May 5, 2021

Spring Relief: Moving on from the Empty Nest Syndrome & Holiday Sadness.

Spring has sprung, and every spring comes with such expansion for me, although it typically takes me about a month to settle in.

This year, not so long.

I love smelling all of the fresh scents of flowers while walking my dogs and feeling the sun’s warmth on my skin after a long winter. The sound of new baby birds chirping always brings a smile to my face, and for the past couple of spring seasons, we have had a bird build a perfectly imperfect nest in our front porch chandelier.

The dawning of another spring brings hope, inspiration, and a sense of newness.

There is another familiar yet unique feeling that comes with spring for me, however: relief.

Relief that the weather is going to improve. Relief the sky will be brighter once again. Relief that a long holiday season is over, which means so are the countless reminders that we are missing out on making ravioli with my husband’s families for Thanksgiving and eating Italian donuts with my family on Christmas Eve.

And the biggest for me, the relief that I won’t have to process the sadness in my heart that our home is so…empty.

I grew up with a large family. My parents both came from six children families, and there were always cousins to play with, aunts to bake with, uncles to sing with, and family gatherings that were so full. Even in my later teens and early 20s, there were babies to hold, children to play games with, and the joy of togetherness.

To this day, our family gatherings remain full of love, traditional food, arguing, music, sharing, screaming, and beautiful chaos.

And we are miles apart, of course, by choice. I take responsibility for my decision.

I met my husband in 2014, two weeks following a broken attempt at a second chance relationship. My husband’s mom set us up on a blind date at a San Francisco Giants baseball game.

Well, at least according to me it was a blind date. He had no clue he was being set up, but perhaps that worked out for the better.

I lived in California at the time, and he lived in Missouri. Long story short, our first date eventually turned into forever. I made a move to St. Louis to be with him and his two children.

I was thrilled that he had these two kids! After learning of my difficulty to have biological children during my first marriage and then a divorce in 2007, I always hoped to meet someone with kids. However, I failed to factor into the equation that not every blended family “just works.”

Given what I had observed growing up, I never thought twice that marrying into a family with children could come with what it has. Of course, I assumed there would be hurdles here and there, but I could have never guessed what was to come, and I do see that as a blessing.

Divorces, plain and simple, can be ugly. And they can go from looking like a 150 piece puzzle to a 2,000 piece puzzle when kids are in the mix.

Ours looks like about a 15,000 piece puzzle with some pieces bent, some missing, and sometimes, I think we have pieces from other puzzles in ours, like is this even real!?

After I came into the picture, we had about two good holiday seasons we spent together.

I loved it: cooking various pies, some with fresh-picked apples for Thanksgiving, gift wrapping at Christmas, hearts of angel affirmations on their bedroom doors on Valentine’s day, hiding eggs and baskets at easter. The list goes on. And it reminds me of the fun we had just in everyday life—from school pickups with the dog and movie couch nights with our fun fiesta colored dishware to making this special little popcorn mix we all loved, just for fun.

Of course, it came with challenges too. Every family has things to work through—that is why we are here, after all. I never thought we wouldn’t be able to work those things out, but God had a different plan.

After about three years, it all blew up. Life as we knew it came to a halting close and the kids stopped living with us. It is has taken me several years to observe that it no one’s fault, there is no one to pass the blame on to, and there are always three sides to every story.

But alas, most of our holidays are childless and family-less now. While we did go a couple of years not seeing the kids, we are blessed to see them here and there now. When we celebrate holidays together, it is typically a casual two-hour lunch.

Even then, it is different. I suspect they don’t remember the fun we shared, the popcorn making and couch nights, the trips, the laughter.

Don’t get me wrong. We have found ways to fill our holiday season with more family, child energy, and joy—making the best of when we do see the kids, seeing family on January trips, visiting family for Christmas, volunteering at the local foster center, donating time and resources.

That all feels so good and does indeed bring the heart expansion of the holidays.

At the same time, we can’t be with our family or even in the foster center every holiday, so it comes with the reminder that what is most important is absent: people we love.

Hence there is relief when the holiday season is over. No matter our intention to make it the best, there is always that space of grieving what was lost. And for me, perhaps even grieving parts of what was never had to begin with.

So as I meet another spring with relief, I also sense hope. I remind myself it’s okay to be where I am—there is nothing to do and nothing to make it better. I have learned to listen to the all-familiar feeling that shows up and to meet any sadness with more love, and relief with hope. I remember that it is a call to open to more love, give back in some way, appreciate more, or perhaps share, as I am here.

Perhaps only a small percent of the population may relate to these words. Maybe more so now that many more of us have been apart from our families given the pandemic.

If this is relatable, I see you, feel you, and you are not alone. May this be of benefit to your heart to open to more love.


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