Graduation Emotions: A Roller Coaster Ride of Pride and Celebration With Some Dips Into Sadness and Loss

Pregnancy & Postpartum


With graduation season wrapping up, I run into women like me who are riding that emotional roller coaster of pride and sadness. First, there's extreme pride in our children who have graduated, whether from high school, technical school, community college, state university or an Ivy League school. We know they've worked hard to get there, and we're very proud of what they've accomplished.

My older daughter, Rosie [pictured above], recently graduated from the University of Virginia, and I felt nothing but pride as I sat on the Lawn at UVa and watched her march, in the shadow of the buildings Thomas Jefferson designed. The traditions, the celebrations and even the weather were all lovely, and I was so happy for her starting her new life.

Rosie landed a job with a community services board in Charlottesville, which meant her transition to the working world would be somewhat smoothed by staying in the same city where she attended college. The job doesn't provide the sense of adventure that she'd hoped for coming out of college, but it will give her experience in her field.

Two weeks after graduation, she came home for a visit before she started work, and we celebrated with a cookout for some of her friends. Again, a lovely event and lots of happy feelings.

Then, that Sunday as she prepared to head back to Charlottesville, we walked through the house together, talking about what furnishings she might want for the new apartment she'll be moving into next month—her first, post-college, semipermanent apartment.

As we stood in her bedroom, which we'd redecorated for her in a more adult style at the end of last summer, it hit me that this room—and our home—would no longer be her home. She would be moving some of our furniture and all of her favorite things to Charlottesville.

Fortunately for me, the small Honda she was driving would only hold so much. The big move will come later, once the lease on her new apartment is signed. Her bedroom is mostly still intact.

But I know that it will soon be a guest room or an office, and Rosie will only use it for visits, which will likely become increasingly short and increasingly infrequent over time as she grows into her own adult life.

I am happy she found a job and wasn't forced to move back home after college, as many graduates are. I'm also happy she hasn't move across the country or out of the country, as some graduates do (and she was willing to do). I'm happy things have fallen into place relatively easily for her. One mom told me her tears weren't as much tears of sadness as of relief, because her daughter really struggled to graduate. I know I'm lucky.

Yet, the tears creep up on me unexpectedly when I pass her room or think about how quickly her growing up years have passed.

Logically, I know she'll come home to visit and that we will always be her family, and hopefully a source of love and support for her. But, I know my job is mostly done.

Still, that roller coaster of life continues to provide some highs and lows. We are currently helping our daughter shop for her first car. The whole family is keeping an eye out for something reliable, safe, gas-efficient and affordable for her. And Rosie calls, emails and texts for our thoughts and advice. That gives me the motherly rush of knowing I'm still needed.

Hopefully, when the car is purchased and we get her moved and settled in her new apartment, I'll again feel a wave of pride—tinged, no doubt, by a touch of sadness.

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