Friday, May 13, 2016

Feeling All the Feels Is the Only Path to Healing

This week, I have been doing some emotional work which took a lot out of me. Some of you have expressed concern, and sent personal messages of encouragement and love. For that, I thank you. I'm going to be okay, but you knew that. Parenting is one of the toughest things we do, and it means so much when the women in our circle support us through the tough times. Thanks for being part of my tribe.

Makeup remover was unnecessary a couple days ago. Tears took off most of my mascara. The balled up Kleenex on the couch had removed the rest of my makeup. My face was puffy and red. Yeah, I was what they call one hot mess.

Feeling all the feels is painful. It is raw. It is uncomfortable. But it has allowed me to get real with myself, and to learn some important lessons about avoidance and acceptance.

Confronting the prospects of a true empty nest has been overwhelming. In two weeks, Chuck and I will fly to Utah to watch our youngest accept his high school diploma. Chuck will meet our daughter's boyfriend and his little girls. We know we already have one son's wedding next summer. Will there be another soon? Our family is shifting and changing all the time.

Watching these last two leave the nest has not been easy on this mama's heart.

When Chuck asked me what was making me anxious and sad, I wasn't quite sure. As soon as he wondered aloud if watching the kids grow up and move on with their lives were weighing on my mind, I began to cry. I could barely talk as I explored my fears and shortcomings as a mom. 

Most moms worry that we didn't do enough of the right things, and we did too much of the wrong things. 

Those of us who put our children through divorce have an extra helping or two of guilt added to our plates.

All day long, I alternated between writing, crying, and sleeping. Yes, I ate, too, but it wasn't the crazy, out-of-control bingeing of the last few weeks. For once, I didn't avoid the emotions, but sat with them. It was painful and heart-wrenching, but necessary.

My youngest is 1400 miles away, finishing up the last couple weeks of his senior year of high school. My heart ached for him to forgive my mistakes in mothering. At a loss for how I could communicate with him while he was busy at school, I decided to send him an email.

I wrote to Bridger, expressing my apologies for choices I made that affected him deeply. I cried for the years I lost with my baby boy when the second marriage I was in was not a healthy place for us to grow closer.  I cried for making him into an adult so soon. I cried because I miss him so very much. I dried my eyes, and hoped my words adequately expressed the feelings I was trying to convey.

And do you know what that boy of ours did? He wrote me the most loving, forgiving, accepting letter in return. 

Once again, this mother learned lessons from one of her children. Bridger told me: 

"There may have been some tough times in the past 8 years, but everybody has hard times. And through those hard times and trials come strength and growth. Don't be sorry. In the end all of our decisions take us where we're supposed to be." 

My tears began again, but this time, they were tears of peace and joy. Bridger's words gathered the remnants of my broken heart, and made it whole again. Knowing he was able to grow from those experiences, and love me through it all was just the balm I needed.

I know I am not a perfect wife or mother, but I will go to my grave giving the best I have to my husband and our kids. I am so grateful that I took the time to dwell in those uncomfortable feelings long enough to explore what I had been avoiding. I had things I needed to say to Bridger, and I wanted to take responsibility for my actions, and to ask for forgiveness. I also needed him to know how loved he is, and how lucky I am to be his mom. If I had not taken the time to explore why I was feeling so unsettled, and kept avoiding the uncomfortable feelings, I would have missed this opportunity to connect and be forgiven by my son.

Have I learned anything? I won't really know until I am faced with situations that require self-evaluation and reflection. And they will surely come.

Life will have its ups and downs, and there will be plenty of opportunities for practicing what I've learned. Avoidance is not the answer. We need to fully experience life, the good and the bad, to learn the lessons and to progress. What I know for sure is this: Feeling all the feels is the only path to healing. 


  1. So well said and well done. You had to know that Bridger loves you beyond all and even in the valleys. Glad you are through that vale, now on to the mountain tops. And there will be mountain tops when you see him graduate, when you see the wedding and when you watch Chuck be with you all the way. Good job.

    1. Oh, Stella. Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement.

  2. My sons left the nest, all at once. #! son died at age 25. A few weeks later the youngest son #3 joined the military and #2 moved out with friends. It was horrible for me. I had just remarried, and we were going on year 2.

    I still struggle with guilt with my sons. When they all came back to live with us, due to the bad economy, it was a second chance for me. And we did bond. But unfortnately, they stayed too long and we started having our issues. They moved out again, now for the last time and we're still good. Now it's time for my husabnd and I. He's been so patient and kind.

    Empty nest is rough. But this second time, while I miss them at times, was not at all like the first.

    Hang in there and try not to beat yourself up too much.

    1. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I am glad you got a second chance.


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