Why Moms Cry at Graduation Time

May 24, 2019 | Fledge, Parenting

I’m the mom of a high school senior. For the fourth time. My last time.

Being an experienced parent doesn’t lessen the emotions that come from reading a simple letter from the high school listing the end of year graduation activities. A letter that makes you cry like a baby right before a meeting with your professional peers.

I don’t like May as a senior mom. Too many events that prolong the inevitable Graduation Day. That ceremonial finish line where you joyfully release your kid to the future God has for them.

Or that’s how it’s supposed to be.

In reality, it seems like The End. Because you don’t give birth for the purpose of releasing. You give birth to pour your life into a child that’s yours. A person who makes you laugh and smile and cry and at times puts your heart in places you never thought it could be.

Honestly, you have kids so you can love them and so they’ll love you back. You don’t wake up when they reach eighteen saying, “See ya! It’s been fun.”

And when graduation sneaks up, you realize how much changes when that one kid leaves. The family dynamics change. You’re jolted to the reality that your job as parent is changing. It’s a loss that no one prepares you for, and it’s one that fails to ease with each child.

Mom grief is what it is. Grief over the good times that won’t be the same anymore. Sadness over things you wish you could redo. Gratitude for what’s ended up right, and a longing for your family to have those crazy moments just one more day.

Graduation is a rite of passage celebrating who your Baby Girl or Lil’ Man has grown to be. It’s also a passage for you. It’s a heart wrenching place where you feel like a mess as you watch eighteen years of your heart and soul walk out the door only to return in new and good and weird ways all at the same time.

With each Senior, you stand back and watch with awe who they’ve become. You anticipate with hope what’s before them. You celebrate everything unique and special about them and how they are the most amazing person on the whole entire planet. You do this every time when the Pomp and Circumstance begins—with the child who is your first, your middle, your last, and the lost ones in between.

It’s their day.

And it’s your day, too, where you silently stand on the sidelines with mom-grief that no words can describe.

Except for the other moms with wet eyes who look at you and from whom you have to look away because you’ll both sob like the old-lady-idiots you don’t want to be.

So you get most of the snot-dripping crying done privately ahead of time—in random places when you least expect it. Like in your car after opening a letter listing dates between now and graduation.

It’s a good thing. Because by Graduation Day, you’ll (almost) be cried out.

For the complete mama handbook for getting through all of these changes, get Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind and join the Fledge Parent Facebook Forum. 


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  1. Robin Crapps

    I’ve already had one daughter graduate in 2007 and next year at this time my other daughter will be graduating. Sorry to say Im dreading it very much. It seems to hit really hard when its your last one to graduate. You pray and wish for the best for your children and their future. As a mom you pray you raised them right in every way possible. Letting go is hard mentally. emotionally and physically.
    You have to literally say to yourself *Let go and Let God*do His works thru your child.
    Blessings going out to all the graduates and their mommas.
    Remember to breathe, pray and be thankful

    • Brenda L. Yoder


      You’ve had quite the stretching between letting go, and you are so right–it’s hard mentally, emotionally and physically. I hope you can give yourself time and space to just “be” during this season of letting go, and like other forms of grief, doing it at your pace, and being okay with that. Blessings!

      • Tammy

        I just had my youngest bio graduate college last week. He wasn’t supposed to survive birth so it was already emotional that way!

        I thought high school was bad. But I found some things to do, but some how this college thing has brought more change to our family.

        Now that my other kids are parents and he will be getting full time job instead of school with breaks. we can barely get our family together for any event. It’s really hitting hard that I need to really take every moment they are all together!!

        I raised both my first 2 grandbaby’s until they were 4 so they are pretty attached to their uncle and now they hardly see me or him because they are with their parents and in school so I had to adjust to that also.

        Life sometimes gives us some sweet memories that we pray our babies will remember as much as we do.

        To all you momma’s I’m praying for you.

        • Brenda L. Yoder

          Tammy, this is so true! The family changes are hard. You have been through it all. You know it! Thank you for your prayers!

  2. Tiffany

    I’m heading south to a distant state for my sons’ graduation-after single parenting for all but the last three years when they needed to go live with their dad. I’ve already worked through the empty nest transition in a fast and emotional traumatic/dramatic way, but I’m sure I still have tears waiting to flow as I watch the ceremony and let the memories roll through my mind and heart. And I agree with you-graduation is not only a rite of passage for them but a needed transition for me, too. I am expecting to need and receive lots of grace from God as I work through this time of transition. Thanks for the post!

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      Oh Tiffany, I love your words–being honest that you did this in an emotional traumatic/dramatic way. Many moms are right there with you! Thank you for your honesty and also your persistence to receive God’s grace!

  3. Melodie Davis

    The Pomp and Circumstance music, not matter how badly (or wonderfully) played by the high school band or whatever, always gets my glands going–even if I don’t have a graduate, just remembering and feeling a full heart for the parents and kids. A lovely post.

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      I absolutely love this. Can identify so much!

    • TH

      You are sooooo right!!!

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