Everyone has a book in them, or so the saying goes.

I have about three half-finished books in me - and, until only very recently, all were languishing in a long-forgotten file on my laptop.

All that changed last year, when I decided to sign up for a unique 5-day challenge to commit to starting - and more importantly - finishing at least one of my novels!

The Challenge - Commit to Your Brilliant Book - was run by the wonderful Jacqui Lofthouse, a successful author of four novels and counting, and the Founder of The Writing Coach, an international coaching and literary consultancy for writers.

I got so much out of just the challenge itself that I immediately signed up for Jacqui's year-long online literary programme - The Literary Community (formerly Inside Story).

Now, a year on, I'm 13 chapters in to one of my novels, with just four or five remaining, something I wouldn't have achieved without Jacqui's support (as well as that of the amazing community of writers in the programme).

So, if you've always wanted to write a book, or if you've started and stopped so many times you've lost count, and just need a nudge - you're in luck.

This month (January 2023), Jacqui is once again running the Commit to Your Brilliant Book - 5-Day Challenge, and she's opening the doors to the Literary Community once more.

I loved being inside the programme, much of which was down to Jacqui's incredibly kind, supportive but intelligent and insightful coaching and feedback.

So, it was such a luxury to spend some time sitting down with Jacqui for this podcast, to talk about writing, books, inspiration, the current state of the publishing industry and more.

Do have a listen - and please do let me know what you think. I know you're going to be as inspired by Jacqui as I am.




Are you ready to commit to writing your book this year?

Here are the links to Jacqui's 5-Day Challenge and her Literary Community online programme for writers.
Plus her FREE ebook: The Confident Writer

**Join the Commit to Your Brilliant Book Challenge:

**Get a free copy of 'The Confident Writer' ebook:

** Discover The Literary Community:

Let me know what you think, and also tell me how you're getting on with your writing progress. I'd love to hear from you.

Warmest wishes,

Dawn x

It's that time of year again... when people start making (and breaking) their New Year's Resolutions.

If you've tried and failed with resolutions before, maybe you've become a little jaded with the whole she-bang!

I don't make New Year's Resolutions - mainly because they're so... all or nothing. Succeed or fail. Win or lose. They don't leave much room for human nature, willpower wobbles, bad days, bad news, surviving the daily challenges of life... and all this in January, which in the Northern Hemisphere at least, is perhaps one of the most drab and dreary months of the year. Talk about having the odds stacked against us!

In this video, I share:

Watch now and, as always, let me know what you think!


Hop on over to my Instagram feed to leave your comments!

Dawn x

Have you ever dreamed about quitting your day job, working for yourself and generating income... even while you sleep? Or are you a therapist or coach who is flat out busy with clients, and you need to find a way to free up time, work less, earn more but still manage to deliver your unique expertise where it matters most?

Well, my next guest, Lucy Griffiths, knows all about that. Lucy is a Course Creation Expert and author of the book Make Money While You Sleep - a fantastic guide that walks you through the steps of creating a course of your own.

In this podcast episode, Lucy shares:

Find Lucy at:

Take the quiz: What kind of passive income is right for you? on Lucy's website
Facebook: @LucyGriffithsdotcom
Instagram: @LucyGriffithsdotcom
YouTube: Lucy Griffiths




I'd love to know what you think about the latest episode of The Dawn Quest podcast. Head on over to my Instagram feed and leave a comment underneath this post.

Hi Gorgeous One!

It's me. Your True Purpose. I've been calling you for aaaages. But you're not picking up. Everything ok?

If you've been ignoring a part of you that feels like a calling, or a 'life purpose', one thing's for sure: it's going to keep coming back to remind you it's still there, waiting for you to pick up, and do something about it. And it's going to keep prodding you until you do.

It took me three years of seeing and passing up the opportunity to train in the work I do now. I'd tell myself it was too expensive or maybe that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Every year the training course came up, and every year I'd pass... until finally, I accepted. One of the best decisions I ever made! The work I do now feels like something I'm meant to be doing, like everything has aligned and slotted into place.

A true purpose doesn't have to be a job or career, though. It could be a place you want to live. A need you've spotted in your community that needs addressing. It could be looking after your grandchildren, doing up a house or painting just for the sheer satisfaction and joy of it.

You'll recognise it as a true purpose, and not just another hobby or interest, because something about doing it, or the prospect of doing it, lights you up on the inside like all your Christmases came at once. It becomes something you simply can't NOT do.

You may be sitting here, reading this, thinking - that's all very well, but I'm not sure I really have a true purpose. Is that right? See above about community, grandchildren, doer-uppers.

Could it be that you're just missing or ignoring the signs?

  1. You have an idea about a [insert blank here]. Be it a business, project, career, job, hobby, country - whatever it is, the idea keeps coming back to you. It's like a metaphorical poke in the ribs, as if to say: Remember me? Something about this idea lights you up and excites you.
  2. Even if your life is great as it is right now, you feel like something's missing and you can't quite put your finger on it. You feel dissatisfied, sometimes in an indefinable way.
  3. You notice signs everywhere: ads, billboards, TV programmes, or a friend starts talking about the very thing you're thinking of doing.
  4. You're numbing yourself with food, alcohol, cigarettes.. trying to find comfort, but it's never enough.
  5. You get the sense that you're living the 'wrong life' - that there's something more out there for you.
  6. There's something you would do all day every day even if you didn't get paid to do it.
  7. When you pay attention to this idea, dream or goal, it's like slipping on a pair of old and well-worn jeans - so completely comfortable, you feel like you've come home.

So, what next? Well, that's my question to you?

What's the one thing - or things? - that light you up and make you feel alive? What one step can you take today to start moving towards and embracing that sense of calling or true purpose?

I've love to know your thoughts. Head over to my Instagram feed and leave a comment.

Do you struggle with a fear of being visible in your career or business?

This was definitely me. Torn between wanting people to know what I was up to and acknowledge and appreciate me. But then feeling vulnerable and very much out of my comfort zone after posting anything on social media, or when trying to sell my courses and services.

It wasn't even about self belief, because deep down I knew I had something I wanted to share that could help people. It was more about doubting anyone else would believe me, or worse, that they would judge me... and harshly! I felt this constant back and forth between wanting attention and running away from it.


Then I spoke with the amazing archetypal coach, wise teacher and general all-round lovely guy, Laurence Hillman, who described this inner conflict so exactly to me it was like someone had switched all the lights on, and I finally saw what was going on.

He told me: Dawn your struggle is about learning how to deal with the conflict of:

Why is nobody looking at me?
Why is everybody looking at me?

The challenge, he said, was to master that conflict and not retreat whenever things feel uncomfortable.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Are you struggling with the same situation in your business or career or job? Or even in relationships, if you're dating or trying to communicate more effectively with your partner?

The conflict - between knowing you have something to share, but worrying you might be judged negatively for it?

The answer, and something I have come to learn over the course of my business, is all about knowing that - as the famous quote by American journalist, Regina Brett, goes:

What other people think of you is none of your business.

And that means learning to do this one thing very well:

Detach yourself from the expected outcome of sharing your message

Detach yourself from the expected outcome of sharing your message
Tweet This!

In essence, it's about knowing that what you want to share - your voice, your message - comes from a very real and true place that is uniquely you. It means trusting your intuition - that gut feeling - about what is right for you and what's not. It means detaching ourselves from the outcome of: will people like me, or like what I have to say?

The world needs more people being themselves without trying to filter themselves to appear 'better' - because when we're trying to make ourselves something we're not, that's just sending the message that we're not good enough as we are. We need to be fully ourselves - not dimmer versions and carbon copies of anyone else.

When you start detaching yourself from the expected outcome of your message, and just wholeheartedly share who you are in your business, career, relationship... a few things might happen.

  1. You may lose people
    I remember posting a newsletter out to my mailing list and losing 20 subscribers in one evening - a lot for a small mailing list at the time. The old me might have felt hurt. Instead, I realised, what I was offering was just not for them. Nothing personal. You will lose people - but they're not your people.

  2. You will attract new people, different people... your people
    By being brave about sharing your voice and message in your business, you're sharing a glimpse of your world. People who are receptive to your message will want to be a part of that world... welcome to your new people. They're here because they like what you have to say.

  3. You'll feel liberated from the old way of doing things
    It's exhausting constantly trying to edit yourself to please an audience (or anyone) especially when, in the case of social media, they're largely invisible and unknown. You won't be rushing to check likes or new followers every time you post something. You won't be worrying about people who unsubscribe or unfollow. Yes, it's good to understand your analytics, but on a macro level, not a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour level - there are people you can pay to do that. Your job is just to create, and that means from that core part of you that isn't afraid of judgement.

Does this all sound familiar to you? What's your own experience of being visible in your business. I'd love to hear from you. Share your comments on my Instagram.

Ready to let go of playing small and hiding your skills and talents for fear of criticism? Want to step into a bolder, more confident version of who you are? Check out my Ultimate Confidence and Self Belief Programme. Find out more.

Ultimate Confidence and Self Belief - Dawn Quest

4-7-8. Block. Square. Belly.

If you've been looking for breathing exercises to help relieve anxiety, then you've probably come across all of the above and maybe you've even tried a few.

I don't teach any of those breathing exercises. In fact, after years of helping people with anxiety (including myself) I've learnt that there's only one breathing exercise that's really effective at nipping anxiety, panic, stress and overwhelm in the bud.

It's so good, it's the only breathing exercise I teach.

It's called Coherent Breathing - or Resonant Breathing. Simply put, it involves a pattern of slow breathing where we breathe in for 6 seconds and out for 6 seconds, and keep that going for several minutes, or until we feel calmer.

The best thing about this breathing exercise is it's not just great for eliminating anxiety. If you practise this as part of a regular daily routine, you'll start to feel more balanced, grounded, calmer and more in control of the day ahead.

Note: Coherent Breathing is a registered trademark of Coherence LLC. Note that this article describes a general technique and not the specific protocol developed by Coherence LLC.




The Science Part

We generally breathe in at a rate of 2-3 seconds per inhale and exhale.

But when we're stressed or anxious, our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes faster and shallower. That's perfect for when we're in danger and need to react quickly to survive. Not so good if it's a constant state of panic and we can never relax.

Coherent breathing is a nervous system hack that helps slow down our heart rate and breathing to help us feel calmer.

Our body is run by a network of nerves that make up our nervous system. Part of our nervous system is responsible for automatic functions like making sure our heart beats and regulating our breathing, as well as other functions like digestion. This part is called the Autonomous Nervous System (ANS).

The ANS is made up of two branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.

The Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for keeping us alert, making our heart beat faster, our breathing rate increase, and boosting blood flow to all our major organs and limbs. When we're stressed or anxious, this part of the ANS is dominant.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System is a network of nerves that relaxes our bodies after periods of stress or danger. It also helps processes like digestion. When we're relaxed, this part of the ANS is in control.

To function at our best when we're going about our daily lives, we need to be alert but not too alert, relaxed but not too relaxed. That happens when both branches of the ANS are in balance.

When we're anxious, however, the Sympathetic Nervous System takes over. That's why we experience that classic racing heart and a feeling of not being able to catch our breath as symptoms of anxiety.

Research into Coherent Breathing is in its infancy but there are encouraging results that show it activates the Vagus nerve to help calm the ANS, slowing our heart rate down and helping us feel more in balance, and grounded. There's evidence that it not only helps relieve symptoms of anxiety but can also improve mood with people struggling with depression.

Why I don't teach any other form of breathing exercise

There are so many different breathing exercises and all of them are beneficial. If you find they work for you, that's great.

In my practice, coherent breathing is one of the very first techniques I teach my clients to help regulate an over-stressed nervous system and it's the only breathing exercise I teach. I remember it was one of the best ways I could avert a panic attack.

The feedback I get, time after time from my clients, is that it works every single time they feel anxious. Some of my clients say they can't believe how easy it is - it feels like 'magic'.

It's the perfect exercise to practise before a major event like an exam or test, or where you're meeting new people and you know you struggle with social anxiety.

But I encourage you to start practising this technique daily, maybe for 5 minutes a day, building up to 15 minutes a day. See how you get on. And, as always, message me to let me know how it's working for you - I'd love to hear from you.

Dawn x

Do you have an idea you think would make a brilliant business?

Or a passion project you'd love to develop into something bigger, grander, something out there in the world for others to share? Then you'll want to listen to my guest Nicola Bird, Founder of The Floral Project.

When Nicola's husband asked her what she wanted for her birthday back in 2020, little did she know then that her answer would lead to chain of events that would create, not just a flourishing business, but a blossoming community of flower growers. Today, hundreds of The Floral Project members enthusiastically sow Nicola's seeds, to grow cut flowers that they give away, spreading joy to charities, schools, and local residents in need of company and social connection.

Like all brilliant business ideas, the concept for The Floral Project is simple: a seed subscription box which includes 5 packets of seeds every month, along with instructions on how to sow them, nurture them, and grow masses of gorgeous flowers every year. But turning that idea into reality had its challenges along the way.

Now, two years on, Nicola has set her sights on The Floral Project members growing and giving away 1 million bouquets.

"It's not just a business, it's a movement," Nicola says.

In this episode, Nicola shares:

- how inspiration for The Floral Project came out of the blue, and how it became something she simply couldn't NOT do!
- how she sustains passion and motivation for the business even on those difficult days,
- her inner 'florasophy' and 'floranthropy' about business and having a calling in life,
- the important lessons sowing and growing flowers can teach us about ourselves.

Have a listen and, if you feel inspired by Nicola, please do send me your comments.

Find Nicola and The Floral Project at:

Instagram: @the.floral.project
Facebook: the.floral.project




I'd love to hear from you. Whether you're just starting to think about turning a passion project into a business, or whether you're already launched and enjoying the adventure - get in touch!

Sometimes my clients will contact me after a few days of listening to their RTT recording and tell me that it’s not working. I can hear the despair in their voices. Often clients come to me after trying everything else, and when nothing else has worked. So, there’s a lot of expectation and hope invested in RTT being the “thing” that finally fixes their issue.

When this happens, I do what I always do. I reassure them and tell them to persevere and keep listening to their recording for the full 21 days.

21 is not a magic number. Research shows that, on average, it takes 21 days to form new habits.  (Incidentally, there's also new research that shows 66 days as the average time it takes to form a new habit. But as RTT works with the subconscious, results are often faster – and that’s why it’s called Rapid.)

This was definitely the case with *Sophie, an attractive successful business-woman in her 50s, who came to see me to help beat her addiction to drinking wine and eating junk food. She told me she would often drink a whole bottle of wine after work and eat bags of crisps while she cooked dinner. She had gained weight and her eating and drinking felt out of control.

Her RTT session uncovered deep-rooted beliefs about her own self-worth and attractiveness, about being lovable and deserving of happiness and love. Over decades she had buried these feelings of not being good enough, in food and drink. She was eating her emotions.

For women especially, so much of our self-worth and self-esteem is tied up with how we look and feel about our bodies. True self care is about understanding that we are all fundamentally lovable and about having a whole new mindset, where food is nourishment not punishment.

In the session we worked to change Sophie's subconscious beliefs about herself. For her recording  I focused on the messaging that she would no longer have any cravings for wine or crisps, and that she would be able to look at a bottle of wine and feel completely indifferent.

A few days after her session, Sophie texted to say she didn’t feel the RTT was working. She was still drinking after work, still eating crisps. Christmas was coming up and she felt she was too stressed to carry on. I could hear the despondency in her voice. She had previously told me that RTT was her last resort and she was desperate for help.

I told her not to worry, but to keep listening to her recording anyway, and that I would wait to hear from her when she was ready to book in her follow-up session with me.

Christmas came and went. I thought about her, as I often think about my clients, and hoped all was well.

And then, yesterday, I received this.

“Hi Dawn, sorry it’s been so long. I had a bad run up to Christmas and I didn’t think the therapy had worked. But I’ve now not had a drink or any crisps for 23 days and I’m feeling pretty focused.

It has worked! It has been as you said it would be. No cravings!”

I tell all my clients:

Change with RTT happens in one of three ways:

  1. Instantly - clients experience a massive and sudden transformation during their session.
  2. Gradually - transformation occurs over the 21 days of listening to the RTT recording.
  3. Retrospectively – sometimes there may be no noticeable improvement, and then after a period of time clients notice they no longer have the issue.

Change happens once mindset is set to a new direction – and sometimes this can happen in an instant, sometimes over a period of time. But it can and does happen.

Sleep issues in children and teens may feel complex and never-ending, especially to bewildered and exhausted parents at the end of their tether. But in my experience, problems with sleep have proved to be one of the most straightforward issues to solve and put right.

By the time parents usually come to see me, they've typically been heroically battling their child's sleep issues for months and sometimes years. When children struggle to get to sleep by themselves, it can put a huge strain on Mum and Dad at a time when they're also trying to cope with other daily demands: work, looking after other children, and caring for elderly or sick parents. In most cases,  parents are often in need of a good night's sleep themselves.

Using a combination of hypnotherapy (Rapid Transformational Therapy) and practical coaching techniques, the first step to solving a child's sleep issues is always to find out where, when, how and why they first started experiencing difficulties either getting to sleep or staying asleep. My next step is using hypnotherapy to help foster a strong belief in the child that they can sleep easily and effortlessly all by themselves. In most cases, children have convinced themselves (and their parents) that they can't. I like to compare the process to deleting old, unwanted apps (negative beliefs) on your mobile phone and installing upgraded Better Sleep software (positive beliefs, thoughts and actions) instead!

Lastly, I work with parents to reintroduce good sleep hygiene alongside setting new boundaries around bedtime to make better sleep a lifelong habit.

Some common childhood sleep issues I see in my practice: 

Of course, not getting enough sleep has a knock-on effect on every part of a child's life, and can lead to poor engagement and concentration at school and being moodier and less co-operative at home. The link between sleep and mental health is very closely tied. Almost every child I see in my practice, who is experiencing anxiety or depression, also has poor sleep or sleep issues.

Sleep problems can also affect friendships. I know many children who turn down invitations for sleepovers or refuse to have friends over to sleep, because it means letting on that they need Mum or Dad to sit with them every night.

Normal evenings become a thing of the past as Mum or Dad, or both, take it in turns to sit with their child until they fall asleep. Evenings out become impossible as parents become locked in the bedtime routine and find it difficult to ask a babysitter to look after the children while they're out. 

Until sleep issues are sorted out, normal family life is put on hold. Everyone is tired and everyone suffers.

How sleep issues in children and teens start

We are all born with the perfect natural ability to fall asleep, and usually to sleep soundly for around 6 to 10 hours. Our bodies are designed to sleep and, at their most fundamental level, know how to sleep without any interference from us.

At some point as we get older however, our minds start to hijack the sleep process. If we have a couple of difficult nights getting to sleep, we may start to create a belief in ourselves that we have insomnia or some other sleeping disorder.

We may start to say things like "I can't get to sleep", "I've tried everything but I just can't sleep", or "I'm not a good sleeper".

This line of thinking however creates a feeling of anxiety around bedtime and sleeping, which then of course interferes even further with the sleep process. Believing we can't sleep becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and going to bed becomes something we dread rather then look forward to.

Our bodies may be crying out for sleep, but our minds keep us awake.

This same thought process is true for our children too.

In general, at the root of every child's sleep issue is a feeling of worry or fear:

Worrying is our mind's way of trying to put things right. By going over past events our minds are scouring our memories for clues that we were somehow not at fault, that we weren't to blame. By worrying about future events, our minds are rehearsing worst case scenarios in an attempt to try to be prepared for any threat of pain.

Jake: A Scary Movie Story

I've recently been seeing a lot of children in my practice,  all around the age of 11 or 12, who tell me their sleep issues started because of one particular movie: It.

In most cases the children have never even seen the film. Some have accidentally caught a glimpse of the movie trailer while they've been on social media. Or they've seen the posters showing Pennywise, or have been told gruesome details about the more gory scenes by older brothers and sisters who have seen the film. It seems just the image of Pennywise the clown is enough to terrorise younger children (and some adults I know) and start off a downward cycle of fear of the dark and disrupted sleep. This was definitely true of Jake, who had accidentally seen a trailer for the film while innocently watching YouTube videos. From that point on he downright refused to go upstairs to bed by himself and insisted on Mum sitting on the bed with him until he went to sleep, which could often take hours. Poor Mum  - what should have been evenings spent relaxing and chatting with her husband after a day at work, were now spent in a dark room, trying to get Jake to sleep. Even when she did go to bed, Jake would wake up most nights and call for her.  Not knowing what else to do, and worrying he would be too tired for school the next day, she would go to his room and once again sit with him till he fell asleep.

Mum came to see me after this had been going on for nearly a year.My hypnotherapy session with Jake involved helping desensitise the trigger (Pennywise's face) but most importantly  "re-installing" the brain's original "sleep software" and the absolute belief that he could go to sleep all by himself without Mum's help,. The emphasis was on building confidence  that sleep would come naturally, easily and effortlessly.

I also worked with Mum, giving her key techniques, including suggestions she could use to help embed the belief in sleep in Jake's mind.

After just one session of RTT, Jake started to go up to bed by himself. Mum changed her usual habit of sitting on the bed, and began just popping in to his bedroom to say Goodnight. Jake felt comfortable letting her leave the room and falling asleep by himself, which Mum said he started doing in minutes instead of hours.

Jake continues to make huge progress and bedtime now feels normal and under control.  Mum and Dad are back to enjoying their evenings, something they had given up hope of ever happening.

Crucially, Jake's progress was about allowing him to take his own time, and for any changes to come from him. This is true of all the RTT work I do with children and teenagers. The pace of change is dictated by the child - not the parent, no matter how much the parent wants  (or desperately needs) change to happen as soon.

How one or two sleepless nights turn into a sleep issue 

While most sleep issues start because of worry or fear (a feeling), they become embedded through habit (an action).

This habit or action is the immediate response to the sleep issue and is often reinforced because at some point it becomes easier for poor Mum and Dad to "give in" to their child's sleep issues than tough them out. And that's not in any way a judgment.  Having dealt with my own kids' sleep issues, I know there will always be times when it's simply easier to crawl into bed with your child to help them sleep (and go to sleep yourself) because you're too exhausted for another battle. There will be times when your child is sick and you might be worried about leaving them on their own. There will be times when you sit on your child's bed every night until they go to sleep because you just don't know what else will work. Having tried all options sometimes it's just easier and less exhausting to take the path of least resistance. We have all been there!

While no one is saying don't ever comfort your child at night, the danger is that this parental reassurance becomes a pattern. If a parent sits with a child until they go to sleep on a regular basis, the child's subconscious belief becomes: "I need Mum and Dad to sit with me because I can't get to sleep by myself".

Or, the shorthand version: I can't get to sleep by myself.

Once this belief is there, no amount of practical action is likely to be very effective, You can change the bedtime routine, use sleep aids like night lights and white noise, read bedtime stories till the cows come home...  the belief will dominate the child's behaviour, and then that of the whole family dynamic.

While your child may have the belief that they can't go to sleep by themselves, our job as parents - and mine as a hypnotherapist - is to help them believe that they can.

Things to try before you seek help for your child's sleep issue

If you're not doing these already, the following steps are a good place to start to help get your child's sleep back on track.

Good Sleep Hygiene and Bedtime Routines:

The Power of Suggestion
When our children struggle to sleep they will often use words and phrases like:

I can’t get to sleep,
I’ll never get to sleep, or
I’m trying to get to sleep but I can’t…

As a parent or caregiver, your words can have a powerful effect on your child’s belief in their ability to sleep, and their own sleep confidence. By using and repeating key phrases and suggestions consistently throughout the day you can help build your child’s belief in their own ability to get to sleep by themselves.

One phrase I hear parents say a lot (and I was guilty of using it myself when my children were younger), is: Try and get to sleep.

There are three words in this phrase which will be a barrier to your child's belief in being able to sleep: "try" and "get to":

The word "try" implies that something is hard. We don't want our children believing that going to sleep is hard. Similarly, the words "get to" implies that sleep is something your child needs to work at rather than something that will come naturally of its own accord.

A better, more powerful suggestion is: Sleep will come really easily.

This takes all the hard work out of going to sleep. Sleep will come all on its own. It's about allowing it, not working at it.

As teenagers head off to University or higher education this week, many parents may be feeling a mixture of emotions: pride, excitement, maybe even relief, but also underneath it all a sense of loss, and something that feels just a little bit like heartbreak.

You're never ever ready. And it always feels too soon.

Your child is leaving home and there you are, wondering why it feels like someone just ripped out your heart and ran all over it with a juggernaut.

You knew it was coming. You just spent your child's entire early life preparing them for eventual independence - primary school, then secondary or senior school, then the all-important exams, then applications for Uni or college or work. All the evenings going over their homework. All the football matches and dance classes. All the battles and hugs.

But when it  finally happens  and the time comes for them to go, you're left wondering why it feels so much like a  hammer blow to the heart. You'll think thoughts like "they don't need me anymore" and you may even laugh at yourself through the tears, for being so silly. You'll cry remembering them as a tiny little thing whose hand gripped yours so tightly. Or you'll cry in secret because it somehow feels wrong - after all, you knew what you were in for - you love your children but they will always leave.

It sounds so odd to say you feel heartbroken when your child flies the nest, that word being so associated with  romantic relationships. But when it comes to describing the pain you feel, then heartbreak is  exactly what it is. It's a feeling of grief and loss that you somehow feel embarrassed about admitting. You may burst into tears for no reason. You may brood for a bit when you see their old football boots or even the disgusting state of the room they left behind (so, that's where all the bowls and glasses went).

As you help them get organised for Uni or college, as you help them pack and sort out  student accommodation, as you hear them chat with their friends, there may be a growing sense of being left behind. Although you will always be Mum or Dad, you know that you will no longer be at the centre of their new life and this bright new future they are heading off in to. The reality stares you in the face: you are now an adjunct.

Maybe they'll talk about you to their friends, they'll message or text (but don't be surprised if they don't), but they'll be dealing with the daily issues and problems of life on their own. The world they inhabited with you, where you were at the epicentre of the whirlwind vortex of their lives, the hub of their life's spinning wheel -  this world no longer exists.

A chapter has ended. Well and truly, You can't go back, even if you wanted to.

The boundaries of parenting have been reached. You have raised them. And here and now the job of raising them ends.

So you think back about maybe how you could have done things differently. How you should have spent more time teaching them how to cook. Or how to do their own laundry. Or how to manage their money. And by beating yourself up about all the things you should have done but didn't, you'll start to make comparisons with your own life.

As they set off on the path to independence, you'll be reminded of when you did the very same thing to your own parents. You left home without so much as a backwards glance, glad perhaps to get away from Mum and Dad, thinking Mum was a bit embarrassing for getting so upset, and never really appreciating how deep that wound went.

We didn't realise the hole we left behind. And neither do our children. They don't know you're heartbroken and you can never tell them.

Jokes are often made about "Empty Nest Syndrome" as if it's not a real thing but some indulgence made up by over-protective mothers (bit of a clue: It's not just a Mum thing. Dads feel it too). Maybe you joked about it too until it happened.

But here you are, entering a new phase of being a parent. Your role in your child's life has shifted and you may be wondering how to be a Mum or Dad to a newly independent person. Where do you fit?

As with all emotions, the only way through it is to feel it.  To really wholeheartedly accept that you are feeling the way you are: heartbroken, sad, upset. Your feelings are not silly. They do not have to be explained away. You don't have to justify feeling sad.

Your role has changed and that means letting go of the old way of interacting with your son or daughter and embracing a new way, whatever shape or form that takes. It means taking your cues from them about how much or how little they want your involvement in their lives; practising acceptance is key.

As is getting on with your own life.

Someone once said, grief is about having so much love still to give to someone who is no longer there. After your child leaves, you will still have so much time and energy and love to give to them but they'll be off living their own life, no longer in close proximity to receive it. So what do you do with all that time and energy and love?

You raised your child well and they are now standing on their own two feet (sort of). You did a good job. And now, how about turning the focus on you? On what you love doing, On where the gaps in your life are that need filling and enriching.

Your role has changed but the fundamentals of your love haven't. You may not be at the epicentre of your child's brand new life, but you'll be their roots, and their foundation, the place they know they've come from and where they'll come home to when they need to most.

Photo: Tim Gouw/Unsplash

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