The One Thing that Remains When the Leaves Fall and the Children Grow Up

by | Oct 30, 2022 | Highly Sensitive Person, Holidays/Holy Days/Seasons, HSP, Parenthood transitions | 21 comments

Note: I posted this on Instagram last week, but as I know that many of you are not on that platform, I wanted to share it here as well.







Highly sensitive people are highly attuned to the passage of time. This can show up as:

  • Grieving each stage of your child’s life (baby no longer baby; little kid now big kid)
  • Intense sadness about parents aging
  • Nature’s splendor intertwined with pain
  • Nostalgia for the past
  • Seeing and feeling the birth-death-rebirth cycle all at once, in a single moment
  • It also shows up as:
  • Loving the people we love and this magnificent world fiercely and loyally
  • Heightened access to creative expression and spiritual connection
  • Passionately feeling joy, grief, and everything in between


The beauty and goodness are painful because we love it so much and we know it won’t last.

It’s like how we want every stage of our children’s lives to last forever. We don’t want them to stop growing and changing, but we don’t want to lose the deliciousness of the earlier stages.

We want spring and autumn and summer and sometimes even winter to last forever, even though we also don’t because then we wouldn’t have the splendor of the other seasons.

Why do we grasp so tightly to the things we love even when we know that more good things are coming? I don’t really know.

I only know that I love Maple’s brilliant red leaves juxtaposed to Aspen’s fluttering gold.

I love the leaves piled on the ground, surrounding cars on the city streets and creating gold blankets on grass lawns.

I love the autumn light and the way it filters through the trees as they are baring more of their limbs each day.

I love my children more than words could ever convey.

The love is bound up in the loss, and the loss is an expression of the love.

Beauty and ache are interwoven because time is responsible for change, and change is painful because it means leaving behind this good thing.

Nature is always teaching us about letting go. We cannot grasp on too tightly to Autumn’s exquisite beauty because we know it won’t last.

My sons at three and five and seven were so precious, but my sons at thirteen and eighteen are magnificent.

The highly sensitive heart wants to hold onto it all.

One way to find peace around the fleeting nature of life and the existence of death is to learn how to dance with it. We breathe into the moments of grief instead of pushing it away. We breathe into the joy as well, and when the fear of losing what is good arrives on the heels of joy, we breathe into that, then transpose it into gratitude.

The more we breathe into all that is true, naming it collectively and feeling the pain and joy, the more expansive our hearts become, and the more we widen our channels for love. ♥️

For love is the thing that remains. Love is the through-line, the connective thread that weaves through this life and beyond, through the dying leaves and the changing ages and the passage of time. The grief and the love are bound up together, and we grieve so deeply because we love so deeply. Allowing for both widens the channels, and allows us remain in the flow of the river of life.



  1. Thank you for this Sheryl, I cried reading it. It’s true that I grieve every stage of my kids’ ages. My daughter moved into a regular bed a couple weeks ago, and my husband started to drag her crib out the door, leaving it just inside her doorway. My creative brain looked at it and saw all the baby versions of her – newborn, starting to crawl, starting to walk, age 2… – in the crib, waving goodbye to me, gone forever. I made sure to allow space for the grief and crying so I could more fully enjoy the age she is now. But it’s so painful and so hard, and kids growing up is the very definition of bittersweet.

  2. The very definition of bittersweet, indeed, Paulina. And I’m right there with your creative brain painting the slideshow of memories at each transitional juncture. So sweet and beautiful and painful all at once!

  3. Sheryl, this is so tender about your boys. It made me think of my recent experience with surgery and my son in his early 40s. I did my best not to worry him and answer all his questions, but I could tell a little anxiety was growing. He reached out more, visited with his family the week before to take us to brunch, and gave me an extra long hug.

    The days before the surgery, I received quite a few more texts checking in from him, and I realized I was increasingly talking with my boy. He was trying not to worry, but the fear was setting in. We touched base the night before, and the next time he heard from me was that night after the surgery from my hospital bed. My husband called him, so he knew I had made it through, but when he got my fuzzy-brained text, the tender and loving response of relief I got back from him brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to throw my arms around him and hold him like I did when he was young. I am ok, sweetheart. He called me mama, which is what his children call their mom. I felt our connection and love deepen.

    It is a wonder on this side of life, to have this experience with my grown son. I feel closer to him and more aware that one day we will leave each other in this life. I feel that fragility, wonder, and the incredible, often invisible bond between us. Takes my breath away.

    (I noticed your absence on Instagram and wondered. I thought to pray for you and your family. I am so sorry for the death you have experienced. Sending great care.)

    • This is so precious to read, Lori; thank you for sharing this beautiful glimpse of what it can look like a few years down the road!

      And thank you for your prayers. I feel them ❤️🙏🏽.

      • You are so welcome. Thank you for your genuine care and interest in what it feels like to be a parent as we grow older. It has me thinking about how little that experience is discussed. Even with my older friends in their 70s, we rarely explore it, yet it is always there in great complexity. There is a great deal of beauty and unspoken anxiety. It can be hard to navigate for a mother and grown child and it keeps changing.

        Due to our interactions, I decided to try and ask more questions when the opportunity arises. There is much to learn and places to support each other that, perhaps in times past, women have been able to do but feel missing to me.

        I am grateful you feel the prayers, they will continue as I am led. ❤️

        • YES to every word. I look forward to hearing what these conversations unveil.

  4. Yes. All of this. Baby’s first tooth emerged today and I squealed with excitement. Then the rush of grief came in…there goes her delicious gummy smile! 😭 And, of course, her growth is beautiful and miraculous and I can’t wait for more. Thank you for helping to widen my container to hold it all. ❤️

  5. This all resonates so deeply, Sheryl! Today I transmuted my fear into gratitude. Today I felt so overwhelmed at my blessings, it took my breath away. Today I felt loss and grief, and I let the tears fall. Sometimes I feel so sensitive, maybe too sensitive for this world. But I’m trying to create space for all of my feelings. Thank you for the post <3 Seeing reminds me that there are people out there like me!

    • This is very beautiful, Cassie. I can feel the holding of polarities in your words. And you’re far from alone, even though it feels that way sometimes!

  6. It is like your piece here has come at the exact time needed. When I spend time with my family whom I love so dearly I feel a sense of grief and sadness with utter joy at the same time. I thought it was a problem- something to fix- I now see that it is love mixed with grief knowing that all things change and are impermanent and The deep love comes with deep grief. I will continue to breathe into and make space for both. Thank you Sheryl

    • Nothing to fix! It’s making room for exactly this:

      “I now see that it is love mixed with grief knowing that all things change and are impermanent and the deep love comes with deep grief.”

  7. My son (youngest) started kindergarten this year, and for the first three days, I was in emotional turmoil; I could barely function with the heavy feelings of loss and grief, even though I was excited for him to begin school and to watch him blossom even more.

    The duality of emotion and feelings were a wild ride, and one I was not prepared for then. I should’ve allowed myself the space to grieve and feel, without judgment, and will make space for it in the future.

    Thank you for this post ❤️

  8. So much transition happening in my life right now. And in our lives in the world/universe. Thank you, Sheryl. This helped me release tears. 🙂

  9. My goodness this hit to the core! Yes yes and more yes to all of the above! My heart pricks with a sort of pensive sadness/joy mixture so many times a day as I think about the passage of time and the juxtaposition of beauty/pain in this life – it’s so front of mind for me and I’m sure all fellow HSPs. And especially as a mother. My youngest has just begun weaning and already I’m feeling the pain of the lost season of newbornhood and his body being nourished by more than just my milk: further severing of the literal and metaphorical umbilical cord between us as he grows more independent from me, which is both a grieving and a joy to behold! This:
    “The love is bound up in the loss, and the loss is an expression of the love.
    Beauty and ache are interwoven because time is responsible for change, and change is painful because it means leaving behind this good thing.”
    … gosh, thank you so much Sheryl for expressing this so perfectly and beautifully!! xxx

    • I’m so glad it touched you, and thank you for sharing your reflections!

  10. I’ve been in grief about my children aging since I had my first. The grief so profound, that I pushed it down after I had my second. I couldn’t bear the thought of the “last” pregnancy, “last” newborn, “last” toddler… so I kept open the option of a third child. Now, I’m wrestling with my heart. Am I truly meant to mother another? Or is being “done” just too much to feel?
    Every time I drop into my grief… it is so powerful, it feels like it will take over… like I’ll never be happy again.
    I’m in this place of stuckness… wanting to enjoy my children as they are and look forward to all to come and yet refusing to let go of the past – refusing to let go of the idea of “again”… I grieve my youth, my fertility, along with my babies and toddlers – I grieve never being pregnant again, never birthing another, never more newborn snuggles, never being “mommy” again as I am now… I can’t make head or tail of whether this means I’m “supposed” to have one more, or whether I would feel this way no matter how many children I’d had. I’m in envy of people with clarity who “know” they’re “done” despite the baby fever and grief. I feel tossed about on a sea of emotion like at so many other transition points in my life… seeking myself. It’s challenging, loving this deeply.

    • I feel all of your grief, Dunja, and also your uncertainty about this next decision. My understanding is that the grief will be there no matter how many children you have, so if the primary reason to have another is to fend off grief, it’s probably worth sitting with that for a while. I’m also hearing the fear that the grief will overtake you if your surrender to it. That’s a common fear with grief, but it’s not typically what happens, especially if we have an inner parent who can be with us in our grief. It’s deep work, and sometimes best done in the presence of a safe other, like a partner or a therapist.

    • Dunja,
      Perhaps another thought of why this grief of your children aging, and whether or not to have another, is perhaps something more?
      Perhaps being a mother and mothering is your true calling and passion? I have found that being a “mother” is my true calling from God. Not that I don’t have other dreams, hobbies, goals and ambitions in life… but that nothing surpasses the great love and fulfillment that mothering of my two boys brings to my life and to theirs.
      If one day on my deathbed, I look back upon my life, it is with a full heart that I can say, I have done the best job that I could as a mother (and human), and that I embraced it with all of my heart.
      It is challenging loving this deeply… and it is also the most rewarding thing as well.
      Sending you light and love through your journey… xoxo


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