Dear Amy: Our 23-year-old son will soon move overseas. He’s been working toward a goal of teaching in a country whose culture fascinates him, and after much hard work he achieved that goal.
My husband and I are so happy for him. This is a great opportunity, and the confidence we’ve seen him gain over just the past year or so is wonderful.
Everything should be great, right? But Amy, I’m terrified. I don’t show it to him or anyone else, but it’s a feeling that grows stronger as the time for his departure grows closer.
Our son has a chronic health disorder, which he’s had since early childhood. It doesn’t affect his ability to live normally, but it requires constant monitoring, which he’s always been good about.
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But emergencies happen, and picturing him being halfway across the world, and possibly having a medical emergency in a country where virtually no English is spoken is, putting it mildly, a huge concern.
His employers know about this health issue, and our son will qualify for national health coverage, but I still feel helpless about this.
Rationally, I know he is an adult. I have no control over what happens in anyone’s life. But at some deep, primitive level I feel as if I’m not protecting him.
We have an older son who recently moved out of state, but no matter the distance, we’ve always been a close family. Inside I’m falling apart. I have no close friends I can share these feelings with, and don’t fully understand why the sadness and anxiety are becoming so intense.
Is this normal? Will it pass once he’s settled in his new life? How does one process these feelings?
Dear Anxious: Your anxiety and this current rumination are understandable – because you are entering a letting-go life phase where you are, in fact, turning your son’s life over to him.
This feels primal because it is the cellular tug you have experienced in one way or another since dropping off your son at kindergarten. You survived that, and you will survive this. The fact that you have been helping him to manage his health will naturally increase your concern.
One way to cope with anxiety is to take things in stages. Start by telling yourself your son is leaving for a limited duration. This should help get you through the initial goodbye. Make a plan to visit him. Schedule regular Skype calls.
Be mindful that there are parents who are seeing their children off for military deployment; this will help you to put your son’s challenges and privileges in perspective.
I appreciate your stoicism, but you should not completely submerge your feelings. Be honest with your husband. It’s OK to be emotional, to tell your son that you will miss him and to admit to worrying about him.
You can find a Facebook group that conforms to your situation, i.e., “Parents of children with diabetes” and communicate with others. Learning that you are not alone should help you find new ways to cope.
Email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.