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For those whose nest is emptying
The mission of The Sage Forum is to encourage, equip, and empower women over 40 to mature in faith and grow in wisdom. We send out a newsletter at the beginning of each month focusing on a different theme relevant to women in the second half of life. Our August theme will be nature, conservation, and the environment.
The Sage Forum Extra! is a short mid-month reflection meant to offer you a word of encouragement. Today’s Extra! is penned by Sage Forum contributor Michelle Van Loon.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to plant and a time to uproot. --Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NIV
We raise our children knowing the day will come for most of them when they’ll leave home. Some will head to college. Others into the military. Still others leave to take a job, marry, or simply find a place of their own. The family nest we’ve spent a couple of decades building will empty.
Even if your child bounces in and out of the nest during the years they transition to adulthood, there is no turning back the clock. Launch time happens not only in our kids’ lives, but in the lives of parents as well. Some greet this new season with hope and anticipation. But many parents find themselves living the lyrics of the melancholy song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof. A watershed moment like a child leaving home can’t help but underscore for us how swiftly the years have flown.
It was helpful to me to recognize as each of my three kids were leaving home for the first time that transition is a form of grief. All the hallmarks of the grieving process apply as we’re navigating this change in our family’s life together. Grief means we may cycle through waves of denial (“This can’t be happening”), bargaining (“Maybe this won’t hurt if I [fill in the blank]…”), anger (“Why does it have to hurt like this?”), depression (“I am sad, disoriented, and feeling a sense of hopelessness”), and acceptance (“I recognize there is no going back to the past; I’m adjusting to my family’s new normal”). And grief doesn’t happen only after a child leaves home. It can occur in the form of anticipatory grief in the days or months leading up to a child’s departure date as our soul readies for the upcoming change.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the Preacher listed many of the bittersweet rhythms of human life. The words introducing the list in verse 1 (above) remind us that our lives are shaped in turn by both difficult and joyful moments. There is a time to plant and a time to uproot. There is a time for most young adult children to leave home for the first time, and there is a time for parents to launch those children. God is at work in our lives just as he is in the lives of our young adult children, cultivating new growth even when it feels like a full and wonderful season of our lives has come to an end.
New growth happens as we cooperate with God in every kind of time and season of our lives. There is a temptation for some of us to try to rush past or mute the discomfort of change or loss. Certainly we’re not meant to get stuck in sorrow as though there is only one permanent frozen season in which to live for the rest of our days. However, grieving a big transition in the company of the One who promises to be near to the brokenhearted can guide you into the next season of your life (and the life of your family) like a sage.
For further reflection, consider an earlier time in your life when you’ve faced a big transition. What surprised you most about the experience? In what ways did you grow through that transition?
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