Country Music Is My Therapist

My Empty-Nest Playlist

You always know this day will come. You know that your last baby will leave for her first year of college, and your nest will be empty. And you’ll fly to Texas — or another place — together, then a couple days later, you’ll fly home all alone.

But knowing that that day is coming doesn’t really do much to stop the hurting. How can you possibly get ready for the inevitable hole in your heart, the missing place at the kitchen table and the absolutely deafening quiet? I’d had 22 years of motherhood to brace myself for this, but somehow, the emotions of it all have come as a shock.

So I prepared the only way I know how. With country music. And the sadder, the better. I’m only two days into this empty nest, but when I play these songs and let myself cry a little, I feel like I’m in good company. And misery sure does love company.

These songs I pulled together sitting at the Vino Volo in the Austin airport have become my therapist. When I listen, I know that while 18 years have come and gone, that 18 years just up and walked away, that you can’t believe how much you miss all they do and all they did, that this phase is gonna fly by, that you just can’t bear the thought of letting go, that she’s strong just like I prayed she’d be, that she’ll find a dream and a life of her own, that picture-postcard memories always make for good company, it’s OK if I look at a photo of my three kids and still think, “There goes my everything.”

(I do not recommend watching the videos unless you have very thick skin. The empty merry-go-round in Trace Adkin’s “Then They Do” is sheer torture.)

“Wide Open Spaces,” Dixie Chicks

“Don’t Forget to Remember Me,” Carrie Underwood

“Suds in the Bucket,” Sara Evans

“Then They Do,” Trace Adkins

“It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” Darius Rucker

“Turning Home,” David Nail

“There Goes My Life,” Kenny Chesney

“Last Time for Everything,” Brad Paisley

“Send ‘Em on Down the Road,” Garth Brooks

“Mama I’m Alright,” Miranda Lambert

“Every Reason I Go Back,” Jake Owen

“Downside of Growing Up,” Maddie and Tae

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.