For those of us widowed young with children, each one’s departure brings its own difficulties, but when the last child leaves that is a really big hurdle to jump.

So how can we handle it and make the situation a positive one?

Let’s consider some of the scenarios we may have to face and see how they can be successfully negotiated, so we (and our children) are not left bereft, but excited at this new phase of our lives:

  • Be prepared for a bit of a low period – sometimes our head can tell us all the good reasons why our child is leaving home but our heart will still ache at the loss.
  • Realise that togetherness does not rely on continual physical presence – emails, texts, phone calls and letters can keep that link strong.
  • Be prepared: when you’re in family-type situations like church or social events, the loss will be felt all the more keenly.

Men and women may feel differently. Women tend to think things through more in advance – they’ll miss the heart-to-heart chats and may even miss the practical things like piles of washing and messy bedrooms! Men, on the other hand, may focus more on the excitement of planning for the day, and will remember their own move to pastures new. It may only be at the last minute or after some time that they suddenly feel overwhelmed by their emotions.

Providing the child settles well, the separation eases with time, but if the experience is difficult for them also, and they miss their familiar surroundings or have real problems in their new setting, be prepared to give lots of TLC and advice by phone, often long into the night!

Remember that, for a bereaved young adult entering a new phase in life, their excitement will be tinged with the regret that mum or dad is not there to share in it. Don’t gloss over that by being overly positive, but add your own regrets and allow for some shared tears.

When the nest is finally empty, try to look back on a job well done, perhaps for many years as a lone parent and remember that loving your child involves letting them go.

And what then? Look to the future not with fear, but with excitement at the prospect of all those things that you longed to do, and had no time for, that could now be achieved. Now is your time – not for being a chef, a nurse, a taxi driver, a housekeeper, a teacher, a peace-keeper etc. but to be fulfilled in some new area, looking forward to new possibilities in the future, knowing that you’ll always love your child and that your relationship with them is unique.

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