Any kind of change can be hard but the hardest changes are the ones that impact our identity and sense of self. After taking my 18 year-old daughter to college at the end of August, I experienced that kind of transition. Once she was gone and I was left with an “empty nest,” it wasn‘t so much her absence that was the most difficult (although of course I miss her), it was the feeling that part of my identity had ended when she left.
For almost two decades, I have strongly identified with the role of being a mother. In fact, that was a centerpiece of who I felt myself to be. With her no longer here, I experienced a kind of identity crisis. Having left an intelligent, independent young woman at her college of choice, it felt like my primary job of being a mother had ended.Â Â I was out of work. What was I supposed to do now?
I can just hear some of you laughing right now – particularly those of you whose college-graduated children are back at home. On an intellectual level, I understand once a mother, always a mother. And, of course, I know my daughter still needs me. Nonetheless, I was experiencing a sense of void and loss and a feeling of being adrift.Â Â So, I had to find a way to redefine myself to myself in a way that doesn‘t have me as mother as the main focus. With a sense of loss, however, came a sense of opportunity. I‘m enjoying a new sense of freedom as well as a different kind of relationship with my young adult daughter.
Are you experiencing a transition that‘s impacting your sense of identity? How can you reframe your loss into a feeling of opportunity?