Letting Go

It’s Monday. There’s a pork roast, raised here, slow-simmering in the oven flanked by chunks of potatoes, carrots, and onion. The kitchen smells of rosemary and olive oil and meat. Apples sit on the counter waiting to be peeled in turn and boiled down into a tasty, warm sauce. A meal fit for Sunday dinner. Except it’s Monday. And because cooking is therapy for me, and because tonight there will be nine places set at the table instead of 10, I’ve prepared a large and comforting meal. Because the void I feel in my heart for that 10th is like a fresh wound that must be tended carefully, and near continuously, I’m finding.

My oldest has left home – semi-permanently –  whatever that means. I suppose it means that he may be back, but there’s also a good chance he won’t. At least not to stay. And like any mother who’s bid good-bye to the first of her children to leave, I’m flooded with memories, mostly good, fun, precious memories of his eighteen years home. Jokes we shared, dreams he’d confide, how he liked his coffee, and the sight of him coming through the door each day after one of his runs, or his incessant foot tapping to the drum beat in his head.

But unlike many mothers, these memories are mixed with the bitter tang of the frustrations and heartbreak brought on by a child who’s heart left home long before his body. And the process had been long, and it’s been tough.

And that is what’s been so hard. That his heart left home a long time ago, and struggling with the impossibility of staying somewhere that his heart no longer resides has brought with it turmoil and anger and fighting against, or maybe for, the relationships that have been broken in all this leaving, along the way.

And so dinner around the table tonight with nine rather than 10 will be typical of sit-down dinners here- loud and a little chaotic, messy with interruptions and spilled over food. But it will lack the anger and resentment that’s become too commonplace, too ugly for family dinners. Yet, it will still feel incomplete without him.

I’m wearing old yoga pants that may have a hole, glasses because I’m not feeling formal enough for contacts and have declared a movie/book reading day to fill our minds with things other than his large presence, so lacking. We’ll cuddle and talk about how we miss him, all the while sadly and silently aware of how good for everyone (including him) that he’s gone, for now. A hard pill to swallow. And I’ll write. I’ll write on the couch on this beat up Kindle with children crawling all over me, because like cooking, it’s therapy.

Because I never thought, after eighteen years of loving this child with all that I have, that the circumstances around his leaving would leave us so frayed. Circumstances, that out of privacy for him and us, I’ll leave unwritten. Circumstances that could be worse, but I wish were better. Circumstances that many parents would understand, but many also would not.

I never thought motherhood could take so much more than I thought even possible to give, and leave me so empty.

Hard questions fuzzy my mind: Why didn’t this go better? Did we discipline too much? Too little? Were we wrong to homeschool, or would things have been even worse in school. Did we expect too little or too much? Guide him too little, or too much? Did we miss something?  I’m filled with a desperation to figure it out so as not to repeat the process with the other seven. I cannot repeat this.

Yet, in my desperation I hear Him, the God of comfort, whisper,

Be Still. I am not finished. And I will uphold you through this.

Sometimes, you do the best you can and leave God the broken pieces, and you trust. You trust that there is a plan amidst the sorrow, and you pray. You pray for stubborn hearts to yield to that plan in order to see it come to fruition – the marvelous plan God has for each of us.

I am not in control, and there is no formula for motherhood guaranteed to turn out a perfect child. There is no perfect child. There is no perfect mother. So you do the best you can and leave the rest to God.

I dedicated my son to God as an infant, 18 years ago. Perhaps I’d forgotten that. Time to let go.

I’ve done my best. And so I’m leaving the rest to Him who loves Connor even more than this mother who loved so hard.

I’m letting go of control and holding on to love. I’m surrendering to heartache and clinging to what I know to be true:

He holds it all in the palm of his hand, and will never let us go.










  1. Raw. Pure. Beautiful. It gets better. It gets clearer. It gets more bearable.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement.

    2. Good to hear. Thanks.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I wish you all the faith and strength that you need.

  3. This post was so heartbreakingly beautiful and something that quite frankly..I needed to read. There are days where I long for my kids to be grown so I can have some peace and quiet..but too often I forget about what the pain of their abscence will bring. I do not know the circumstances for your child leaving..all I can say is that you clearly love your child..and sometimes no matter what we do as parents we can always make everything better no matter how hard we’s out of our hands. Maybe this will put your family on the path towards healing and in the end will be the best thing for all involved. I hope you find peace and take comfort in knowing that all of us are just trying the best we can..we are not perfect..we cannot fix everything..all we can do is love our children the best we can. Stay strong mama!

  4. That was so beautiful, thank you for sharing your story. My babies are still little, but I wonder about their teenage years, how to honor who they are becoming while respectfully guiding their journey. Teenage years in my household growing up were full of pain and heartache and tears, but with time, we all healed and were stronger.

  5. This is emotional. But you’ve committed him into the hand of his creator, he will keep him safe from harm and his angels will always be on guard to watch him. He will be just fine and you are the best mom.

  6. You have a gift with words. I could feel your pain through your writing even though I can not relate since my kids are still so young. Even now at the beginning of the journey of motherhood, there are always times I am questioning if I can do more, if I am doing the right thing, if things would be different if… I think it is a normal response to motherhood no matter what the circumstances. I hope you find peace soon and that all ends up well.

  7. This hits home on a really personal level. And although I’m not quite ready to be as open and vulnerable as you so bravely are, thank you for letting go.

    Also, I came back…if that gives you any comfort at all.

  8. Right there with you, Elizabeth. In pretty much everything you wrote. My son is 23 now, and I am hoping–it appears–that he is walking out of the wilderness leaning on His Beloved. Praying, trusting, hoping, loving, letting go–parenting adult kids is not for the faint-of-heart!

  9. This is very powerful writing. I, like you, write for catharsis. I, like your son, had a rocky relationship with my home life. I left home even earlier, at 15, and this story really touched me. I’m 39 now, and my mom and I are still close, though we still fight, haha. Just know that children love their mothers, even when, especially when, we need to fly away from the nest and never really come back. We always love our mothers. You are loved.

  10. Having been an only child and not having family living nearby has made me long for a sense of family as you have. My family of 4 is perfect for me but I’ve always been jealous of those that have large families and relationships that I will never understand. Thank you for sharing.

  11. This was so beautiful, yet heart wrenching to read. I have dealt with a similar issue, and I hope things get better for you very soon!

  12. This was so beautiful, yet heart wrenching to read. I have dealt with a similar issue, and I hope things get better for you very soon!

  13. I can’t imagine how hard this must have been. My babies are little and I know the time will go by fast. I try to cherish these moments..

    1. It does go by fast- that must be why we’ve kept having children- it just goes by too darn fast 🙂

  14. I can’t imagine how hard this must have been. My babies are little and I know the time will go by fast. I try to cherish these moments..

  15. Wow, this is so deep. I had tears in my eyes while reading. Thank you for sharing such a personal story!

    1. Thank you, Melissa.

  16. I know how hard this must be to share, but your story may help others in the same situation.

  17. Beautiful writing, thank you for sharing your raw story.

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  18. Your story is very touching. It makes me hold my daughter tighter knowing that she will one day leave home. Thank you for sharing. ❤️

  19. My heart aches for you reading that! Praying that God is with you as you deal with this!

  20. Beautifully written, you really paint a picture. Thanks for sharing and I wish you and your family the best as you navigate your new normal.

  21. I hope your relationship is one day mended and he comes home!

  22. Cooking and writing are therapy for me, too. None of my kids have left home, yet, but I can only imagine the emotions when they do. Thank you for eloquently sharing your heart.

  23. This really hit me. My oldest is only 10 but if anyone had told me that it can get harder rather than easier as they age I would have thought a lot harder about having kids. I love them all but give me a armful of screaming infants any day.

  24. Beautiful! Made me cry. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Beautifully written and hard!

  26. Very beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

  27. As one mom to another, I wish you strength. Thanks for writing this.

  28. What a thoughtful post. I commend you for opening your heart and sharing with the world. Parenting can be so difficult and sometimes. I wish you and your family all the best.

  29. Wow! Such a heartfelt post! I love how comforting it is knowing God has everything under control. As hard as it is NOT to worry, God continues to fill our cup when it’s empty. Stay strong in faith mama!

  30. Please take heart–things can and do change, mellow, and blend as the years pass. A very similar thing happened with my oldest at age 20–it was so heartbreaking and devastating for many years. Her relationship with our family was really broken. Fast forward to age 31, and much has been redeemed and restored. It has taken years of steps forward and back, many tears and heartaches and frustration, but our adult relationship is so much better than it used to be.

  31. Your words bring me right back to a time when our daughter walked out just before her 17th birthday. God was my refuge as I often cried myself to sleep and was sure this was worse than my husband and my near divorce just a few years earlier. I’ll never forget a young girl at church tell me she too walked through something similar with her mom and they were now best friends. That was my great God whispering to me trust me and draw closer to my feet. He like always did not disappoint. What a blessing she is to me years later on so many levels and also my best friend. There will always be a flicker of sun through this hard time and I know you will see it daily in your other babies and our sweet Jesus!

    1. Thank you for sharing that encouragement, Debi. 💗

  32. So many things I’d like to say, but probably shouldn’t to preserve the privacy of my own family. Hang in there — it’ll get better with time.

  33. So very much love, strength and faith here. The foundation you and Joe started will support his growth now and help to hold Connnor up, even if you aren’t exactly right next to him at this moment. HE is next to Connor and will see him home. Thank you, as always, for your unwavering honesty – you’ll never know how much support you unwittingly give on any random day, and often when it is needed most. Sending prayers, comfort and peace to see you all through this season.

    1. What sweet words. Thank you.

  34. So beautifully written, so honestly felt. My tears for you , my girl. Remembering when you were a strong-willed 18 year old proclaiming, “If you don’t let me marry Joe, we’ll run away.” Dad and I cried and let go and thank God we did. What a beautiful family He planned for you two. Each child is a pain-filled let go, even in the best, most perfect of circumstances. You’ll never stop being their mother, my child. In your heart forever, as you are in mine. I love you. My prayers for you and each of our grandchildren. Every day. God holds each one close to His Heart.

    1. P.S. I suspect nearly every mom thinks as their adult children walk out the door, “Wait! I’m not done parenting you. I still have things I want to teach you!” I know that’s what I said when you walked out the door. Blessings and love to you.

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