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Not a Casserole Widow™: The Empty Room Emotion

My sleep was abysmal the first night my children were gone.  A sensation like black tar surrounded me which restricted my movements.  Every time I attempted to roll over and find a more comfortable position, thick heaviness followed me.  Breathing was hard- I had to consciously focus on opening my lungs so oxygen could enter them.  I didn’t have words for this feeling.  I just felt like I was suffocating.


When I first started my divorce journey, I didn’t have an emotion wheel or even know what one was, so I labeled this foreign sensation my “empty room emotion.”  Currently, the only time I notice this reaction is when my children are not home due to the divorce.  It’s a hollow emotion that can’t be filled with an extra Pilates class, spending more time working, or even an extra glass of wine.  I can dull it for a bit, but it is always present when their rooms are empty.


Day time isn’t as bad as the nights. 

Nights bring eerie silence and turbulent dreams; both are uncontrollable.


When my children are here, they play music all night on their noise machines, and I can hear their presence. 

When my children are gone, I hear the quiet.  And I feel empty.


When my children are here, they close their doors to their rooms at night, and I see their artwork stuck to their doors reflecting off the nightlights in the hall.

When my children are gone, I see a black hole beyond their open doors.  And I feel heartbroken.


When my children are here, they might poke me at 2am if they are sick, and I can hug them.

When my children are gone, I pray for them during the night, willing God to whisper assurances in their dreams that I’m still holding them while they sleep but… I feel hopeless.


This wasn’t the plan I had for them.


I don’t know what a technical word for the empty room emotion would be.  There are so many layers to it from grief, to guilt, to rage, to helpless…

It’s not an emotion that goes away with platitudes or prayers.  It’s a part of me. 

When they are not here, I spend every moment fighting the empty room emotion. It urges me to climb into bed and pull the covers over my head, lures me to immobility, and begs me to give in to dark depression.


But I can't give in.  Why not?  What helps me keep my sanity and not give up?


Their future. 

I don’t want my children to see me broken.  They must be strong and learn how to bravely face seemingly impossible challenges.  I want to show them how to survive the brutality of life. 


My future. 

I will not let the injustice of my situation be wasted.  I know my experience is not unique and there are thousands of women waking up each morning to the empty room emotion. 


If you are one of those thousands, hold on to these words today: 

You can do this.  You can do hard things.  You will survive this.  Focus on what you can do in this moment to get to the next moment. 

Today is just today, not your forever future. 


If you need support, please reach out.  I have groups beginning in January and a workbook getting ready to hit the press.

Here is a teaser for the workbook:






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