Anticipatory Grief

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The hardest thing
about this next year will be
knowing this is the last.
The last time I will force him
to take a first day of school
picture. The last homecoming.
The last band concert. The
last – everything.”

A friend of mine said this after I congratulated
her on having a senior this
upcoming year.

As I have been through this
twice, I knew what she meant.

My 2020 graduate didn’t even get to have all the “lasts”!

Anticipatory grief is a hard thing.
Knowing you are
walking through things for
the last time seems to make
the sorrow even deeper.

I remember my oldest
son catching me crying one day his senior year.

It was his last Homecoming dance and he didn’t even go with a date! I was crushed.

No last Homecoming
pictures, no last mum to buy (Southern thing) — boring boys who were hardly dressing up.

“ What’s wrong? “ he asked.

When I told him, he rolled
his eyes. “ Seriously? I love you mom,
but you’ve got to get a grip.”

That arguably rude statement revealed the truth
to me. The grief we feel is
really about us.

(For a related post about dealing with the first year of college, see here: )

That isn’t to say that our kids
don’t feel it. They do. But WE know how this sadness ends – us driving them to a university, or a military base, or a new place to live. It isn’t about the “lasts”, but the “next.”

“So, how do you stand it?”
asked my friend who was about
to have a senior.

Well, I didn’t handle it
well with my first son.

I bugged him way too much with sentimentality. I preached to him too often about the
“things he needed to learn”
before he left. I cried at
inopportune moments (as
when he chose to spend his
last summer gone all the
time with friends.)

The next time around I
was better prepared.

I have learned a few things to prevent becoming an obnoxious Senior Parent.

1) Grieve. Yes, I said it. There’s
nothing wrong with being sad.
Look at old pictures. Sob your heart out. Wallow in your feelings.
But keep it to yourself,
or share it with their other parent. They will get it!

2) Focus on the “nexts. “
Help them research the town
or base or jobs or
wherever their path is taking
them. Recall your own excitement
at their age & try to feel that
for them.

3) Let the lessons proceed
If they
need that uniform clean
by tomorrow, say, “Okay, I will show
you how to clean it.

Remember to show them the differences
between cleaning white baseball pants
and a red polo shirt!

If they are hungry in the middle of the afternoon, show them how to make easy things – like scrambled eggs or brownies.

4) Look for signs of their own grieving. Teens are notoriously hard to read. Are they tired? Hungry? Hone your spidey-parent senses so you can be prepared for those times when they need to be express their own emotions.

5) On that note, get ready for late nights. That’s when teens are ready to emote – when your eyes are drooping…Don’t waste those times! You can sleep later, when they are off on their next adventure.

6) Beware the spoiling of the nest” syndrome. This is a common occurrence, especially spring semester, when nothing you do is right.They are no doubt having conflicting feelings about leaving, too. Then, as usual, they take it out on the ones they love the most. Plus, many of them have turned 18. They are adults and can do what they want – so there !Keep your cool and remind them even YOU have certain house rules you have to keep. That’s life, bub.

7) There’s strength in numbers. Commiserate with other Senior Parents. Then you know you aren’t alone.

8) Finally, don’t feel bad if you aren’t feeling sad! Everyone processes this stage of parenting differently and that is okay.

Now I need to go take my youngest son to practice driving. Ugh. They start to “leave” you right here – at this point. The independence of our children is a beautiful and terrible thing.

Day to Day Graces

Lover of the daily - my life as told in pictures and words. So much around us is missed because we are too blind to see grace in the everyday. “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things!” Psalms 119

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