Why is it so hard to let go of loved ones?
Now that my youngest child has turned 18 years old and is moving out of the house to attend college, a sense of loss swells up in me again. I have just received my final pink slip from motherhood, and I am not receiving a pension check, severance pay or even a gold watch. My nest has become empty, and my son does not understand my sense of abandonment; he is busy moving on to the next stage of his life.
Twice before, I have had to deal with this sense of loss:
I was in my early thirties when my youngest brother disappeared. It was three months later, when a fisherman found his bloated body drifting on the ripples of Lake Michigan, that I knew he was dead. He was only 19 years old, the youngest of six children. As his oldest sister, I had unconsciously stepped into the role of second mother while he was growing up and I felt that a part of me had died too. The tragedy cut his life short. His memory and smiles haunted me. It wasn’t until I had children of my own, that I had begun to let go of his invisible presence.
Thirteen years later, I again found myself in the position of trying to let go of a spouse after a bitter divorce. It would have been easier if we did not have children, then I could have moved away. After all, out of sight is out of mind. But that was not the case. I had to maintain contact for purposes of visitation, child support, education, and all the other situations involved in child rearing. I found it very hard to let go of my negative feelings, such as anger, resentment and a profound sense of unfairness. Maybe when the children are grown and out of the house, I would find it easier to let go of this failed dream and the rusty prince.
Now that the children are gone, I am still having a hard time letting go, despite my fantasies of having “time to myself.” I guess that I forgot the emotional strings attached to nurturing others.
Throughout my life, I believe that letting go of loved ones has been a rite of passage that has prepared me for the next stage of life. Despite the difficulty of the circumstances, I have had to work through the process of mourning the loss of a brother, marriage and occupation. For every step that I took forward, I have had to confront the unknown and accept the unexpected. Time forced me to turn my attention to other things in order to close the gaping wound of loss. And this I believe, that by letting go of my former identities is how I will embrace tomorrow.
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