My New Normal

I don’t know what I thought life after taking Ben to college would be like…

I don’t know that I had a plan for how to deal with my roller coaster of emotions…

I don’t know that I was prepared to actually live through this transition, this time of uncertainty, this new normal…

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The 24 hours leading up to moving him into his dorm were a whirlwind.  I was so busy I didn’t have time to feel.  Looking back, I think I was numb or that I had somehow compartmentalized and shut down my personal emotions, and instead focused on everything and anything that Ben needed.

I was holding onto my last few opportunities of this chapter to really play the role of Mom – the planner, organizer, scheduler – the one that could make it happen, fix it, get it done.  But I also found myself doing so with reservation, as though I had one arm tied behind my back.  I was that Mom figure, with permission and by request….instead of the one taking charge.

It was all good, until the moment when I had to actually say Good-bye….

That was like having my heart ripped out of my chest.  I kept it together, in the sense that I didn’t crumble to the floor in the fetal position.  But I cried.  In that very moment, all I wanted was to show Ben my joy, confidence, pride and belief in him.  But instead I cried.  As the tears rolled down my cheeks, he wrapped his arms around me and loved me anyway.

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Boarding the plane less than 24 hours later was even harder.  On the outside, I looked normal, except for the tears spilling over my eyelids and dripping down my face.  But on the inside, I was screaming, having my own personal tantrum.  All I wanted to do was drop my bags and literally run, as fast as I could, out of that airport.  Just run….

Boarding the plane was the final reality check that I was in fact leaving my baby all by himself, thousands of miles away from home, from the life he knew…..from the life I knew!  Boarding the plane snapped me out of any last bit of denial I had been hanging onto.

The first week back home was fuzzy at best.  I was in survival mode, living on auto-pilot.  But the days are getting easier.  Even as I write this (then delete it, then type it again) I wonder what easier means.

What I should really say is that I’m crying less often.  But honestly – that worries me.  I’m afraid of the day that I don’t cry.  I’m afraid of what that will mean.  I’m afraid it will signify that I’ve gotten used to Ben being away.

I’m not so sure I want to get used to that!

Apparently, this is my new normal…and yet it doesn’t feel remotely close to normal.  It feels empty, awkward, unfamiliar, strange, and lonely.  If feeling like part of my heart has been ripped out of my chest is my new normal – I want nothing to do with it.

There are moments where I feel like an addict going through withdrawal and all I need is a “Ben fix” and I’ll be fine, for the time being….

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It’s been four weeks to the day since I last hugged my B.  Four weeks since I kissed his cheek, looked into his dark brown eyes, touched his muscular arm.  Four weeks since I’ve seen the joy in his face as he laughs.  Four weeks since we’ve enjoyed a meal together.  Four weeks of living this new normal.

In just a few short hours the hole in my heart will be healed, temporarily, as I spend the next 3 days sharing his college experience with him, getting glimpses of his new life.

I’m consumed with JOY – but it’s a guarded joy.  The kind of joy that you know is short lived, only to be followed by pain.

When Ben’s best friend left for the Air Force Academy, just 10 days after graduation, I watched him experience a pain and sadness I had never seen from him before.  Knowing that I couldn’t fix or change it, I offered him the only words that came to me – I offered him the truth.

I told him that feeling the depth of sadness he was experiencing, like his heart was breaking, was directly proportionate to how much he LOVED.  In this case it was a love of a friendship built over 8 years, a brotherly love.

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I will embrace the next 72 hours with all the joy and gratitude that my heart can hold – knowing that saying Good-bye, and boarding the plane on Sunday, will be no easier this time around.

I pray that in the midst of the pain and sadness I will feel as I walk this path again, I will remember it is proportionate to how much I LOVE!

with Gratitude, Joy & Love


  1. You always say what we all feel…and you say always say it so poignantly!

    • LOVE you Leslie! I throw my thoughts/feelings/words out there – never knowing how they will really be received! Thanks for the confirmation when they stick!

  2. I have no words that will fill the hole or make you feel an ounce better. If the pain could be taken, it would already have been removed. With each chapter of our lives, being intwinded with our children, comes new emotion with each change. Try to remember that we could never grow if changes didn’t happen. I promise that 4 years will fly by. At first, it doesn’t seem like it, but it really will. My advise to you…. get Ben to sign a release stating that he will not fall in love with anyone, any job or the area —as he has to come back close enough that you can get in the car and drive to him w/in hours! :-) LOL

    • I hear ya Karen! In just 4 weeks he’s already acclimated to his new life so well. It feels like HOME to him! We knew when we agreed to this (sending him to CU) that he would probably never come back east (to live). Thankfully we LOVE Colorado too – and can see ourselves spending more and more time in that part of the country.

  3. Lara Sauvageau says:

    Make me cry Debi. Can’t imagine what I will be like when this time comes!

    I know Ben is having the time of his life… but, how bittersweet for us, as parents to let them go.

    My heart aches for you and Bobby. Have a great time with him this weekend!


    • Gail caprio says:

      So! Poignantly written…felt the ripping! Mariel…as u know my only child, married Neil…a young man who will truly be a son…love his family too…always great joy and laughter with them…this beautiful couple so blessed and they know it… only tense with excitement…not that everything should go perfectly….pouring rain followed a touching outside ceremony. …people said that was good luck….yeah!….lucky Cuz we all mad it inside in time….funny touching speeches….only loving and loved people present….yummy food….sweet efficient photographer. ..extremely fun caterer and staff…..stations of food to keep all casual…not that I got much of that….touching dances…hysterical dances…glorious joy…so much dancing that most of the “drink” had to be returned!….imagine that!…not a totally conventional wedding but one that both of them wanted….then came clean-up….limo loaded up with goodies….couple escaped to a week of “honeymoon” which to them meant no plans, which they said was totally phenomenal….what could be better than that?!!…the day after, I took my little Sis to the train….went and had breakfast with relatives….returned home and proceeded to wander around aimlessly…getting nothing accomplished…feeling rather bereft…not just “Let down.” …..numerous days went by without any contact….this Mom was not going to intrude…infringe on their privacy….but it was killing me!….how did they like their wedding….what was best…what did it feel like when they expressed and professed their love for each other…..did they like the food….what food was there anyway!!!.. how was the giftie pkg that the 2 Mom’s put together for the limo ride home…..did they think the unmentionables were hysterical… hit me like a tornado that despite loving everything about the Union….that “things, they were achangin'” yet another Hugh change in the development of my gifted daughter….gifted in so many important ways…so like you Debi, my heart was ripped out…but I’m glad it was….we did our job as best we could and now our wonderful Mariel will be cherished also, by our Neil…I do praise G-d for this fabulous, tearful, needed joy in my life! Ben will always be a big part of your life no matter what! What a lucky young man!!

      • You nailed it on the head Gail! I wasn’t sure where you were going as I read your words….until you got to the part where you just wanted to have that normal conversation, hear the joy in her voice, know how her experience was for her! THAT is the thing I miss most about not having Ben under my roof. I just miss the day to day interaction, sharing, talking, understanding, supporting. I hope mariel filled you in once she returned! hugs!!!

    • No Lara – you can’t imagine….because it is so different from anything else you’ve ever experienced. It’s a different kind of loss/grief. The best way to describe it – is that I feel somewhat bi-polar. So incredibly excited for and proud of Ben – can’t even put all that into words. I would want him no place else in the world! And I miss him. It’s just as simple as that – I just miss our day to day interaction.

  4. Karen Monroe says:

    oh girl! I know what you are going through. I am on year two and yes it gets better but sometimes it is so so hard and I don’t have any other kids at home! I am headed off to parents weekend as well. Enjoy this time!!

    • Hey Karen! Sitting at the airport now – getting ready to fly home. What an awesome weekend, as I’m sure you had too! I know (in my head) that it gets easier, that we adapt through the transition, that we get used to this “new normal”. But I will NEVER get used to leaving him – that part just SUCKS (pardon my french!). Miss you! Love ya….

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