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Tips For When A Loved One Goes Away
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, September 2012

A dear friend shared the following with me: "My son left for college today. Although "prepared," I sobbed all morning. I informed my husband that he had to be less grumpy when with me since this son of ours is pretty hilarious and I relish cracking up all day."

When I heard this I was instantly reminded of the roles each of us play in our family. When a child leaves, the family dynamic changes. We each need to be conscious of our own and other family members' emotional responses as well as to the energy shifts in the family that result when someone leaves (or enters). When we do this, we are then better able to "accommodate and adjust" in the most healthful way.

Saying goodbye isn't easy. It is normal to feel sad when experiencing any loss and when we say goodbye to a loved one, the sadness we experience can be quite deep. However, sadness also helps us to appreciate happiness, being aware of the joys as well as the sorrows.

If you are having difficulty adjusting to someone moving away, perhaps these suggestions of some healthy ways to adjust may be helpful so that the experience can enrich your life:

Allow Yourself to be Sad - Denying such feelings doesn't make them go away. Instead, cry if you feel like it; you will likely feel some relief when you finish.

Schedule a Sadness/Nostalgia Day - Plan a day or evening just to be alone, listen to music that evokes nostalgia for you, and observe your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to write them down. Making time for experiencing your feelings helps you gain insight into your emotions.

Cultivate a Positive Attitude - Focusing on past and "what-ifs" can contribute to a depleted mood and spirit. Projecting into the future with worry and anticipatory anxiety also contributes to sucking away life's vital energy source. Mindfulness and other types of meditation or focusing practices can help to train your brain to stay in the present and allow you to experience the sadness as well as appreciate the joy. Finding a way to address the sadness by tuning into ourselves and being conscious of our attitudes will help us all stay "present" and that which is happening now, at this moment. In that space, we can be aware of our feeling without judgment and focus on sending positive thoughts and energy to others in our life.

Reexamine How You Look at Changes in Your Life - Change often involves growth. We need to be open to that possibility. By being compassionate with and accepting of ourselves we are more able to handle the sad feeling and know that it is going to be joined by another feeling and then another. We become aware of the cyclical nature of life.

Identify Things that Make You Happy and Create a Memory Bank - When you feel stressed, anxious, or sad, turn your attention to a positive and uplifting thought or experience. Make an effort to find something new for which you are grateful.

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