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  • Scattered Families

Countdown to Departure

When your grown-up child tells you that they’re planning to move many, many miles away, it can come as quite a shock. Even if the idea has been kicked around beforehand, you may well have pushed it to the back of your mind and kept your fingers tightly crossed that it wouldn’t actually happen. But once a firm decision has been made and a departure has been set, then it really hits home.

The run-up to your son or daughter – and in some cases grandchildren, too – taking their leave of you can be especially difficult. Lots of people who’ve been through this will say that this time was the hardest part of all, the most painful and the part most difficult to navigate. You know that there is a clock ticking that you can’t stop and, you can feel like time is ‘running out’. Unless you’re a very singular human being, you’re likely to have some very conflicting feelings about the imminent departure, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and unsure how to cope.

Yes, you want them to live their life to the full, make decisions that are right for them and you’d like to support them with their choices. But at the same time, you may be experiencing some really difficult emotions such as sadness, a sense of loss, even (truth be told) anger or resentment. The future as you’d previously imagined it now looks very different – unexpected, uncertain and out of your control.

So what can you do to help ease yourself through this transition? Here are 5 tips:

1. Allow yourself to have some difficult feelings without judging yourself negatively. It isn’t selfish or ‘bad’ to want the people you love the most to be a meaningful part of your life or to want to be a meaningful part of their life. Accept these unwelcome feelings as part of the process of adapting.

2. Find someone who you can talk to honestly and openly about it all. A trusted and sensitive relative or friend might fit the bill, if you feel comfortable sharing your difficulties with them. Or you might prefer someone who doesn’t know you and who can offer fresh, objective and unbiased help – a counsellor or therapist maybe. The sense of relief when you can be absolutely frank about how you’re feeling can be immeasurable.

3. Seek out people who have already had to deal with this kind of parting themselves. It’s a much more common situation than you think. There will be plenty of people in your locality who are going through this, so stay alert in conversations and ask pertinent questions to see if you can find some of them. Search the internet for an online group. Or, and it’s a big step, how would you feel about starting up a local face-to-face one in your area?

4. Even though you may be struggling to share in their excitement about the coming move, try not to let your feelings negatively influence your relationship with your son or daughter. It’s ok to tell them that the imminent parting is difficult for you, as long as you don’t let it turn into a guilt trip or emotional blackmail. That could seriously damage your relationship. Try and get across that you can be happy for them and sad for yourself at the same time. Think honesty with kindness.

5. Lastly, be open to the idea that you can and will adapt. It may not be easy, but with goodwill and effort on both sides you can all make this work. Your son or daughter is about to take the next big step in their life adventure, so think about how you can do the same. Now is the time to start considering how you can strike out in new directions that will make the next phase of your own life both exciting and fulfilling.

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