Two women and I met on Tuesday nights for five weeks. We had a visitor for one session, but for the rest of the time it was Mom A, Mom B and myself. Each of the moms have one child (one has a boy and one has a girl). The boy is studying at a large state school and the girl went off to a small private school; nevertheless, each mom had similar fears, reactions and hopes for their children.
At the first meeting, I asked what their biggest concerns were regarding sending their only children off to college. Mom A had been imagining this moment since her baby was born; she was anticipating his leaving before he reached high school and had been a puddle of tears during his entire senior year. Mom B stated that she was worried about whether her daughter was "prepared" for college; would she be okay, could she handle the situations thrown at her, would she be able to cope independent of her parents.
After confirming that Mom B's daughter was in fact quite competent and capable, I questioned Mom B about this fear she had. As we dissected it further, I wondered out loud if maybe Mom B was hyper focusing on her daughter's level of preparedness because it was easier than being in her own grief, loss and sadness. She listened thoughtfully and shook her head in agreement. As the women gathered their belongings after the first session, they both expressed that they were feeling a "lightness" as they left the room; they seemed to have dumped great deal of their heaviness and angst right there on my red Ikea throw rug.
Over the next four weeks, it was a joy to watch these woman bond over this extremely emotional experience. There were tears, anxiety and a great deal of laughter. Mom B shared that she and Dad B were planning to take an extra night as a "getaway" after the college drop-off as a buffer to entering their, now childless, home. We thought that was such a great idea that Mom A jumped on board and booked a "getaway" for her husband and herself. Mom A clued in Mom B about the Bed Bath and Beyond ordering and shipping process which was a great factoid for the procrastinating shopper B daughter.
Week 4 was especially noteworthy as Mom A had just dropped of her son. She shared pictures, stories and her pride about holding her tears off at the good-bye, only to be hit with the heaviness the following morning. As Mom B walked in to Week 5, she announced that she was now "part of the club". She was able to tell us about the "roller coaster" of emotions during their drop off and how she was planning for her day off the next day to let herself "just be sad".
At the conclusion of our last group I thanked the women for participating with such rawness and honesty. I asked for feedback from them and they reiterated that they both felt lighter every time they had come to group. They appreciated having the support of the group, being allowed to emote openly and learning that they were not alone in their grief.
I am honored to have been able to help these women through this very emotional time. I reminded them both that they had done their work; it was normal to be sad, but they had processed their feelings and could allow themselves to be in the moment. I praised them for investing their time and energy into the group and having the courage to get some help and be honest with one another. I honestly think that they are each going to be stronger women and better mothers for taking this time for themselves and working through this difficult life transition.