I Miss My Children So Bad, It Hurts: A Life Lesson in Mom Guilt & Separation Anxiety

Are you a mom or dad who struggles with separation anxiety? You’re not alone. Here is my story that happened on a flight from San Diego to Atlanta.


A friend invited me to coach her and her family during a fun cruise to the Bahamas. She also offered an opportunity to visit my mom in Jacksonville, Florida across the country from our home in San Diego. How could I pass it up? The morning of my flight, I experienced an important life lesson in mom guilt and separation anxiety. Here is my story.


Reasons To Stay, Reasons To Go

On the drive to the airport, the guilt was mounting. I sat in the airport terminal consumed by guilt. I could barely breath under my mask. A wave of sadness rushed over me. I could only think of my two children and their round, cherubic faces asleep in their beds.


At three A.M., my son briefly awoke with a gentle smile to allow me to say goodbye before my trip. I could only feel love and appreciation for my beautiful, sweet, charming children. My entire life is built around them.


With these thoughts, I started to lose my breath and I felt overwhelmed by guilt in my lungs. I started to hack and cough at the thought of leaving them.


I started to tap (by using the emotional freedom technique) and managed to verbalize thoughts to these feelings.


Fear of change… fear that change is not good for others…. Fear of hurting others with my career choices…


I thought back to my son bursting into tears at the mention of my trip earlier in the week. He said that he would be sad that I would not be around. I asked him why he liked having me around. He listed his reasons for missing me, “You make me feel better… you teach me how to get what I want…and you help people find their way in life.”


I asked him what the sadness was teaching him. He said, “That you’re coming back.”


He touched my heart so deeply that it took my breath away.


What this wise little boy surmised was the perfect explanation for my vocation: I help people feel better, get what they want, and help people find their way in life. It’s how I contribute to making this world a more compassionate and understanding place. I was invited to go help a family who needs guidance. I’m answering that call. I felt stuck between my two callings: motherhood and vocation.


Mom Guilt & Inner Conflict

While I knew I was helping a family, I felt so guilty for going on a fabulous trip without my children who had been dreaming to go on an exotic vacation and visit Grandma. Only this time, it‘s just me getting to do these fun things.


Feeling physically unwell was a subconscious way of making myself feel terrible for leaving them. I had to decide in that moment to either panic and go home or sit with this feeling and learn from it.


I took myself through a calming method of self-hypnosis. I focused my attention on calming my body, my mind, and soul. I pretended with my hands to pull this feeling out of my body and as I did that I started gagging. I released guilt for making a choice that hurts/upsets someone else.


From that, some false assumptions came up:


1. My decisions hurt others.

2. I feel terrible for making someone else feel sad.

3. I am depriving my children of my presence.


Taking responsibility for someone’s emotions appears noble, but it is harmful.


I internalized the guilt so intensely that I couldn’t eat or breathe. I had to remind myself of the facts to stay in touch with reality.


The facts are:


I rarely travel without my children

I don’t feel guilty when we are separated for a day or hours

My children know I love them and have a healthy attachment



Standing With Yourself When You Feel Separation Anxiety


The pilots took the plane into the sky. I felt nauseated. I went to the bathroom just in case. Instead of vomiting, I looked at myself in the mirror and I talked to myself. I coached myself through the moment.


I looked into my own eyes and said, “I know you feel terrible for leaving your children because you know what it feels like to be abandoned as a child. I know you feel so, so sad that you can’t share this amazing journey with them.“


And then, I just started sobbing, looking at my distraught face and deeply saddened eyes. I didn’t recognize myself. I just saw hurt, pain, and the suffering brought on by separation.


I sobbed and sobbed and said to my image in the mirror, “ It’s ok. I won’t judge you for feeling this way. I’ll stand with you until you’ve completely let this feeling go.”


I went back to my seat and continued sobbing until the words that articulated my feelings bubbled up into my conscious mind,”I miss my children so much, it hurts.”


I continued crying for thirty minutes, wiping the tears away from my glasses and removing my mask to blow my nose.


I repeated the words over and over again until the script said, “I love them so much.”


I kept crying and repeating these two phrases until the words “it hurts” fell off.


I measured my Subjective Unit of Discomfort (SUD) to measure how disturbed I felt by this inner conflict of mom guilt and separation anxiety. I was at a 10 - the highest measure of discomfort. I started tapping on my meridians until I heard the phrase, “They’re ready.“ And then, I heard, “You are ready.”


You Are Ready For Peace

I didn’t understand what the phrases “They’re ready” and “You are ready” meant at first.


I do realize now that a parent’s job as a teacher and guide is to prepare their children to navigate the unknown territory of their minds. And, this preparation empowers children to tackle any challenge, resistance, and seemingly insurmountable psychological obstacles.


I remembered saying to Franck recently that I want to know that our children will be happy and resilient adults. And, that I hope we adequately prepared them for living a fulfilling, healthy life.


To adequately prepare my children requires faith in them. That was something I didn’t have. I have learned through experience that anxiety is our feeble attempt to do God’s job of looking after us. That, in these moments of anxiety, I lacked faith and trust in my children and myself.


This concept further expands into believing that I trust myself and my choices to empower them. I did not have trust in myself as a parent to know that I’d fully prepare them up until this point.


Emotional pain still lingered inside of me. I focused on the terrible grief lodged in my abdomen, I wondered why I had felt this way on several business trips. Can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t feel at rest. It was the same old routine of anguish.


Anxiety is the opposite of rest.


The flawed logic of anxiety is believing that thinking about my kids nonstop is another way of being there for them. That is obviously illogical.


At the heart of the issue was a deeply held desire for peace. Peace in my being, peace in my mind, peace in my home, and peace in my children’s hearts. All I want for my children is peace.


Perfect peace is the ultimate gift in life. It’s the best gift to give anyone who is struggling, suffering, or hurting in life. Perfect peace can not be bought or sold or forced.


When I hold my children’s hands, cradle their little bodies, listen to their voices, and share with them, I feel peace.


I realized I created the belief that without my children I can feel no peace.


The state of peace is within me. My children activated my peace and desiring children and bearing them was a fulfillment of that peace.


It is false to believe that I can’t be in peace when they are far away. I can be at peace anywhere and so can they; and the truth is they can be at peace without my physical presence.


Every Loving Parent Knows The Suffering of Mom Guilt and Separation Anxiety


Every loving mother and father knows what the suffering I experienced feels like.


As a parent leaving their child at day care, or leaving their child to go to the hospital, or a work trip, or moving on to college, or getting married. Certainly, this includes a parent who is in the process of dying.


In raising our children from infants to toddlers to little and big kids to adults we all face this experience - which really feels like a spiritual initiation - at one point or another. The grief feels debilitating, unbearable, overwhelming, and powerful.


As a family, we build incredible emotional bonds and spiritual intimacy. That by the time we are separated, we believe, will be taken away. It is a horrible experience that I would not wish upon none.


One of my friends said that the grief of her son becoming a young man and leaving for college was so bad that every time she thought about it, she went “deeper into the bottle.” Processing this grief was a big part of her recovery.


Our children - as messy, loud, chaotic, silly, ridiculous, and even at times frustrating - bring us peace.


It is a peace I can’t even fully articulate except that with my children I feel that all fear, pain, and suffering are no match to our love and its potential.


Most often, the pain of separation or distance is harder on parents than for their kids when their children are ready to soar from the nest. We don’t get to decide when our kids are ready. Their spirit does. We become aware of this fact seemingly suddenly and painfully.


By the end of this flight, I feel a SUDS of .5 on the scale of 0-10. As I move forward in my own growth I know how little I know and how much more I have to learn about emotions as we grow at all life stages.


The truth is, I’ve enjoyed parenting so much that I don’t want this journey and privilege to ever be over.

Yes, it’s unbelievably hard at every step. We raise children as we face our own fears and letting go of our own false beliefs along the way. Sometimes, to the point that it feels like battling threats to our peace day after day. But pick your hard. It’s hard without kids with its own particular set of challenges, too.

Every time I leave my family I know what I’m leaving behind: joy, peace, harmony, serenity, honesty, authenticity, satisfaction, and humor.


I know now that our jobs as individuals is to take these feelings with us each time we venture out into the world and share it with the global family.

My children taught me all of these concepts in their purest forms. They gave me so much that I have questioned my own adequacy to give them everything they need. They just want me to be at peace, to be happy, to feel free.


It was hard to think that I can be without them…


But, I’m ready…

Maybe just for these next few days…


Your friend,


Leslie

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV).


#momguilt #separationanxiety #emotionalintelligence #eft #tapping #selfhypnosis #parenting




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