Dear Tzippora,

I am a single mother who raised my daughter alone. We are extraordinarily close, and people often mistake us for sisters. Yet my daughter has chosen to visit Israel for a post-high school volunteer and Torah program. This means that I won't see her for a whole year, rather than once a month like I was expecting. While I am proud that she has chosen to visit Israel before starting college, I can't seem to muster the enthusiasm to send her off with a smile. I feel like I am losing my best friend and the thought of her leaving makes me so sad. I know I need to let her go, but I don't know how.

Can't Let Go

Dear Can't Let Go,

Your letter vividly conveys your predicament. It seems like your status as a single mother has left you exquisitely vulnerable to the challenges of launching a child into adulthood. On account of the pain that you are experiencing, I would strongly urge you to seek support for yourself, whether from a counselor or another single mother who will understand your feelings.

Your daughter is doing what she needs to be doing right now, and although her departure is more abrupt than the gradual process you were expecting, the end result is the same. She is leaving home to begin an independent life.

However, the beginning of her life does not and should not signal the end of yours. It is also necessary for you to create a life independent from her. Despite being so close to your daughter, I am sure there was at least a small part of yourself that was not expressed within the context of your mother-daughter relationship. Now is the time to rediscover that part of your personality, and let it out of its captivity.

Perhaps you are interested in remarrying. You are still young, and could enjoy many years with a new partner. Perhaps you have a taste for adventure that was impossible to act on when you were bound by a school calendar. Perhaps you also have a desire to travel, although I do not recommend traveling to the same place as your daughter, at least initially. Perhaps you have a talent in art or photography that you would enjoy developing. Whatever your desire, the important thing is that it is yours, and it can open the door to a new world of experiences and friendships.

It is hard to let a child go out into the world. It is even harder when you do not have the security of a marital relationship to fall back on. However, there is really no choice except to let go. It is not healthy to hold on to a child who is ready to begin adulthood. You owe it to your daughter and yourself to face this challenging time with courage, and to get yourself the support you need.

A basic principal in Jewish thought is that challenges have the potential to reveal hidden facets of our personalities as well as strengths. In time, I believe you will be able to look back upon this challenging time as one of self-discovery.

Good Luck,

Tzippora Price, M.Sc.