Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster
by Jill Savage
I remember when it happened. I was sitting in our living room scrolling through Facebook. Everyone was talking about Back-to-School specials. They were sharing deals on notebooks, paper, markers, pens, and crayons. That’s when it hit me. My getting-kids-ready-for-school days were definitely over.
The tears began to roll, and I silently said to myself, I don’t like this. Not one little bit. I used to love getting the kids ready for school. I loved the rhythm of the school year and the summer break. And as I thought about it more, I realized that I loved being responsible, being needed, and feeling the sense of accomplishment and the fresh start that happened every August as the new school year started. Come on, I loved mothering in general!
Sure, there had been days I wanted to throw in the towel. There were days I wondered where it was that a mother could go to resign. Now I was missing some of the sweet parts of mothering. I had what felt like a forced resignation and I didn’t like it one bit. I’m not the only one. One mom said it felt like a forced retirement with no celebration. So true!
Up until this point, we’ve been in charge of their life and we’ve been responsible for them. Now they’re considered an adult and are expected to make their own decisions. How in the world does a parent make that kind of transition? Some kids are easy to launch and others . . . well, you might liken it to letting a toddler drive a car. What’s a mama to do?
Welcome to the roller coaster of empty nest emotions! My guess is, you picked up this book because you’ve felt that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Your life, like a roller coaster, is on its way up a steep hill, if not already at the top. You take a queasy peek right before you plunge down at breakneck speed, much faster than you care for. The winds of change smack you in the face as the emotional roller coaster twists, turns, and loops, taking you to sometimes unthinkable destinations.
One of many twists on the coaster—I felt relief for not being responsible daily for other people than myself, but whoa! do I miss taking care of the folks I love. Right after that, another twist! I love that our money now only has to support two people instead of seven, but yow! I loved providing my kids with the things they needed and wanted. These are the emotional loops of this roller coaster ride that cause me to sometimes say, “Stop the ride! I want to get off!”
I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way, so what’s a mama to do with all these crazy emotions? How does she get off the roller coaster, emotionally stabilize, and transition her thought process from something lost to something gained? A new opportunity? An encore to enjoy?
Struggling to sort through the emotional tsunami of the approaching empty nest, I opened my Bible for direction. I headed to the book of Ecclesiastes, remembering this is where we can find the “in everything there is a season” verses. I was certainly in a new season. I was not only on the verge of the empty nest, but I was already a nana. With the thirteen-year age span of our five kids, I became a grandmother before our younger children were even launched into adulthood.
This particular morning, I picked up The Message version of the Bible. I usually read the ESV (English Standard Version), but today I was inclined to pick up my Message Bible. I made my way to chapter 3, and it was verse 6 that stopped me in my tracks. Here’s what it said: There is “a right time to hold on and another to let go.” Those words HOLD ON and LET GO jumped right off the page to me and I whispered, Lord, that’s what I need to stop the roller coaster. I need to know what it is I need to hold on to and what it is I need to let go of. If those are clear to me, I think I might be able to move forward.
That became the focus of my prayers as I rode the emotional roller coaster of this new, disorienting season of life. In each new situation I’ve faced, I’ve breathed the prayer, What part of this situation do I need to hold on to and what part do You want me to let go of, Lord?
An excerpt from Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God’s Best for Your Next by Jill Savage (Moody Publishers, August 2019).
Jill Savage is an author and speaker passionate about encouraging families. She is the author of nine books, including Professionalizing Motherhood, My Hearts At Home, Real Moms… Real Jesus, Living With Less So Your Family Has More, No More Perfect Moms, No More Perfect Kids and her most recent bestselling release, Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone. Founder of Hearts at Home, an organization that encourages moms, Jill is regularly featured on Focus on the Family and Crosswalk.com, and she is the host of the Heartbeat radio program. Jill and her husband, Mark, have five children and three grandchildren. They make their home in Normal, Illinois.
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