I apply many of the teachings from the science of Positive Psychology into my life. The one that I have integrated the most, however, is the concept of “being human” and accepting our emotions. We may not have control over what we feel, but we do have control over our responses to those emotions. We can still choose how we behave and move forward, despite our feelings.
September brought many changes at our household. We went from being a family of five to just three, as two of my kids went off to university. My son is in his third year, but it was my daughter’s first year at university in a new city. Needless to say, there have been many different emotions over the past few months, leading up to this major transition.
On my daughter’s prom day in June, we spent the whole day together getting her ready. I was so proud as I watched my beautiful, mature daughter, who has become such a good-hearted woman, leave for her big night. I was so happy for her—proud of her accomplishments and excited for her to begin the next chapter—but I was also so sad. I cried as I acknowledged that my time with her at home was coming to an end. My time as a mother to small children was officially over—and it had gone by so fast!
I recently spoke to a friend going through a similar transition. I was shocked when she told me she was feeling great and seemed to be adapting quite easily to this big change in her life. I, on the other hand, feel like I am still adapting—and still far from feeling “great” about it. I’m letting myself feel the emptiness and looking at how to create a new normal.
If I am still adapting, but my friend has already moved on, does this mean that I am not as strong and positive as her? Absolutely not. I am still Claudia: a strong, positive person AND I am also a person feeling—and working towards accepting—a loss. Our emotions come whether we want them or not. Our strength is found not in the feelings themselves but by what we do with them and how we respond.
We don’t have a choice when it comes to feelings. We will likely experience many different ones: sadness, anger, happiness, anxiety, joy andfrustration—to name a few. The challenge is whether we can accept them and gain some control over them, rather than letting them control our lives and outlook. Emotions are neither good or bad. They just are. It is only by feeling sadness, anxiety and anger that we can also experience true joy, happiness and fulfillment.
For me, these past few weeks have been about accepting contradictory feelings. The pride and joy of seeing my children become strong, independent people AND also feeling sad about the emptiness and my new reality. By letting myself feel what came, and giving myself time to just be with those feelings, I am now starting to see the beauty in this new life stage. A new definition of motherhood is evolving, as is a new daily routine with just the three of us at home.
So, whatever feelings are coming up for you right now, give yourself permission to be human and feel them all—good and bad. This will allow you to soon move on. And, as with everything in life, this, too, shall pass.