The close of Summer peeks over the horizon. As sunny, salty days begin to conclude, a hint of Fall is in the air…

A new school year is near.

Overnight, stores begin to overrun with school sales. Advertising everywhere entices us to purchase of kids clothing and school supplies. Church pulpits communicate prayerful messages for students and teachers on the eve of a new school year.

Rightly so.

However, for singles, empty nesters, parents of traumatic loss, and the childless (involuntarily and often voluntarily) the end of Summer/incoming Fall and beginning school year proclamations can bring a painful pang to the heart and spirit.

For those who experience this empty ache, here are 4 ways to work through the pain and transform this back-to-school season into purposeful life.

(Caveat: we are all in different places on our journey. If your space is still too emotionally raw, please feel no pressure. Keeping taking steps forward at your own pace with others alongside you. You are not alone!)

Prepare Mentally

Before you head out for weekly shopping of household goods or for an evening at dinner when you will pass by store windows, mentally acknowledge the surrounding market focus.

This time of year is a reality—as much as possible, mentally shore up and set your expectations accordingly.

School clothing sales are in most stores right now. For stores with a variety of goods, school supplies have a special display in full view.

Just being aware and preparing mentally will help keep those rounding-the-corner-painful-intake-of-breath moments at bay.

If you find yourself in a store having a “moment,” keep walking and use your inner voice for healthy self-talk. Phone a friend who understands and ask them to talk you through this moment.

Reflect Thoughtfully

When your current reality of school days brings challenge, spend time reflecting on happy childhood school experiences in your past. Take a break and ponder the good times you experienced. Be thankful for the joyful times and people in your past. Think about how they helped shape you in a healthy way.

Ask yourself, what adults positively poured into your life and definitive years? Parents, teachers, family friends, relatives, coaches, leaders?

How did they help you grow?

Where have you seen other adults helpfully assist in a young person’s life? Maybe someone you know personally, maybe a story you read, maybe even a movie.

Think on these things and then commit to purposeful action.

Reach Out Intentionally

We are each uniquely created and have gifts, talents, and our own story. After reflecting, look for opportunities to fellowship with others through their families and to serve in your community.

Donate supplies to teacher friends or schools. Give time to organizations – as a reading partner, mentor, etc.

All children need to have healthy, caring adults walking alongside them in support (in addition to their parents and especially if they have uninvolved parents or a pain-filled void).

If your friends have kids and you are in a positive place for involvement ask about plays or musicals at their school. Attend swim meets, football games, band events, or booster club happenings. Parents are proud of their children and welcome friends to participate and appreciate their kid’s talent. Sometimes they are unaware that others would love to come along and support their child too.

Pray Steadily

(See caveat above. Sometimes loss pain is too new or fresh. Pray and get involved however you are able.)

Pray to change your sadness to joy and your isolation to community involvement.

Pray for Teachers – their stamina, willingness, and passion to teach kids how to learn and equip them for the next step in their journey.

Pray for Kids – their excitement to learn and grow in healthy ways mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. To experience the beauty and wonder of childhood and engage in age-appropriate development and knowledge of healthy self-worth for themselves and their peers.

Pray for all adults involved with kids – coaches, leaders, and neighbors.

Above, I mentioned having a “moment” in a store. I experienced this the other day. As I gripped my shopping cart and walked through the school supply aisles I thought about how I will never have the opportunity to take my child school supply shopping.

It was a momentary flash of reality and I made myself begin to silently pray for each parent and child there. I walked away from that section of the store with a lighter step, brighter outlook, and mental reminder to spend quality time with the younger people in my life.

To be present in the lives of those around me personally and within my community.

As you begin to see the signs of back-to-school sales, advertising, and the eventual presence of school buses, remember that you CAN make a difference.

Someone (or many) had an impactful presence for good in your childhood years. You are needed to pass it on to the next generation.

You matter. Your presence and input matter in the lives of those around you.

(I would love to hear ways an adult made a positive impact on you during your childhood years. Please share.)