The other good news is, time goes by fast. I know it doesn’t feel like it now. Before you know it they are home for the holidays. Then days later it feels like they are coming home with their first year of college under their belts. It will get easier and you will embrace this new chapter. Trust me.
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