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Blog Post - When The First Chick Leaves Home

When The First Chick Leaves The Nest

I am keenly aware that our life is comprised of seasons and each new season brings new challenges and opportunities. Personally, I entered a brand-new season this Fall when my son, Jay, left home to attend college.

Empty Nest - When The First Chick Leaves The Nest

It’s always harder to be the “leavee” than the leaver. The leaver moves on to a new environment complete with different routines and people, while the leavee is left to walk the same, familiar road alone. Essentially, the whole scenario can seem quite melodramatic, but it is one that so many of us parents relate to…all too well. What do you do when the first chick leaves the nest?

When The First Chick Leaves The Nest

Empty Nest - Buying supplies for his dorm room.

Quite frankly, this was not a stage that I welcomed with open arms, even though I knew (at least cognitively) that it was an inevitable, healthy step for my son. Although I had talked to others or read about their experiences, nothing can really fully prepare you for that eventual moment when the first chick leaves the nest.

After he left, I spent four months obsessing over my missing child. Was he doing o.k.? Had he posted on social media? Was he making friends?…and the list goes on and on. Somehow, my head had neglected to tell my heart that this was a good thing. Frankly, it didn’t feel good, at all.

I tried to put a finger on my feelings because they were so intense, unfamiliar and palpable. Finally, it occurred to me what I was feeling…I was suffering from a broken heart. I had felt this way years ago when my boyfriend of the time (now my husband of over 25 years) and I decided to break up for a season in college. Just like years ago, this pain was real and intense. My boy was gone. Yes, I would see him again, but a season had ended and I was trying to cope with the loss.

empty nest - my son at 6 months

We mothers don’t see our grown children as adults. To us, they are the babies we cradled to sleep, the 7-year old ball players and the sweet 16’s all rolled into one. You want to embrace the new adult version of your children, but you still cherish all the stages that brought them to this point.

To be honest, I think one of the biggest issues boiled down to my sense of helplessness in the situation. My boy had grown up and gone off to college and I was having a lot of trouble letting go. Before, I had always been there to make sure he was safe, somewhat rested and that he managed to remember at least the important things. Now, I had to put him in God’s hands and trust that everything I had poured into him over the last eighteen years would stick.

Embracing Something New In Empty Nest

Actually, I didn’t even realize how much of my mental energy was consumed by these thoughts until I started blogging after the New Year. The whole blogging process was intensely challenging; especially in the initial stages. Every single step of the process has involved intense research and endless web searches. Still, I was pushing myself; I was stepping out of my box and, in essence, I was entering a new season.

IMG_9237After a few challenging weeks I started to slowly gain more confidence. I also made an accidental discovery along the way. The best thing I could do to deal with my loss was find something new and stimulating to redirect some of my focus. Does that mean that I no longer miss or think about my son?…absolutely not; however, I can honestly say that it has been extremely helpful to put my energies into something that I have some control over!

Are you mourning some type of loss, dreading the upcoming departure of your child or other stressing situations that are completely out of your control? Consider embracing something new…join a book club, take up painting, learn a musical instrument or start a blog! It’s amazing how cathartic it can be to stretch yourself and get outside of your own head for a little bit.

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Shellie (1)


  1. Elyse says:

    My son is leaving for college in two weeks. I’m taking it so much harder than I thought I would. Some days I’m fine, but some days I feel really sad and emotional. Other days I cry. The house is going to be so quiet with him gone, and I feel like I’m going to be worrying about him and missing him so much. I agree that it’s a broken heart feeling. I feel like part of my heart is moving away with him. In my head I know it’s a healthy step in growing up, but it still hurts. Thank you for your advice on trying something new. I’m going to try that!!!

    • Shellie Bowdoin says:

      Hi Elyse, I heard it explained this way…some of us are pre-grievers and some of us are post-grievers. It sounds like you and I are both pre. It took a while but I did finally settle in to accept the situation.

  2. Claudine says:

    I am going through this exact situation with the departure of my eldest son. I cry at the mere mention of his name! I feel lije ths intense emotion will not cease any timr soon. I guess my heart is broken too!

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