Love letters

Empty nest, empty heart

I am broken. The sea of grief is so unexpected, so engulfing, so deep. A black cloud has hung over my head, resting on my shoulders like a heavy wet blanket, since he left on a jet plane. My soul, my heart, my being, longs for his presence. I am moved to tears at the thought of him. I have cried myself to sleep most nights for the past month.

I have never felt so alone. I dread coming home to this empty nest. And having to be alone, completely alone. I have friends and a new boyfriend and work colleagues and new hobbies… but nothing fills the empty space he has left behind. I have lost a limb. A piece of my heart is missing. A part of my soul has left me.

My son has left home. His room has an empty bed, his bike, and not even the faintest smell of teenage boy remains. He turns 19 in four days. His home is now a room at the National Taiwan University. I call him every Sunday. He will return in five months. To my house, our former home, to Melbourne.

My heart hurts. I feel like one of those bugs you see flipped on its back, with legs flying everywhere as it tries desperately to right itself. I feel like the carpet has been ripped out from underneath me. I am more lost than I have ever been. I try to fill up the emptiness with my career, my hobbies, my boyfriend, my plans. But nothing works, nothing takes the loss away. So, in the end, all I can do is sit alone and write. With Ben Howard playing in the background, singing my heart’s song.

“Hello love, my invincible friend. Hello love, the thistle and the burr. Hello love, for you I have so many words. But I, I forget where we were.” 

What is in the aloneness? Sadness. Loss. Guilt. Emptiness. I see his whole life stretch before me in my mind’s eye. I see him as a newborn, with a cone head from the vacuum extraction, the sweet smell of baby, his little face. I see him as a toddler, a school boy, a high school student, a teenager, a man. And I miss it all. I feel like I have lost my best friend, my little buddy. I feel all the times I wasn’t the parent I wish I had been.

He wrote a series of books when he was about eight. He published them on a website he created with his best friend. What an achievement! But I was lost to alcoholism at the time and plummeting towards my rock bottom. I was so self-centred, so selfish, so lost that I couldn’t even read his books. My mother read them, bless her. I feel so much shame, so much pain, about this incident. “You did the best you could at the time,” I tell myself. But my heart hurts when I think of his sweet face, his precious heart. The regret is so deep. I need to forgive myself. I am so very sorry Rishi. If I could turn back time, I would read your books enthusiastically. I would celebrate your loveliness, your talent, your extraordinariness.

I cleaned his room one time when he was at his father’s house and, as my son puts it, I threw away his life’s work. I saw piles of paper covered in notes and sketches… and I saw clutter that needed to be cleaned out. My son’s precious life work. Irreplaceable. Priceless. His work, not mine. Another deep regret filled with guilt and sadness. If I could only turn back time. I am so very sorry Rishi. If I could, I would frame your work, photograph it, celebrate it, keep it forever.

But I also see the parenting I’m proud of. How hard I worked to build a career to provide for him, to create a home for us, to give him the best private school education possible. He has grown into an incredible human being. A man of kindness and strength and dignity and grace. I have raised a wonderful man. And for this I am proud. And he has gone out into the world and is creating the life he desires, which is the best a parent could ever hope for. I am so very proud of him.

And so I will grieve alone. It will take as long as it takes. “Give time, time,” I tell myself. This is the first time in my life I have lived alone. I have been a parent, raising a child, my whole adult life. I have had Rishi by my side since I was 23 years old. I was a sole parent for most of it. His father had him for four weeks a year – at most. I am now turning 43. I don’t know who I am without someone to nurture, to support, to be responsible for. I don’t know who I am any more. What is my primary purpose? Who am I now I am not raising a child into a man? What is left for me to do now?

I know on the other side of this grief is freedom. And hope, and happiness, and laughter. So I will keep writing and singing and playing until the new me emerges from the ashes of motherhood ready for the next stage of life. I will let go and let God. Faith not fear. Trust in the process. Trust in life. Everything is as it should be. I will be okay. He will be okay. I will love Rishi forever and I will always be his mum. He has taught me so much. He will always be my little man. And I will celebrate him and the incredible journey of motherhood, now and forever.


  • Abby Inned

    Tears in my eyes & so much identification. My Zoe left me for a year at 14 to go to Howqua for her year 9 program. Not sure if you remember. There were no phone calls, no emails. Only letters for a whole year. I saw her for a couple of days every month. It was excruciatingly painful. The separation anxiety was full on!!! I had nights of tears & sleeping in her bed & every time I had to put her back on the bus to Howqua I’d cry. The grief, the shame, the guilt, the happiness, the pride, the anticipation, the loneliness & the loss of purpose were all consuming. But….. 2 years on i am grateful for the experience. The year apart helped us both evoke in different ways. It was almost essential for us to have this opportunity & it strengthened our relationship & brought a healthy freshness to it. Hang in there. Sending you lots of love. Here if you ever need chats with someone who understands. xx

  • ceri

    I can relate to your feelings of loss. I too cried myself to sleep when my children left home. It is so bitter sweet, but it passes kinda quickly. They are safe and strong, I give myself a pat on the back when i think of them and say ‘well done me’. Now when i think of them i smile instead of cry.

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