This was a huge year for my daughter Marissa. After finishing college in June with a degree in Psychology from Rowan University, Marissa decided to move in with her boyfriend. Unlike some mothers, I was not against it. I also moved in with a boyfriend when I was much, much younger. Life feels new and exciting when you’re just starting out together, working on your careers and moving forward.
But then, as many of us find out the hard way, life gets more complicated. Marissa and her boyfriend quickly came to realize that you can’t live on love alone. Fights began to happen frequently, and the romance began to wane. Trust became an issue. The fun times they used to share together became bills, mundane chores and serious talks. By the end of two months of living together, they were facing big problems. Marissa wasn’t sure about her boyfriend anymore, and he wasn’t helping his case by constantly texting his ex-girlfriends.
After three months of living together, Marissa packed up everything she had, and moved back into our home. Of course, I was happy to have my daughter back at our house, where I could protect her and help her move forward. But truthfully, in the back of my mind, Marissa’s return brought a sense of, “uh oh!” that only a mother can understand.
We love our daughter, and would do anything for her. But I was just getting used to how calm my home was, with Marissa moved out and my son away at college. I was almost an empty neater — with no one around to give me an attitude or to pick up after. Having your adult child move back home comes with a lot of challenges and compromises, and especially in Marissa’s case, I knew that I had to put in a lot of extra effort to make sure she was healing from the blow she just faced, while readjusting to living at home.
Through this experience, I found that the following really helped Marissa heal, without pushing her too hard or causing conflict.
Just love, don’t judge — I didn’t press Marissa to tell me how she was doing or feeling. Instead, I let her come to me when she was ready, and I was careful to listen, only offering my opinion when she asked for it.
Ignore the evidence — Marissa’s move back home brought with it dozens of boxes, which she lived out of for the first few weeks she was home. As much as I wanted to ask her to unpack, or at least inquire about a timeline on when she thought she would be ready to do so, I knew that pushing her to face this task before she was ready would be detrimental. There’s something final about finding a new place for possessions that once made their home alongside your partner’s belongings.
She faced this when she was ready.
Don’t talk poorly about her boyfriend, even if she does — It might seem like your daughter is giving you the green light to say all of the worst opinions you’ve been holding back about her ex once she starts talking badly about him, but I’ve found that doing so can quickly backfire, making her want to stand up for and defend her ex to you, regardless of the bad things she’s said about him. Agreeing with what your daughter says about her ex is perfectly fine, but be sure not to insert your own thoughts on him.
Let her yell, but don’t yell back — Ever hear of the five stages of grief?
Anger is a common emotion to feel after the end of a breakup, and you might find your daughter mistakenly taking that feeling out on you, since you’re closest to her, and readily accessible. Don’t yell back. Your daughter’s emotions will be moving between highs and lows, and unfortunately those low points tend to easily turn to anger. Walk away from these situations, and give her time to cool down.
Keep her busy — I made it clear early on that Marissa was more than welcome to have friends over our house, and even suggested that she host a barbecue here to catch up with the friends she hadn’t seen in a while. I urged her to get back into the things that she used to do when she was living at home that used to make her happy, like taking dance classes at the studio in our town.
Now that Marissa isn’t struggling to make rent each month, it frees up some money to put toward the things that she enjoys doing, which isn’t such a bad thing!
Be available — I made sure that Marissa didn’t feel like a third wheel to my husband and I by making sure I spent one-on-one time with her when she asked. I waited until she came to me, because realistically, asking anyone to hang out with you all the time gets tiring pretty quickly.
But if Marissa wanted to spend the night watching movies and eating nachos together, or head to the mall and indulge in some retail therapy, I made sure that I found the time to make it happen.
Set some ground rules — The last thing either of you need is to be arguing about the clothes she left on the floor, or the time of night that she plans on coming home, especially while your daughter is going through the process of grieving. Establish ground rules and expectations early on to avoid these fights a few weeks down the line.
For example, Marissa doesn’t need to be home at a certain time, or to keep her room spotless — but she can’t leave her things lying around the rest of the house. I’m not about to reinstate chores that she’s expected to do, but if she gets home before I do and has no plans for the evening, she knows that getting dinner started is much appreciated.
Be open to alternative remedies — In my line of work, I treat issues such as stress, anxiety and grief with flower essences — a practice widely accepted in Europe, which is lesser known here in the states. Your body’s energy gets out of whack all the time, by the common setbacks we face, from fights with our family, to stresses at work, to the end of a relationship.
Flower essences, in my experience, can work to counteract that imbalance, through the use of personalized remedy blends to treat the specific challenges you’re up against. I started Marissa on Red Suva Frangipani — an essence that treats the initial grief and sadness we experience at the end of the relationship, or after the death of a loved one, and Five Corners, an essence for confidence and self-worth.
After just a few weeks of using it, I saw a change in Marissa. She was no longer questioning her decision to leave her boyfriend, or walking around with the extreme sadness she initially returned home with. Instead, she was accepting, and even embracing her current circumstances.
As mothers, we want to do whatever we can to help our daughters through the pain and loss they experience post-breakup. We want them to understand that, although it feels like the end of the world right now, the end of this relationship is a step in the right direction, toward finding the kind of man that our daughters truly deserve.
A man that is motivated, caring, and puts our daughters first — with respect and admiration. After a few weeks of moving back home, Marissa was moving on. She realized she had everything she needed right now — family, friends and freedom. Walking away from a relationship that isn’t fulfilling you anymore is a huge right of passage for our daughters.
And if they trust us enough to come to us for help during this journey, how lucky are we?