The pandemic shutdown brought different things to different people. For Joanna Gaines, co-creator of the Magnolia empire, it was a chance to slow down and reflect on her life. Her memories are the basis of a new memoir, The Stories We Tell.

Joanna, 44, admits that she and her husband, Chip Gaines, 47, have survived “losing a loved one. Shifts in friendships. Bills we couldn’t pay. Moments where our hearts were broken.”

Of course, there have been good times, too. Chip and Jo are the parents of five children who fill their home with love and laughter. “That’s what wakes me up. It’s my heart — these kids,” she gushes. When Joanna finds herself consumed by worry, it’s her children, Drake, 18, Ella, 15, Duke, 14, Emmie, 12, and Crew, 4, who are on her mind.

“Joanna struggles juggling all her business ventures with looking after them,” says a friend. “She’s often exhausted. She stresses about protecting them from the dark side of fame.”

Those fears were exacerbated by the departure of Drake for college. “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,” confides Joanna, who hopes to embrace this new chapter with enough “gratitude and excitement” to halt her tears.

“She is suffering from a bit of empty-nest syndrome,” says the friend. In her new memoir, out November 8, Joanna seeks to survey the many moments — even the almost unbearably painful ones — that brought her to this point in her extraordinary life. “Our story may crack us open,” she says, “but it also pieces us back together.”