I wake up too early feeling sad. My only child is going to college next week. As I process the loss I realize that I’m losing the center of my life.
Knowing that she’s leaving, I’ve been trying to prepare by thinking about all the things I’ve been wanting to do but didn’t because I had to be home for her. I could go back to evening yoga and aerobics classes. I could finish writing my books. My husband and I could get theater subscriptions. We could have friends again! While getting excited about getting my own life back, I realized I was carefully avoiding picturing her empty room. I pictured coping by leaving her door closed the entire time she’s away.
But, I have no other choice. I have to launch her properly. So I treated myself with the HBLU protocol for clearing trauma. In addition, whenever I felt triggered by environmental cues, i.e. the road to the high school we’d never be driving to again, or the store in the mall where we used to shop, but she’s now outgrown, I did the Natural Bio-Destressing (meridian tapping) technique to clear the traumatic reaction.
Meanwhile, my husband talks about how happy and relieved he is that she’s leaving soon, that the labor intensive process of getting her into and out to college will soon be over, and of how I can have my car back. My daughter talks about how excited she is to go to college, and how she can’t wait to get away from us. “Am I the only one who feels sad?” I wondered. I realized I was carrying their sadness for them. Isn’t that just typical that the wife/mother carries all the emotion for the whole family! Three minutes of boundary tapping took care of that. “Process your own damn sadness,” I thought.
I’m grateful that I have HBLU tools to help me through the process. Reaching out to other parents who are going through or have gone through the same thing also gives me some comfort.
So, I still can’t quite believe she’s going to be gone, and I feel sad and lonely when I think about it. But now I’m sleeping through the night.
College Bound Part II
My husband and I took my daughter to college and made sure her room felt like home. We discussed the fact that as an adult, we expect her to remain connected with us by sharing regularly what is going on in her life. We reminded her that, “we are connected forever as a family no matter where we live. And furthermore, our home is still your permanent address, and your bedroom is your bedroom until you get a job and rent your own apartment.” She nodded at that, and stopped asking us if we were happy to be getting rid of her.
The next day, my husband and I went to all the orientation seminars. I cried a lot, but felt reassured that the school would take good care of my daughter. My daughter wouldn’t sit anywhere near us and wouldn’t go with us to any of the other activities. She couldn’t wait for us to leave. So later that day, we exchanged brief hugs, and left.
On the drive home, we decided to visit Howe’s Cave, an underground cavern with stalactites and stalagmites. There were many families with young children on the tour, and I started to feel sad. I realized I was feeling old because we didn’t have any children living at home with us anymore. One round of tapping cleared that feeling with the learning that you are never old as long as you are still active. I also had to treat environmental triggers such as buying much less food at the grocery store (because now there was only the two of us) and what to do with ourselves on the weekend, since our lives no longer revolved around her activities.
I’ve treated several other mothers for College Transition Trauma, and they all had the same reactions. A couple of mothers raised in abusive and alcoholic dysfunctional families also feared that their daughters would cut them off completely in the same way they cut off their own mothers as soon as they could get away from them. One round of tapping took care of this phobia. These mothers happily realized that they had been very different and much better mothers to their children than their own mothers had been and took pride in having broken the pattern of family dysfunction.
I’m slowly getting used to spending time with my husband in the evenings, and talking, skyping, and texting my daughter. People who’ve gone through it tell me I’ll soon be enjoying the freedom.
College Bound Part III
We’re adjusting. Not surprisingly, my daughter is self- sufficient and happy with her college and getting good grades.
My husband was another matter. Accustomed to planning and making things happen for her, he had bought tickets for her and 6 of her friends to attend a hockey game here in Boston. He was grappling with the difficult problem of transporting all these people from a college town with no direct bus, train, or airplane transportation when my daughter delightedly informed him that she and her friends had gotten season tickets to all the home games. He angrily exclaimed, “so that means you won’t be coming to Boston.” My daughter quickly hung up.
I asked him, “What is this? All the energy just drained out of the room. Is this how you cope with feeling disappointed or unappreciated?” “Let me work on it,” he said.
The next day he reported that he realized that he was no longer in the role of High School daddy, responsible for making her life happen according to her wishes. She was in college now, and he could no longer make any plans for her. He said he had treated himself with HBLU to adjust to his new role of college Daddy who just pays the tuition bills.
But, the next day he woke up so dizzy he couldn’t go to work. “Do you think this is a trauma from having lost your role as do-everything-for-her Daddy?” I asked. “No, I think it’s a virus,” he said. But as it turned out, it was a disorientation trauma, in which the loss of his role and his sense of purpose (i.e. the center of his life) was so disorienting, it made him dizzy. To get back his sense of balance, we had to clear not only the emotional disorientation reaction, but all the physical disorientation traumas he’d ever experienced including the childhood ear infections and accompanying motion sickness, roller coaster rides, falling while skiing, and being hit in the chest with a soccer ball and falling over backwards.
The following week, a client who is a single mother, came in complaining of dizziness. Her son, the last child at home, had just gone to college and was doing well. “I’ll bet I know what this is,” I said. Her son had gotten into trouble with drugs and alcohol and barely graduated high school. At an unconscious level, a part of her expected him to fail. So at the conscious level, she was relieved that he was doing well at college. But when he told her that he was probably getting all A’s in his classes, she unconsciously realized that he wouldn’t be coming home, and that he didn’t need a mother to take care of him in that way anymore. She was so disoriented she immediately became dizzy. HBLU treatment for the disorientation trauma cleared up her symptoms.
As for me, after treating myself with the Natural Bio-Destressing Technique for the feeling that I’m missing her, I was finally able to watch another episode of last summer’s TV series “So You Think You Can Dance.” And miraculously, the weather was going to be 80 degrees this weekend! So we bought an automated cat feeder and went to Cape Cod.