Joanna Gaines opens up about ‘loss’ she feels as she sends son Drake, 17, off to college: ‘Our family dynamic will change’

·3-min read

Joanna Gaines is opening up about sending her first child to college.

In a personal essay for the new fall issue of Magnolia Journal, the Fixer Upper star, 44, writes about how moving her eldest son, Drake, 17, out of the family home is putting life into a grander perspective.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 23: Joanna Gaines attends the TIME 100 Gala 2019 Cocktails at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for TIME)
Joanna Gaines says gearing her 17-year-old son up for college has put life into new perspective. (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for TIME)

“Soon, our oldest son, Drake, will be leaving home for college,” she writes. “In the grand scheme of heartbreaking things, this one comes with a lot of gratitude and excitement. But still, my first child is moving away, and our family dynamic will change because of it, and that can feel like a loss of its own. I catch glimpses now of what that life will look like and wonder if — or how many times — that might bring me to the floor.”

Gaines, who shares Ella Rose, 15; Duke, 14; Emmie Kay, 12; and Crew, 4, with her Fixer Upper costar, husband Chip Gaines, noted that the sendoff is part of their journey as a couple — one that they're working on embracing together.

“In our 20 years of [being together], Chip and I have experienced a little bit of all of it,” she wrote. “Losing a loved one. Shifts in friendships. Bills we couldn’t pay. Moments where our hearts were broken. Times when all hope felt lost and circumstances were out of our control. When all I could think to do was lay facedown on the floor in surrender.”

“I no longer think perspective is something we only get to see in hindsight,” she added. “The experiences that we’ve already shown up for, we’ve already worked through — they are what we can turn to today and feel in our bones: We are stronger than we thought.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 23: Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines attend the TIME 100 Gala 2019 Lobby Arrivals at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TIME)
Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, married for 20 years, are sending their eldest son Drake, 17, off to college. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for TIME)

Having one less Gaines in the household is a giant shift, but the big lesson here, she points out, is to lean into life's changes and not run away from them.

“This year, I’m waiting on fall the same way I always do,” Gaines continued. “I’ll watch the sky. I’ll listen for rain. I’ll pause at the trees with turning leaves. But I’ll do it all a little more patiently. A little more gratefully, remembering that strength isn’t earned in endings or beginnings but in the space I’m forging along the way.”

Chip and Joanna aren't new to being vulnerable with their fans. Last year, during a joint interview on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, Chip admitted, "I lost a part of myself" in order to become famous.

"It was sad," the 47-year-old reality star said at the time. "I would say it took me a year to, while I was still filming, to try to grapple with what exactly it was that I was losing. And then that year off, I really think that Jo and I were able to kind of hunker down and really kind of try to unpack what it was about fame that seemed so incompatible with my personality."

In June, the couple marked 19 years of marriage. Joanna commemorated the moment in a sweet photo of themselves cozying up in a shiny black dining booth.

"19 years," she captioned the Instagram post, adding a heart emoji and a emhashtag that says, "I like you a lot."

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