Leaving Home

Kathy - greenKate Wyland


The other day our cat came back from her morning backyard inspection with a young bird in her mouth. (Which was really odd because she usually ignores anything that flies.) My husband made her drop it on the back step before he let her in. The poor thing appeared to be dead. After I got dressed I went to dispose of it and bird was gone. Don’t know if it recovered after allbird and moved elsewhere by itself or if one of the neighboring cats got it.

A little while later I saw an adult bird flying around the step, then perching on a patio chair, then flying over the step again. It had a worm in its mouth and I’m guessing it was looking for the young one to feed it. Eventually it left and presumably went to feed its other young. And undoubtedly it mourned for the missing baby.

This scenario struck me as symbolic of parenthood for all species. The young leave, sometimes we don’t know where, and we, as parents, are suddenly stripped of our roles, our focus in life. It can be hard when they’ve left with our knowledge and “permission.” But if they disappear – run away, reject the family – it must be devastating. Even if there have been problems, the basic love is still there and the desertion must leave a huge hole in the heart.

Many times worse, of course, is when a child dies. Then there’s no hope of reconciliation or reunion. Just a constant grief that hopefully gets better with time. It’s no wonder marriages often don’t survive that loss.

I’ve been lucky enough not to have had to deal with either of the worst case scenarios. I’m not sure how I would handle them. How would you deal with such losses?

(Sorry if this post is a downer. Probably due to my being sick.) Hope you have a good weekend.



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Connect with Kate Wyland:
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21 thoughts on “Leaving Home

  1. Kate,

    I worked with kids who were ‘shoved’ out of the nest and they don’t recover either. It is such a difficult situation and one that leaves scares, some of which we never see.



  2. This post makes you think. I hated seeing broken bird eggs on the ground when I was a kid. I always felt so sorry it didn’t get to live and worried about the mother bird. I suppose it’s checks and balances but it’s hard to understand. My husband lost two children, one to crib death and one to suicide. He still grieves for them. Good job of paralleling the baby bird with people. I hope you feel better soon. It’s no fun to be sick!


  3. I often think of the pioneers who lost children, to sickness, or accidents. And of the modern parents who don’t think of losing children–our culture prevents it many times with modern medicine. And I bet the pain was as intense for the pioneers who knew there were many ways for children to die, as for modern parents who take for granted our children will grow up carefree. I ran a suicide support group once, as we had three young people take their lives in our small town of 2600 within a year, one only 12 years old. That is a very complicated grief. I sympathize with all parents, human or otherwise, who lose their young in any way. It takes a brave parent to survive that.


    1. From what I heard, in earlier times people often didn’t get attached to their children until they were at least five. So many died as infants and toddlers that parents tried to protect themselves. We are so lucky that we’re able to do the opposite. As you say, today everyone expects their kids to survive and that makes early death more excruciating.


  4. A lovely post even if it is a bit sad. I’ve seen the same type of situation growing up on a farm. Cats will be cats and there isn’t much to do. Hope you’re feeling better.


  5. My Grandmother Mid said the worst thing for a parent is to outlive her children. That has always stuck in my head. She outlived my mom, but only by eight years. Her other child, my uncle Denny, is still living.


    1. That is a parent’s worst fear. My first reaction is that it would be worse when the child is young, but I don’t imagine it’s easy at any age. At least your grandmother got to see your mom grow up and, I hope, live a fairly long life? Sorry for your loss.


  6. Glad you are feeling better. This is the time of year to see many little birds leave their nest one way or another. I have some photos I’ll be posting later on of a little lost bird. It is also the time of year many young people prepare to go off to college or leave home. I enjoyed your post, not in a happy way, but in an interesting way. My nephew and his wife lost a chile at 13 to cancer. They hung on for a long time but got a divorce last year, still had two children in school, which my nephew got custody of. I had a brother die when he was a baby and Mom never recovered from that, and my grandma suffered a lot after my dad died, even though he was 68 at the time. Cher’ley


  7. Kate- I’ve thankfully not lost a child and can’t imagine the devastation it must cause. Your topic is a difficult one but sadly one which a lot of people do suffer from. Hope you’re feeling a lot better now.


  8. Kate, not a downer, it’s life. This spring I was so happy to see a Robin build a nest under the eave of our porch. From my kitchen window, I got a (excuse the pun) a bird’s eye view of nesting and hatching of little Robins. I kept a wary eye on my cat, Mickey, who loves to terrorize the wildlife. Funny, he didn’t seem to pay any attention to the chirping of the little birds. They flew away last weekend. A successful nest, I hope the mama will be back next year.


  9. I’ve had friends lose children, to accidents and to suicide — it is terrible from what I’ve witnessed, and my own mother said she can’t imagine outliving her child (me). I know how difficult it is for me to let go of my pets — they are my kids because I have no two-footeds. Death is never easy, no matter what the circumstances, yet it’s something none of us can escape. So thankful for friends and others who are there to comfort and support. Hope you’re feeling better, Kate.


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