A Ritual of Farewell

On January 1st, my youngest son left the “nest”.

A few months earlier when he read his art school acceptance letter, my first reaction was “No! I’m not ready to let you go!” followed almost immediately by “This is going to be so wonderful for you!” Ah, the balancing act of mothering…

The only reason I was able to find the willingness in my heart to let him go was because I took my time consciously saying goodbye.

After Gabe graduated from high school, he lived at home this past year and worked fulltime. If at home when he left for work, I would consciously stop what I was doing and walk to the door and give him a hug goodbye.

Well aware that it was only a matter of time before University or traveling would take him away, it was as though there was a quota of hugs I had to fill before I would be able to let him go for good.

More than once, I caught myself about to shout goodbye from upstairs or from the kitchen or my studio. Just in time, I’d make it to the door to remain devoted to my practice of giving him a hug.

The week before he left, I invited our family members who live in town to gather for a meal. I asked each person to bring something to give to Gabe (metaphorical or material) to equip him for his journey out into the wider world. I also suggested that they bring memories to share about the time when they left home.

It was such a lovely evening, sharing a meal, offering advice, reading from journals, shedding tears and giving sweet and funny gifts.

Taking part in a ritual of goodbye created a lasting memory for our family with the ten of us sitting together around the table, Gabe at the head being steeped in love.

It takes lots of love to say goodbye. Sharing enough love during that time of transition can temper some of the feelings of loss. Only you know how to satisfy that equation.

For me, my practice of giving hugs, sharing the ritual of a family dinner farewell, being involved in finding a new home for Gabe that I was comfortable with and he was excited about, sharing spontaneous conversations about the importance of going out into the world, and breaking down emotionally together a few times in the days leading up to goodbye all helped to make this goodbye more about love and less about loss.

On the final morning when my son was getting into the car with his dad to make the 18-hour journey to his new home, I knew there was only one final thing I needed to do.

I took a long look into his eyes, an action that to me secures a feeling of connection, and finally, I was willing to say farewell.

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  1. Cecilia
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    good morning Jovanna: Wow, I loved reading about your ceremony. My youngest left for Vancouver about 7 months ago now. He was able to get home for Christmas for 4 days, but of course had to share his time with many (not just his mom). Almost as soon as he arrived, I felt that dread that I knew was around the corner, in 4 days, when I knew his departure was near. I have never felt such loss, heavy heart, huge crocodile tears. I wish I had thought to arrange a ceremonious dinner. Good reminder for me to be more mindful of how to be a better role model on dealing with sadness. Many thanks, Cecilia

    • Jovanna
      Posted January 12, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      I know, Celia, there can be such a strong bond of love between us mothers and our boys. It doesn’t feel right to raise them up and then let them go especially when it’s so far away! It’s never too late to have something special for your son. The next time he comes home you can arrange something. Perhaps a time to officially hear about his life out in the wide world with each person coming with a particular question for him? Sometimes sending a card in the mail can be a simple and beautiful way to express love. Or a care package! I’m sending compassion your way!

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