Have you ever thought you were prepared for a life change and then have the rude awakening that you weren’t prepared at all?
My youngest moved out and went to college 4 years ago and my oldest graduated college in December; and here I am, almost 5 years as an empty nester, just going through the motions of living without any real purpose or zest for life. I had anticipated the empty nest to mean that I would have some nostalgic feelings, along with joy and freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. However, I had not really prepared myself for being without purpose.
I had not realized that I would go through a long grieving period, longing for the past, feeling as if my existence had become inconsequential, and desperately trying to find something to fill the void. Having had the sacred purpose of motherhood, it was difficult to think something could be of equal merit. I started to think the dreams that I had packed away for “someday when the kids are grown” were dumb, just pipe dreams. Maybe I had waited too long, maybe I was now too old to start a career and have dreams.
In my universe, the world had revolved around my children and family, leaving very little space to think about me, as a person, outside that universe. To quote Lady Gaga, that realization took me far from the shallows. I took a deep dive into depression and grief; grief for the loss of that time period and role.
As Mom, I had been so confident, capable, a warrior, and felt like I could do anything. In that identity, I was my best self and knew my purpose. As me, without the role, self-doubt, low self-confidence, fear, and all the voices of everyone that had ever told me I wasn’t good enough have been holding my head under water…too fat, too old, too late, delusional and grandiose in my thinking, just not enough.
I had been struggling with this for the last 4 years, trying to find my way and was to the point of being ready to just settle for less. Then, this past summer, my grandma (a woman that always made me feel like the brightest star in the sky) died. Losing her broke me open and gave me some clarity.
My grandma had requested that I write her eulogy. I wrote about all of the lessons she had taught us, how well she had loved us, the memories she had left us with, and her legacy for us to carry on. In doing her life review, I remembered how she had lost my grandfather at the age of 54—she was a housewife, mom of a teenager, and didn’t drive. In that heartbreak and through her grief, she picked herself up and got a job, took Driver’s Ed. and got her license the same summer I did, took trips, made new friends, and created a happy life for herself, while enjoying the family that she and Grandpa had started, as it grew and flourished. Gram was 6 years older than I am right now when her life changed, and she had to start over and continue on to the next chapter in her story.
In honoring my gram, I realized that I am not too old, and it’s not too late for me to start a new chapter, to have purpose beyond being a mom, to have big dreams and make them happen, to continue the story that my husband and I have started and leave a beautiful legacy for my kids and grandkids to come, just like Gram. Losing her has been hard on my heart, but being able to find meaning in my loss has helped.
At this time, I am working on tending to and mending the broken and neglected parts of myself. I need to be the strong, confident, warrior that I was as a mom for myself. It scares me a little, to think of what I might accomplish, but I’m doing it scared because I know I am #madeformore . I still am not sure what my purpose is now, beyond motherhood, but I think now that I have started to believe I have one, I will figure it out.
Anyone else out there going through a similar time or changes? Found meaning through loss or a difficult time? Trying to find their purpose? Anybody else doing it scared?
I would love to hear from you! XO-Erica