The Void Left When My Kid Went To College

The house feels different, it’s not exactly a “missing him” feeling. It’s more like something feels off. It’s right in many ways. The 18 years of nurturing and preparing, the launch into the world is predictable, bittersweet. It’s developmentally spot on. It’s that time.

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The house feels different, dinners feel different. It’s not exactly a “missing him” feeling. It’s more like something feels off. 

It feels right in many ways. The 18 years of nurturing and preparing, his launch into the world is predictable, bittersweet. It’s developmentally spot on. It’s that time. It’s a pretty “normal thing to do.”

That he’s happy and adjusting well makes it easier, but the absence is ever present. It’s palpable. The way that his absence has left a void, an emptiness. Nothing can fill it because it’s him. It’s unfillable, right? It’s just real and true. It can’t be fixed or filled. It can only be felt, acknowledged, and held.

Our family is going through a mini-death. The loss of the family we were. I know that out of this, we will birth something new and that new family will carry its own preciousness and uniqueness. For right now, though, I want to stay present to the ache of what’s missing. The growing pains of change, the grief of loss.

It’d be so easy to rationalize. To just remind myself that this is a common feeling, to fill the void with distractions until he comes home in December or to delude myself into believing nothing’s really changed. It’s just … he’s away for a bit.

That’d be easy for me because my natural inclination is to be in my head, but right now I’d rather just savor the ache that reminds me how sweet love is. How fortunate I am to have deep connections in my life. To feel the pride of motherhood and the culmination of this first phase of parenting.

To cherish the love and bond between mother and son, and also to be willing to let it go. Can I have faith in the bond that we have? Can I trust in the natural evolution and changes that this transition will bring?

Can I allow the joy and the grief to meet and to open my heart a little more? To be moved by the sadness and also to peek into the void and wonder what’s in there? To be curious. What in me longs for me to show up more for myself?

Right now I just want to allow my heart to be worked. To find the places of codependency, where my son filled holes in me and patch them up with self-love. Knowing that when I do that, I release him more. I let him go. I allow him to be free from any need to take care of me, or pressure that he owes me anything, or sense that he fills a hole in me.

Wait, what? Co-dependency?

This void in our family, is it really a void in me that his absence is shining a light on? The longing for parts of me that I unconsciously depended on him to fill?

‘Lean in Deb, be open and allow this void to be your teacher. Allow these co-dependencies to fall away as you look into the void.’

What is it that I see? What is it about him?

Yes, there it is…

His enthusiasm for life, the energy he brings to our home, the confidence that he has in himself. His drive to do better and to create. Yes. His creation energy, his music, and art, intelligence, his drive.

Oh yes, and his humor. Yes, his humor. He makes us laugh and so easily laughs as well. And the way he’s willing to think for himself and ask questions. To challenge his thinking, to challenge us, to challenge others, to invite us to see the world in a different way.

His sweetness and his big heart. His passion and zest for life!

It’s funny, the palpable feeling of his absence hit me hard as I was dancing to the song, “La Vie En Rose”. I smiled when I later looked up what La Vie En Rose means and discovered that it can be translated to “Life in happy hues”. That’s him – he lives life in happy hues!

The way that we always know when he enters the room.

The way that he works hard, but always knew that he was saving a little more for the next year. “There’s always a little more in the tank,” he would say. From middle school to high school he would say, “Yeah, there’s more in the tank,” and then high school to college. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can’t use up your whole tank.” He’d say, “You have to leave some in the tank for the next level.”

And how he’s unwilling to give up on anything that he’s passionate about. How he manages to fit everything in. Like he squeezes every bit of life out of life.

Wow. Yes!

This is all in me as well.

It’s been dormant in some ways. I was so many of these things before I had children. Motherhood dampened these parts. Motherhood allowed me to find other parts, but I left many of these parts behind.

Motherhood has allowed me to settle into new spaces of my being. I found my heart and feelings. I learned to value more than my mind and my brain. I found more of those being parts – learned the value of rest, and how to set boundaries, and to not overdo. I learned how to find more balance. How to listen to people in new ways, to understand needs and feelings behind behaviors.

Motherhood. In motherhood, I lost myself, and I found myself. And now I realize I lost other parts of myself, and now I’m finding more of myself right here, right now. Thank you. Thank you, God for creating a world where I can always find more parts of myself in the reflection of others.

I always get tripped up and think that the pain that I’m feeling is about something out there and it’s always, always something inside of me. Thank you for teaching me that that which I see in others is within me. That it’s a part or a piece that lies dormant to be awakened, or reawakened; or a part that has been rejected, or abandoned and longs to be seen, loved, and integrated back into me. Into all of me, into my wholeness.

I have so much deep gratitude to know this about the way the world works. To know that I cannot see all of me, but through the reflection in others. Others show me “the me that I cannot see”.

It’s time now for me to wake up these dormant parts that feel lost in my son’s absence.

Those parts I vicariously lived through him while I was holding space for other parts of me and our family. The achieving energy, the striving energy, the creation energy. Even my zest for life. 

These were parts I put aside in some ways so that I could settle into the beingness and the nurturing of mothering.

It is now time to integrate all parts. The doing and the being. The striving, the achieving, and the nurturing, and the flow. The mind and the heart, and the spirit. 

I say this with no regrets as this is the path. I remind myself to have no judgments of the path. It’s beautiful to follow life, to integrate parts of myself by following these breadcrumbs that are found in the most mysterious and often surprising ways, places and people.

To surrender to the way that life is always my teacher and to remember that wholeness is the way. I bring deep gratitude to my son for allowing me to lean into this void that he’s left.

Once again, only to find more of myself.




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