On a Thursday afternoon in August of 2018, we left our son at college. We spent all day driving him down, moving his stuff in, and building his loft. Finally, as reasons to linger were exhausted, we had to leave him. I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, told him I loved him and began to cry. I cried for the first hour of the two-hour drive back home.
I was heartbroken.
Sure, I was thrilled for my son and the beginning this new, exciting chapter in his life. But I missed him already, would always miss him. That evening, as I went upstairs for the night, I glanced into his now-barren room and went in and sat down by his bed. I stayed there a long time, and the tears came again. Sitting in the emptiness of this once-full space was overwhelming. He would be back, of course, on weekends, holidays, summer. But life had changed–drastically, suddenly, permanently. And it would never go back to the way it was.
I knew he was where he was supposed to be, that the march of time could not be stopped, and that he was going to continue to develop into the amazing young man God had made him to be. But I grieved. I grieved the days of our full family of four, living under one roof, living life together in close proximity, playing ball and games, watching movies, eating together, saying good night.
I also knew that not having him in the house all the time would become, would need to become, a “new normal” eventually. But I didn’t want it to. I liked our normal. I wanted to freeze our family in time, my kids forever 14 and 18, sharing love and the same space.
But life doesn’t work like that. Transitions are as much a part of our existence as anything. Change is the only constant, it’s said. Relationships change, jobs fluctuate, people move up or move on, loved ones get ill and pass away. We are always in transition.
How do we cope and even thrive living in a constant state of transition?
IT’S OKAY TO GRIEVE FOR WHAT ONCE WAS.
We all have seasons of life when our hearts were fuller, where we felt most alive. You may not be in one of those seasons now, but chances are, one will surely come again. In the meantime, give yourself permission to grieve. Grieving is a necessary and healthy part of living. Often, though, we don’t give ourselves space to do it properly.
We may need help with this, and that’s okay. Talk to a trusted friend. See a therapist. Spend time with others who have walked the same path before us.
It’s important to note we don’t all go through the process of grief in the same way. But we need to go through it before we can feel whole again. There’s a new normal waiting on the other side of grief. It may take a while to get there, but be patient and keep working through it until you emerge into a new season of possibilities.
IT’S HEALTHY AND APPROPRIATE TO EMBRACE WHATEVER NEW SEASON A TRANSITION HAS BROUGHT ABOUT.
My life is different now than it was when both my children lived at home. But I’ve learned to embrace and enjoy this new season of parenting. I have more opportunities to be with my incredible wife. My teenage daughter now has my undivided attention (she may not always think this is a good thing). I have more time to focus on personal interests like writing and golf and even re-connecting with old friends whose kids have also grown up.
And the opportunities I do have to spend time with my son are much more special and enjoyable–I don’t ever take them for granted.
Every season brings joy and difficulty. We can learn to focus on the good and allow ourselves to become excited about new opportunities and chances to grow. We can learn to process the difficult in more healthy ways.
Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about moving forward. Life isn’t lived backwards. Glancing occasionally in the rear-view mirror is important, but never take your eyes off the road ahead.
SOMEDAY, WE’LL ALWAYS BE TOGETHER.
In John 13, the Scriptures say, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Jesus understood that what was about to happen to Him would have ramifications on the lives of those who were closest to Him—the ones who loved Him most. His understanding led Him, in chapter 14, to make this tender and beautiful promise to His friends: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Jesus gets it. He knows the power of being close, the importance of sharing the same space, the beauty of togetherness.
One of the great tragedies of this life is that we almost always eventually end up living apart from people we love the most.
One of the great hopes of the life to come is this… We will never be apart.
Jesus is preparing a place… right now… that He will take us to… someday. And He’ll be there. And we’ll all be together. Forever.
By the time you read this, I’ll have moved my son again. He has an amazing internship opportunity this summer in another state. In just a few short weeks, I’ll drive him four hours away and drop him off and hug him and kiss him on the cheek. And I’ll drive away. I’m not sure if there will be tears this time (highly likely, if I had to guess), but I’ll have hours to ponder the reality that he won’t be home this summer, like he has been for the past twenty years. I’ll be forced to acknowledge that time is marching on once again, ushering in another new normal to transition into.
And I’ll grieve.
But in time I will learn to embrace the transition. And I’ll thank God that He cares about us so much that His plan is for us to always be together—at home, forever, with Him.