If you're a parent struggling to let go of your child as they graduate, read THIS now...
I’m going to rename June, The Month of Letting Go. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean.
It’s the month where children end preschool, elementary, middle and high school, when nests empty, when little birds fly and soar in so many ways.
And it’s a month of Mama and Papa hearts breaking everywhere.
Not necessarily a sad breaking of hearts although it’s all so mixed up, it’s hard to tell sometimes.
It’s all kind of heart-breaking:
It’s all jumbled up and it gets so big that our hearts swell. They swell so big they feel like they land in our throat and the pressure needs to be released so we cry. And we cry a lot. We cry in public, we cry in private, we cry silently and we cry out loud.
And that’s all good. It’s living. It’s real. And it’s what we signed up for.
But let’s be real, it’s painful.
So when one of my dear sister friends reached out yesterday to say she’s been crying all week about her graduating eighth grade son as he soars into his next stage, I listened. Her heart is breaking.
Now, I get her. This is my youngest’s last year of elementary school and thus, my last year of elementary school. So many lasts.
Last sweet little kid concerts.
Last circle times.
Last field days.
Last sweet chaperoned field trips.
And on and on. I’ve been there with my older two and I’m there again.
But then I also reflected on my flowing tears the day before as I watched a video of my children in 2015. They were doing a choreographed dance at my cousin’s wedding (I’m Indian, if you haven’t heard, we dance for nights on end at our weddings!)
If you’re new around here, I was crying because my middle child has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, an ALS like illness in children and in 2015, he was still walking and dancing (one of his favorite things to do ever). So I watched him on that video and cried like a baby. For a different kind of loss.
And so for a dark second, I thought, “You don’t know what letting go is” in response to my friend.
But then I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and focused on my heart.
Because I knew deep down that her pain is as real as this pain. I know it because I’ve felt both. And don’t get me wrong, they’re very different. But I focused on my heart to find what is similar.
(For the record, this is the ONE and ONLY time I think comparing suffering was helpful to me. In general, comparison is the death of Joy and I don’t recommend it!)
And after sitting there in silent reflection, I realized something so obvious but so very powerful.
Our loss was the same in one VERY similar way.
When she (and I and all the mamas out there) are grieving our graduating, soaring children, we are grieving the past.
When I am grieving my son who is declining and continues to do so, I am grieving the future.
With all letting go, we are grieving the past or future and not in the present moment.
None of us are right here, right now.
Ok, I know that sounds too simple and doesn’t sound like a solution but here’s my next very important secret: there is no Solution, per se. This is life. And we need to navigate it. We just need to ride the wave, my friend.
But this concept will help you suffer less while feeling the pain, I promise. (If you don’t remember why suffering and pain are different and how suffering is caused by resisting your pain, go back and watch my TEDx talk for a little refresher!)
Let’s break it down.
When we feel sadness or a jumbled up lot of everything, we need to feel it. Plain and simple. There’s no hiding from it. There’s no denying it. It is more present moment than everything else. Don’t run from it. Stay there. We can’t get stuck there, it’s true. But we can’t ignore it.
Realize your struggle to let go is about you grieving the past or dreading the future. So get here, right now. This is so so important, friend.
To get in the present, start by either getting connected to your body or breath. Close your eyes, And feel your body in the seat beneath you. Or your feet on the earth below you. Do whatever it takes. Feel your hand from the inside. Travel through your body from earth to sky. Or follow your breath. From inhale to exhale. Get in there. So you can get here.
Once you can really be with your body or breath, realize this present moment is the only one that matters. The past is gone. It was either painful or beautiful. But it’s gone. We can’t get it back. The future has yet to happen. Don’t waste time traveling there. Stay HERE.
Notice where you feel your emotion the most in your body and send your breath and love there. What you’re feeling is normal, it's human. Give yourself love and compassion. This is hard. It is painful. But just stay here with it.
Rinse and repeat. Yep, it takes work, that’s why they call this a practice. Just keep doing this. And do it the next day and the next. The solution is always love and sometimes we need to be the one to give it to ourselves. (Actually, most often we need to be the one but that’s a bigger secret for a different post!)
To make this real, I’m going to use the two examples I referred to in the beginning.
Example #1: My friend said she watched her son ride off on his bike to school today, the day of his graduation, and cried. It was loss and it was real. But she is grieving the past and now what is supposed to happen in the present is happening. Don’t deny your sadness but also honor this life that you’re living.
After step 6, I would tell her to add one more.
7. A breath of gratitude for this life. For her son being so free and soaring. For her mothering doing what it is supposed to do, raising a beautiful child who feels so loved. And gratitude for her heart. Because she is loving and feeling the way only we humans can. The way we are privileged to feel. So add #7 and rinse and repeat as often as necessary.
Example #2: My sadness about my son.
So, I watched that video, I felt grief and loss. I wanted him to be able to walk and dance again. So badly I could feel it aching in my bones. I did all six steps and I added on another as well.
7. A breath of gratitude. For my son still here on this earth. For my heart that loves and feels pain so vividly. For my capacity to love because my capacity to grieve is a complete reflection of the reservoir of love I hold. For all I have learned and yet to learn. For my growth. For my heart. And on and on. And then I rinse and repeat as often as necessary.
Both examples show that our letting go is so very similar even though they may not feel that way at times.
Letting go is hard.
It’s so painful to let go when we have fought to hold on and care for these children for so long.
But it is life. It is our life. And most importantly, it is their precious life to live and soar into.
Do me a favor. Spend June letting go of what you need to let go of but hold on to this:
Our hearts were meant to love and release and the struggle we feel is just that expansion and contraction of what we were meant to do.
I don’t minimize the struggle, believe me. But I do celebrate the power of living your life fully and wholeheartedly.
So, revel in all this. Soak it all in.
And may your June month of letting go be a month that opens you to all you have.