§ We came to this world to LIVE OUT LOUD!

Accepting Major Change (and Heartbreak)

Apr 16, 2019


I lay there at night and I feel a vice gripping my chest, a pressure that lets me know that I’m feeling deep, deep grief.

I breathe in deeply and hear the words of Buddhist teacher Thich Nat Hahn, “Just expand your ability to be with all of your feelings. Hold them with love like you would a little baby.”

Easier said than done.

I don’t really want to feel the grief. I want to push it away.

A little critical voice in the back of my mind pipes up, “What are you making such a big deal about? Lots of kids go to boarding school. She will be turning 17 by the time she goes. Many kids leave for college at that age.”

Faced with self-criticism, the vice just grips tighter. The tears get trapped somewhere in the back of my throat. I want to howl.


My mind jumps in, reminding me what a tremendous opportunity it is for my oldest daughter. She has been accepted into a super prestigious global program for teens who have shown serious leadership abilities in their desire to change the world for the better. She will spend the next two years in Armenia with 200 other teens from nearly 100 countries and all different socio-economic circumstances, finishing her last two years of high school, earning an International Baccalaureate Diploma, doing service projects and traveling at every opportunity.

I have met adults who have done this program as teens and they are all super interesting people who are doing all kinds of great and amazing things in the world. I would be proud for my daughter to turn out to be like any one of them.

This will open her mind even more, provide her with a tremendous global vision and change her life.

Yada, yada, yada.

My heart doesn’t care about any of that.

She is my first born. We walk down the street together and I see a mature, young woman and I also see the girl that she still is. I still lay down with her every night as she goes to sleep. Is she really going halfway around the world?.

I keep envisioning her as a colicky baby who never slept. As a toddler who got into everything. As a curious child, always asking questions and coming up with arguments and opinions which seemed way beyond her years.

My heart aches.

It has all gone by too fast. I don’t want to let her go yet. I was prepared to have her around for two more years until she went off to college. But then this amazing opportunity came up.

My heart is breaking.

I know that a gazillion parents everywhere let their kids go off to college (and boarding school) every year. How do they do it?

I ask people whose kids have left home and they seem so calm and relaxed as they say “yep, it’s tough to let them go”. But nobody talks about their grief or the changing family dynamics as a member leaves or the sense that such a huge part of their life – hands-on, every day parenting – is starting to come to an end.

Even my husband seems to be surprised that I am feeling this so deeply. “She will still be with us for the holidays,” he says.

But that’s not the same. We will no longer have our daily after school check-ins, weekly mother/daughter solo outings or nightly pre-bed chats and cuddling. I will no longer know her friends, her teachers, the ins and outs of her daily life.

I will no longer mother her in a daily way.

She will finish this program and go off to university somewhere in the world and wind up living who knows where. We will probably never live together again for any extended period of time.

My heart can’t quite grasp this.

I think of my own history. I left my parents’ home in Chicago at 18 and I never again lived in the same city as them. In fact, we have lived on different continents for the past nearly 8 years. And I’m an only child. My girls are their only grandchildren.

I think about how as a young mom all I wanted for my girls is for them to know themselves, love themselves and be kind, contributing world citizens. I chose to live abroad with them, to take them to over twenty countries. I am proud of their flexibility, worldliness and global outlook.

And my heart wants to keep them close.

I know that this is just the beginning of this journey of letting go, of the inevitable changes that life brings as our kids grow up and spread their own wings.

I need to let go so she can fly. And it’s so HARD.

So what about you? Have you had to deal with your kids leaving the nest? How have you navigated it?

I would love to hear from, you so feel free to send me an email at natalie@nataliematushenko.com.

Happy Tuesday!




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