When You Feel the Pain of Letting Go

I should be starting dinner. 


I need to write a letter.


I know I could be taking a walk, or “improving my mind”, or maybe even praying. But I’m not…exactly. God has provided one short, giddy sunset for me to drink in each day,


and I miss most of them.


It’s the in-between part of the day–the delicious comma between afternoon and evening when God holds His breath and day slides artlessly into envelopes of night.

I survey the gentle hills framed in my window, and bask in the bold orange of a day’s-end sky. Teal blue clouds embrace. Blazing edges of day wave an affectionate farewell. Day sings her night song, and birds stream overhead, across the sun. I am intoxicated.


As I watch, something slides to the edge of my mind, knocking. I put it off a while longer and watch shifting patterns of gold dust western skies. Blood-red patches of day silently escape below the horizon.


I don’t want this picture to change! I do want, desperately, to preserve every nuance of color, shaped and planed, and painted on a sky outside this window. I want so badly to gild it in gold and tuck it in a private hiding place known only to me. Then I can admire it again and again. Whenever I choose, I can admire it, so fine and so fair.

Orange keeps melting into pots of gold and delicate mauve, and finally shell pink before saying “goodbye”. Suddenly…it’s over. The sunset is gone! Poof!


I sigh, turning reluctantly to the uneasy thoughts worming their way front and center. It’s the “in between” part of life for my daughter and me, too. Dawn is 18 now…. all woman and all child. Like the effervescent fleeting sunshine of my treasured sunsets.


As she left today, I told her firmly she would be home for dinner. She replied just as firmly that she most likely would not. Pulling away again. It hurts, but it’s time.


Feels like bandage ripping hairs from back of hand. Swift, brief, mother pain.


I reach out to catch this winsome butterfly. She eludes my grasp, flaps her wings, just out of reach.


I remember a scene almost forgot. I’m a young mother in a first-grade classroom. Dawn recites a finger-play game in a circle of wide-eyed others. She catches mother eye over and over, and lips spread wide, warm grin ‘round and ‘round me. We’re both glad I came.


Another memory pops. We’re walking in the snow, me and my children. She calls in high voice of alarm: “Wait for me!” How long has it been? I stir uneasily. When did the page turn? When did the leaf fall? All this without my permission?


Now, Dawn is two. Two years old. I’m leaving the house…without her. Her head reaches just above the window sill, and she cries. Tears fall wet down red cheeks, and mother heart cringes. She always wants to be with me! I pull away, impatient at the stage….not realizing I will want this back.


More images. Dawn, thirteen. Leaving. Always leaving. “Hello, Mom”. “See you later, Mom.” Pulling away. It had begun. It would not go backward.


Suddenly I know with a deep knowing: if I would ultimately keep her, I must let her go. It is the way of things.


The pictures fade, meteor-like. I shiver slightly at the cold and at the thought of the future. When she goes, she will carry a slice of my heart.


Sunset is plain over. Curtains of night shut surely. I accept the change and look toward tomorrow. I trace the edge of the windowsill with my finger. A resolve begins to form… intent quickens. I will loosen the ties that make this seasons easier for us both. I simply will. “Go your way, my beauty,” I will tell her. “No more tug of war, I hope!


Thoughts scuttle and scamper. I can no more keep her than catch a rainbow or pocket a star! They’re both strangely beautiful and strangely remote–elusive as moonbeams. Sometimes reachable, sometimes not. Are they both just for a time? Well, then, wing your way. Maybe the holding on is too hard for the both of us. Maybe the letting go will be the final bonding. She, like the sunset, will return in another form, at another time, in the right time…after she has tasted freedom and tried her wings.”


After all, in order to come home, one must first leave.


Letting go, in my life has always happened in bits and pieces. This is one such incident, a moment in time which became one of a necklace of events leading toward my daughter’s adulthood, and my passage into another season.” –Linda Andersen


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  1. You captured almost exactly the feelings I had when letting two of my three children go into the real world of adulthood. My oldest is now 35 and has 3 of her own and we are closer than we’ve ever been. This, too, will pass. We have to remember that we move through seasons in our lives that sometimes take us where we’d rather not be or where we’d like to stay forever! Blessings!

    1. Thank you, Nancy. Isn’t it something? This world-wide community of mothers all moving through seasons together? I’m glad this reached your heart. I’m always amazed at the power of words to connect

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