When I was 19, I realized that my family, as I knew it, was coming to an end. Oh there had always been warning signs, but they just seemed like a constant presence of smoke, with no flames. However, there was a day when I knew there was more than just smoke – things were burning down.
All this may sound a tad melodramatic. After all, separation and divorce were not that unusual at that time and it’s not as if were the Waltons, despite how fervently my mom wanted us to be. But it was still a very sad and unsettling feeling.
I was at an age that I was still young and self-absorbed enough to only really worry about myself, but old enough to head out on my own. And that I did – determined to establish my own place and own family.
Now, fast-forward some 20+ years and I’m faced with the same sadness and anxiety that I felt at 19 when I faced the reality of what was out of my control. My daughter is heading off (under much better and supportive circumstances), my son is distancing himself from both his parents (as is his god-given right and obligation as a 14-year old boy), and my husband and I struggle (together) to make sense of our careers, our future and what we want to do with it now that the focus is changing.
I truly feel as though I am on the cusp of my family unit, as I have come to know it, ending. We all still need each other and will be there, but not the same way. It will never be the same way. I am really lucky to have the great kids that I do and the amazing husband that I have…not matter what I might gripe about some times…but it does scare me to think about the free fall that will happen immediately after we take this big leap of faith.
I understand that to make something stronger, sometimes you have to break it apart and reconfigure it in a way that is more effective and resistance. I get this, but what we can’t overlook is that generally speaking, the breaking process hurts.
[Like the six millionaire dollar man, “…we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.” ]
In the past few months, I have focused so much on the planning and execution of what’s to come, that I really didn’t put too much thought into what to do and how to handle the aftermath. How to focus on that rebuilding and reconfiguring. And it’s become apparent that without this part, there is a potential for all the parts to just drift away.
I know this from experience.
And when it’s happening, I don’t need to hear any of the following:
- Don’t worry you’ll get over it soon
- Be grateful you can afford to send your kid away / have a job
- It happens to everyone
- At least you have your health
- You need to embrace change
The last thing I would expect or want is a pity party, but some recognition that going through change is more than simply rearranging furniture or getting used to a new role – it has an emotional component that can leave people feeling vulnerable, and lost.
I may be a stronger person because of these changes that I have gone through, but I also recall how it felt to go through them and gratitude for the pain was not top of the list.