Finding Meaning in Loss

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

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6 thoughts

  1. Very well written, Erica! I believe as women we all go through that bought with low confidence when we evolve from being Mom to being our own person. Sometimes loss help flesh that out for us! Stay strong, you got this and know that there are lots of us who have suffered (and continue to try to overcome) self doubt during our evolution!

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  2. Wow! Wonderful writing Erica! This really struck a chord. I’m a 50 year old empty nester of one. My mom and I really related to this post, and I just felt like I needed to write you. I found myself tearing up at every paragraph and bursting into tears at the one about your grandmother. You are so blessed to have a grandma like you had. I never had that but we did just lose a very dear friend last week who was the grandmother I always wished to have. She sounded a lot like your grandmother, and she is the only person to ever make me feel like I was the brightest star in the sky, so reading that really choked me up. You are a fantastic writer, and everything you wrote was so heartfelt and I could relate to everything you said. I was stunned to see that you wrote this on the very day I found your blog. It was quite by accident. I was surprised to read your description on everything I was feeling too.

    I could write so much more but I’ll be brief. My mom and I live in Colorado but are moving back to her hometown of Clinton, IA. I grew up there in my elementary years and moved to Colorado in 79. The time has come to leave, so we put our things in storage and took a long road trip across the US last year to see where we should plant ourselves all the while trusting God along the way. We came out last Fall to look at houses in the area and even drove through Sabula.

    Anyway, I just recently thought to check houses in Sabula again and saw your grandmother’s house for sale yesterday. I always research the history of a house and that’s how I found you. I actually read your first article on why you like living in Sabula. I really enjoyed reading that too. It sounds like a really sweet place to live. I have a few questions about your grandmother’s house but would prefer to email in private. I look forward to hearing from you!

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    1. Ohhhh-that just makes my heart swell knowing how you related to my story! Thank you for all of the kind words—I’m so sorry for your loss! My grandmother’s house is on the market, but I would ask you to contact the realtor rather than myself or another family member as we are all very raw in knowing that a home we loved so much will no longer be ours. I hope you understand. You can find me on fb if you like :). I wish you safe travels back and send you a warm welcome as well—it’s still very cold here!! Take care 🙂

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  3. Oh gosh! I’m so sorry to bother you! I didn’t mean to offend you. I have not had the best of luck with realtors so we are going to just come out in April and look at houses individually and contact the listing agents instead. I just wanted to know the condition of the house and who better than to ask the owners. I was so happy to have found your blog because I could really relate to everything you said and thought maybe this was a sign, so I just felt like I should write you. Anyway, if you change your mind and want to give me info about the condition of the house, you can email me. I won’t be contacting anymore realtors until we are there in person. Thanks for your quick reply. Blessings!

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