My son decided to move five hours away to live with his dad full time and I am still not over it. It was Thanksgiving break three years ago, during the pandemic when our kids were navigating online school. My son had been living with me full time for over two years while his dad worked on his health and well-being.
His dad reached out to me to ask if our son could spend Thanksgiving through Christmas with him, given he was learning remotely anyway. I reluctantly agreed – my ex seemed to be doing better health wise and our son wanted to spend time with him. I pushed my reservations deep down into the pit of my stomach. As I watched him climb into his dad’s car I tried to focus on Christmas Eve when I would plan to pick him up again.
Our son wanted to live with his dad
A week before Christmas my ex texted me and informed me that our son was not going to be coming back to live with me. In fact, not only did my son not want to come back and live with me, he did not want to talk to me about it. I tried not to panic, but honestly it was like my worst nightmare was actually coming true.
I wanted to run out of the door and drive up to see him right away but I was told he did not want to see me and I was expected to “respect his boundaries.” I did that, I respected his boundaries, and I have been for the last three years.
I miss my son every day
We finally did get a chance to talk a few months later and I have treasured the handful of times I have been able to see him since he moved in with his dad full time, but it’s not the same. He is not a great communicator and often goes months before returning any of my weekly calls, texts and messages. I know it’s not a death, but I find myself grieving this loss almost every day.
I know he’s living a good life and is generally doing well as a senior in high school now but it feels like he’s gone to me. I don’t get to mother him. I don’t get to make him dinner or bring him breakfast in bed. I don’t know his friends or his interests.
I don’t get to say “good morning sweetheart” or “drive safe”. He doesn’t come to me when he needs extra money for gas or wants to go to a party with his friends. I do get occasional updates from his dad but they are lacking in the detail this mother wants and needs.
What eats away at me on a daily basis is not only did my son not come to me to tell me about his feelings or his decision, it felt like he abandoned me. I had no explanation, no reason, no warning. My heart and soul were literally ripped out of my body and I still weep over the loss. Does he even miss me? Does he even love me? What did I do wrong all of those years? Why did I let him go in the first place?
I quickly realized that it would do me no good to focus on my loss
Pretty quickly I realized if I focused on these negative thoughts I wouldn’t be able to function in life like I wanted to. The grief and sadness can be overwhelming at times and I knew if I didn’t learn to cope with it I was not going to be able to be productive at work, at home or in any of my other loving relationships.
Three things that I have done that help me overcome the grief and fill my heart with other kinds of joy
1. Write a letter
My therapist actually suggested this and it is a great way to say everything you want to say without hurting anyone else. I wrote a letter to my son and his dad and then I burned it. It provided such a cathartic feeling of relief and allowed me to move forward. It is a very healing process.
2. Spend time with others
I am lucky enough to have a very supportive family with a step-daughter, nieces and nephews. Spending time with them and loving on them gives me the chance to express the nurturing side of me that I miss so much. Even if you don’t have relatives, spending time with friends, their kids or volunteering for kids and teens can be just as rewarding.
3. Putting myself first
I am very intentional about making sure that I include things in my day that bring me happiness and joy. There are always going to be things I have to do, but making sure I include some of those things I love like walking my dog, reading a spicy book or FaceTiming a friend is an important step in maintaining healthy mental space.
Inevitably our kids grow up, move out, get a life of their own and many communicate less and less with their parents on a regular basis. It just happened way too soon for me. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared.
Maybe we never really are.
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