iVillage Member
Registered: 05-24-2003
Mon, 06-09-2003 - 5:40pm
I have two dds, aged 16 and 14. Both are now living with their father, 200 km away. My eldest dd moved there one year ago and my youngest moved there last week. I'm having a really tough time with this, because I did not want either of them to go, but admit I could not handle them anymore. Both were pushing me to my limit and beyond. I told my youngest dd that I would send her to her father's if she did not go to school or follow my rules, which were pretty simple. Last week, she wore me down to the very core and I admitted that I could not take it anymore, but I feel like such a failure.

I don't know how to be alone or what to do with myself. I lived with my family until I was 17 and then got married. We had two children and then divorced 11 years ago and I have been raising my girls alone since then. My youngest dd was suffering from extreme depression and anxiety for 8 months leading up to her going to her father's, so my life and everything I did was about her, her troubles and getting her the help she needed. I am really feeling a huge loss today, it's the first time I have had to have dinner alone, and I can't even eat because it would be to depressing to sit at the table alone. How do you cope when your children are no longer with you, much earlier than you ever thought it would happen?


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 06-09-2003 - 6:29pm
See my reply on the empty nest board.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 06-09-2003 - 9:28pm
You poor mom ...

I remember your post from last month. I'm so sorry that you have had to go through such an awful time ...

In a lot of ways, Kristeen, what you're going through is not just an empty nest syndrome. It's more like a form of grieving. Very simplified, a grieving process goes through 4 stages: denial, anger, resignation, acceptance. The first two cross back and forth. Starting with "I can't believe it..." to anger 'WHY did this have to happen!' - back and forth ...

When someone actually manages to commit suicide, he/she leaves behind people who feel devastated for more than losing the person they loved and cared for. They also feel like a failure. "There SHOULD have been *something* I could have done..." So, while your dd did not manage to carry though with her suicidal attempts, she still *tried* - and I think that a lot of the many emotions you're experiencing right now is a kind of grief process that would follow losing someone in this manner. One thing you need to tell yourself is that she did NOT manage to harm herself irrevocably - and the only reason she didn't was because you DID do something and you DID win that battle.

Start by telling yourself that how you are feeling right now is NORMAL. You are reacting completely normally to a completely abnormal and beyond-understanding situation. On top of that, by virtue of your dd's life, you became isolated in the process. On top of that, you also left where you lived before that did have support networks in place for *you* and what you were left with was an exciting *job* - something you leave at the end of each day - and a personal life that had to be completely focused on your daughter. You gave everything in your power to help your daughter, Kristeen. There was nothing left over for *you*. OF COURSE you will feel like you feel.

Remember that what you are in right now is a *process*. Something that requires getting through it one step at a time, one day at a time. Don't try to deal with everything you're left with feeling at the same time or you will add overwhelmed to the list. What can you do right *now*? Do you have any vacation time that you haven't used up yet? Can you take enough that you will have time left over again to take at a later date and go to visit some of the people who formed that support network for you? Especially someone who is able to be there for you when you need company and able to let you just be whatever you are, in the moment?

You have been dealing with the threat of actual death for a long time now. Your whole life got put on hold for fear of what your dd might do if she was out of your sight. You absolutely have to do something that will help you to feel reconnected to *life* again ... what kinds of things did you used to enjoy doing? Do you enjoy rain and cool air on your face while you walk? Painting? Photography? Boating? Skiing? Golfing? Swimming?

Our minds, when they have felt overloaded and deadened by stress and fear, respond to something that is physical in nature as it truly releases endorphins that are the body's natural pain killer and mood lifter.

It may well *feel* like nothing holds an appeal for you right now. If you think of how it feels after a very tough breakup with someone, you just go through the motions. Nothing DOES feel real. Nothing DOES feel right. Nothing even tastes the same. Going through the everyday motions takes us those first steps that help us on the path to recovery of our SELVES ... and while it all seems so fake and so impossible and so useless while we're doing those things, it IS what does help us to reconnect to life again, to *our* lives, to who we are and who we are becoming.

Don't expect yourself to be whoever you were before all this began. You have changed because you have life experiences now that you hadn't before ... start a journal. Write not about what you did in your day as much as how you are *feeling* right now. There is bound to be an incredible amount of rage as well as anger; intense disappointment, frustration and intense sadness. You have taken an emotional beating and you need to express these emotions in a way that is safe and effective - writing out how you feel, with NO HOLDS BARRED is one very therapeutic step. Don't try to edit what you write. If you hate someone or something, write that out till you can't write it again, literally. Write jumbled sentences as thoughts that are only semi-formed in your mind spill out. When one idea grabs hold, write it and write it till you can't think of anything else about TO write, even if you only write the same sentence 562 times. Write about what you've done, what has happened, and concentrate not on how your dd responded or didn't but on how it made YOU feel - while it was happening and now, looking back at it. You can always burn this journal one day and no one needs to ever see it. And what you write is not necessarily how you feel under the pain and disappointment and anger - you have had to deny yourself for so long that first those emotions have GOT to be dealt with by getting them out SOME way before you can figure out how you DO feel *now*. By doing this, you are honestly 'emptying' yourself out and then, slowly by surely, there will be a space opened up inside of you again in order to start the healing process. And do not forget to cry until there are NO TEARS LEFT - just keep crying till you can't cry anymore, again and again and again ... this is part of the emptying process and the healing process. You NEED to confront these emotions leaving you feeling so drained; it takes an incredible amount of energy to deny oneself.

And even if you are believer in God, don't let that stop you from writing everything out just exactly as it comes. For one thing, He already knows what's in your mind and nothing is gonig to shock Him. He wants you to heal, too. And people with strong faiths often get stuck thinking that they have to say or do the right thing at all times because they 'know better'. KNOWING is one thing. FEELING is a whole different matter and He DOES understand that. I know. I've been there. For different reasons, but the process is very similar. And don't forget the story of God asking Nathan to push the rock. Nathan pushed so hard adn couldn't budge it no matter what he did and finally sank, exhausted, spent and totally disheartened, saying, "I tried but I just could not move it" and God responding, "I didn't ask you to move it ... I asked you to push it." Maybe your role was to simply hold up your child to get her to the place she is right now, or one of the steps in HER life that SHE needs to take. Maybe your role wasn't to carry her the entire distance and now it's time for someone else to try with different ways, different approaches and have other people brought into the picture to continue the effort. We are all given individual gifts and strengths and we learn from many. You DID do EVERYTHING you knew how to do, Kristeen, with your daughters to the best of your ability and more. Not one of us is perfect. You DID try. You ended up even losing part of yourself along the way because you tried so hard. Your daughters were born as individuals, with their own set of trials to overcome in their life. Do not think for a moment that all you've tried was for nothing - sometimes we don't get to see what seeds we've planted, but it doesn't matter in the end. You HAVE impacted them and even who they eventually become will be a part of you and what you've taught them. Even King David, a man described as being 'a man after God's own heart' erred HORRIBLY at times. Plus, he wrote so many Psalms that talk about how everyone is after him; want to kill him; why isn't God hearing his prayers; has he been forsaken? He learned how to cry till there were no tears left, to write exactly how he felt *in any given moment* and to turn those emotions that left him feeling overwhelmed IN SPITE OF knowing what he believed until many psalms ended with praises that God was his ever present help in times of trouble ...

You need to forgive *yourself* too. You need to start to think about the truth of 'love'. No matter who you are, even God Himself - if a person chooses to reject even God's love, which IS perfect & powerful - it will not affect or change the person rejecting. A person needs to learn to *receive* too - not just ask for forgiveness and keep berating themselves - that does not work. Accepting forgiveness is the start. Giving yourself permission to forgive yourself AND to forgive your dds for what they put you through is right and necessary too.

Give yourself *permission* in all ways right now, Kristeen. Permission to cry, scream, yell, be angry and YES - selfish!, to be hurt and to just feel everything that hasn't been allowed to be felt because of everything else you had to deal with. A support group for parents would be a good thing IF and when you feel ready to share beyond sharing with yourself and acknowledging to yourself. And permission to live your own life again and not feel guilty about it. To rediscover who *you* are under all the layers of life of the last several years.

Many hugs, prayers and hopes that you truly will do these things and know that it's ALL ok TO do ...

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-24-2003
Mon, 06-09-2003 - 10:31pm

Thank you so much for your reply. Things have been so difficult these last few months, and I have really felt beat down to the very core. I can't say enough, how much your reply means to me. You really seem to understand just how I have been feeling. Now that my dd has left, I know that I have to go through a process, of grieving and rebuilding. It just seems so daunting after all that I have been through. I many ways I feel like I could have or should have done something more to change the situation, but deep in my heart, I know I did my best. I gave everything I had to give to help my dd, and she is still alive, which I consider a huge accomplishment, for her and for me. I have lost a part of myself in the process. I'm not even sure if I know who I really am at this time in my life. I've always been someone's daughter, wife or mother, which are all ever involved roles. Even though I am still all those things, I am alone. Now I have to figure out who I really am, but I'm uncertain where to start or if I'm even ready to start right now. I'm trying to keep my head above water right now and face the many feelings I am having. I saw a counselor today, who was very supportive and I plan to continue seeing her for a while. I know I need help to see the positives and not just the negatives of what has happened. I know you are right about forgiving myself, I sometimes have trouble seeing that aspect of things and carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I also agree that I must forgive my dds for what they have put me through. They are young still and in time will come to see how much I love them, and why I made the choices I did. I hope, for my dd, that being with her father and experiencing a different side of life will be a benefit to her.

You have offered some very helpful advice, and I appreciate it more than you know. Thanks again for your kind words, you have given me some hope that, in time, things will get better, but for now I must feel all the feelings to make room for new experiences.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 06-09-2003 - 11:24pm
Hi again ...

"Now I have to figure out who I really am, but I'm uncertain where to start or if I'm even ready to start right now" - you are so right. Don't worry about who you will become. When we not only just 'face' how we are feeling, but feel it all completely and trust that in the process we will NOT be overwhelmed with the magnitude of it, who we *are* emerges along the way. That's why a journal is so incredibly helpful, one that purges. And when you think of something positive that came out of the experience, write it down quickly too. After time passes, you will re-read it and start to see all kinds of patterns appearing that give you a greater insight. And the positives that flash through your mind are committed to paper, to be recaptured again at a time when you are more ready, more 'cleansed', to see them. If you can't just write; then write to someone faceless but whose character and qualities would be the kind of person you would feel safe confiding in.

And don't *try*: don't try to *be* anything for a little while. Just *BE*. In the moment, for the moment and know that each moment passes.

Take hot baths. Pamper yourself. I had a counsellor once tell me to do this and I just thought it was a totally useless idea to be honest; I didn't feel any *need* to pamper myself but there is untold benefit in this. Treat yourself to a new haircut or color. A great book. Movies that make you laugh and cry and think that you've never had time to see. Long distance phone calls. A walk after dinner. I recall one time feeling so inredibly free when I had no one to report to, no one expecting me. Another time in life, I discovered that only felt great when it was by choice and later yet again, a further truth was that this WAS a choice in itself - to enjoy the lack of responsibility when one has been unbearably burdened by it. It's part of how we learn to shake off the awful familiar - when all we've known for a long time is something that is so burdening that it is what is familiar and people will always seek what is familiar even if it's bad, if the alternative is something they don't understand and fear the unknown. The choices you CAN choose right now is to shake off the sense of burden and the 'need' to take on the world's problems that come as a result of being conditioned to feel that way because of circumstances and to find the positives in being free of it for awhile. If you go for a walk or a drive, really take the time to feel the air against your face, breathe in the smells of flowers, sap running, rain coming. Really see the colors of the sky and the shifting clouds. Reconnect with life :-) These are the steps you DO have power to do and they really help.

Blessings and hugs to you. I hope you'll let us know how you are doing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 06-09-2003 - 11:32pm
PS -

I just read your profile. You are doing so much of what I have always wanted to do. Have you ever read the book, 'The Gift of Fear' by Gavin deBecker? I think you would be completely fascinated by it for a few reasons. Huge congratulations to you on achieving the degree you wanted at 30! I also used to live in Ontario till I moved out west :-) If you would ever like to email, my profile is set up to receive emails. Feel free. Now or any time in the future.

Good luck to you, Kristeen. You will be just fine. I KNOW it :-)

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-02-2003
Tue, 06-10-2003 - 1:19pm
hugs kristeen.... I remember your previous posts. I don't know what to say to you, I wish I had some significant words of wisdom, but I don't. I can't imagine how you must be feeling right now, thank God I have never had to deal with such a loss....

I think that you did all that you could do, sometimes our kids make unhealthy and bad choices, we cannot FORCE them to change their path. we can help, we can guide, but at some point they will make choices.

you will have to learn how to cope. I'm sure that there are other people out there who have been thru similar losses, maybe your church or community center has a group? sometimes just sitting with someone who has been thru something similar can be comforting.

try to forgive yourself, try to find the strength inside you to cope, to hold yourself up, not to fall into depression. to get up, go to work, clean the house, cook healthy meals, exercise.

hugs hugs hugs.....