You have invested possibly 17 – 25 years of your life into your son or daughter. The years hold memories of laughter, tears, celebration, struggle and pain. As a parent there have been times when the responsibility of raising your child has been costly and you have looked forward to the day when they would be independent and living their own life.
On other occasions, the prospect of your child leaving home may have brought with it a profound sense of loss. All of these feelings are normal and part of the human experience. It is important to acknowledge the complexity of emotions you feel as you make the adjustment to living without your adult child at home.
When our children leave home we can feel physically and emotionally empty. Our feelings are telling us that we have suffered a significant loss and we need to grieve our loss.
The period of grief is different for everyone however if you find yourself stuck in this grief for a lengthy period of time, reflect upon the following questions to help you process what your ‘stuckness' might be about.
1. What role did this child have?
A. In your family
Some examples of typical roles family members have include: ‘the peacemaker', ‘the clown', ‘the good girl', ‘the helper’, and ‘the negotiator'. When that person is no longer present to maintain their role, it upsets the equilibrium of the family unit. It takes time for the family members left behind to adjust to the change.
B. In your relationship with your partner
Frequently when couples experience unresolved issues in their relationship, a child will become the confidant and friend for one of the parents. She becomes the container of your feelings and emotions and can be relied upon to intuitively understand your needs. In this way, the couple can remain together without the tension becoming unbearable. When she leaves home, the couple are confronted with the problems that were never resolved and find themselves isolated from each other.
2. Does that child have particular significance for you?
For instance, is
- The youngest child, your ‘baby'?
- The child that survived significant trauma at birth?
- The child that reminds you of your now separated or deceased lover?
- The child you never thought you could have?
When a child holds a particular memory or experience for us, it can be particularly distressing to ‘let go' of them.
3. What meaning do you ascribe to your child leaving home?
Leaving home is necessary for your adult child to become his own independent and separate person with his own beliefs, values and lifestyle. When we don't allow our offspring to separate from us, be it physically or emotionally, we stunt their growth as normal functioning human beings.
Sometimes a parent can feel rejected when you see your child so eagerly leave home and take on a lifestyle that may not be reflective of your own. If you can identify with this, understand that this is her opportunity to explore who she is. Neither of you want a carbon copy of yourself!
4. What other friends and interests do you have?
It is very normal to discover that in the business of raising children, you have neglected to invest in your personal development and social network. Take time to reflect upon your own hopes and dreams for the future. It may be your time to begin something that you have always wanted to do but never had the time.
You may also have neglected your relationship as a couple and feel like your living with a stranger. It is important to sit down together and talk about your hopes and dreams as you anticipate this next phase of your life together. Get to know each other again and be intentional about doing some activity together.
As you read this, you may find you identify with some of the experiences I have described. If this is the case for you, then you may find it helpful to talk to a Counsellor about your experience to help you fully understand and process your loss.
It may be the right time for you and your partner to seek Couple Counselling to ensure that this next phase of your life together is a satisfying and rewarding experience.
If there are other family members still living at home, it may be well worth you doing some Family Counselling together to talk about the changes that are occurring.
Counselling will help you to understand how your child leaving home impacts you and the people around you. It is important to talk about your experience so that you are able to process and integrate it, and identify what it is you need to do in order to move on and embrace a new beginning in your life.
Have you children recently left home? Are you trying to relate to your adult children? Here’s what you need to do: Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how we can best help you or book online.