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  • Writer's pictureDeanna Kahler

Letting Go Is Never Easy

Thoughts From a Soon-to-Be Empty Nester

It's 5:00 am. I awake from a dream with a wave of fear and panic. This wasn’t a nightmare, just a simple dream where my friend had lost a blanket my daughter gave me and a few cherished pictures of her. With an unsettled stomach, I toss and turn, thinking as I often do about the recent dreams I’ve had. They all have a common theme: loss. The reason? I am facing yet another loss — and this is another big one. My only daughter will soon spread her wings and leave the nest.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so very proud of her and all she has accomplished. I know in my heart that

she will make a good life for herself. These feelings I have are because I will miss her (and, of course, still worry about her as mothers often do!) I have spent 18 years raising this beautiful child and now it’s almost time to let her go. My heart aches at the thought of no longer seeing her much. I will miss her smile. I will miss her laugh and her sense of humor. I will miss watching her in action, creating her next project or dancing around the house. I will miss watching TV with her next to me in my bed and our mother-daughter lunches, shopping and manicures. Most of all, I will miss the occasional hugs — especially the ones where she holds on tight.

This child has filled my heart and life since she the day she was born. Her boundless energy and unique way of looking at the world mean our home was rarely dull or quiet. On good days, she can light up a room. On bad, she’s a force to be reckoned with. She is a strong, intelligent, vibrant, dynamic, determined person — a fighter who works hard to overcome challenges and achieve her goals. I could go and on an about her, but I must stop because I am avoiding what I really need to talk about: my feelings of loss.

I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my life these past two years. Deaths, betrayals, job change, moving, divorce and going back to school. I’ve also gained a sense of peace that I haven’t had in years and learned that I have what it takes to stand alone on my own two feet. I know I am a survivor. Yet, I also know how I react to loss and separation. I grieve hard. Maybe it’s because I love so deeply. Whatever the case, I am bracing myself for the days ahead.

Thinking about my daughter moving hours away to college this summer brings to mind images of my younger self during times of separation and loss. That little girl wandering the aisles at Kmart with her heart pounding because she can’t find her mother. The older child crying in the car with dad because we just dropped my mom off at work for the first time. The young woman driving down M-59 to go Christmas shopping who was suddenly hit with an intense and overwhelming sadness at the exact moment of her beloved aunt’s death. The married adult who placed a poem in her grandfather’s suit pocket and then lowered him into his casket. The 30-something mother-to-be who was devastated when she couldn’t hear her baby’s heartbeat. The woman who stood in the courtroom fighting back tears as her divorce became final. Like a movie playing in slow motion, I relived some of the most painful moments in my life this morning. Now, I must face another.

I know I will still see my daughter sometimes. I know there will be good memories ahead. I also know that this marks the end of a phase in both of our lives, and that many things will change. For her, it’s an exciting, new beginning and a chance to fully experience freedom and independence and chase her dreams. For me, it’s a time to rediscover myself and create a life that is all my own. It is a time for great growth, but it also scares me. I have no idea what the future looks like.

For the first time in my life, I will live in an empty house every day. I don’t know many women my age in the same situation as me — no husband, no boyfriend and no children living at home. Maybe someday I will find her and we can cry together over a cup of hot chocolate. Maybe someday I will find him, and we can travel to interesting places, take long walks hand-in-hand in the park and hold each other in the middle of the night. Until then, I must grieve again and learn to move on.

Ready or not. The time has come.


Deanna Kahler is a writer and teacher with a passion for helping others.

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