Overcoming empty nest blues

One of the joys of parenting is the good feelings derived from “being there” for your children in every true sense of the word.

What happens to your life when you are “there” but your children are not? The phrase “empty nest” captures your emotional distress when children grow up and go off on their own. You might be filled with emptiness and sadness. You might also be confused about those feelings, for one of your goals in parenting was to bring up your children to be independent and productive in order that they might make it in the world without you. You could be happy for your children’s progress and, at the same time, experience a deep sense of loss.

Both parents can feel the pain of the empty nest, but it is usually mothers who are hit the hardest. There are different stages of empty nest, and sometimes the sad feelings can come upon one in small increments, such as when a child goes away to college, or gets his own apartment. Other times, you can be overwhelmed all at once when a child marries and replaces you with another “pivotal person” in his or her life.

It is natural to be sad, but you cannot allow your feelings to deteriorate into depression. Should depression occur and persist over a long period, it would behoove you to seek medical help.

Most can endure the sadness and find ways to combat a full blown attack of empty nest syndrome. Here are some practical suggestions and remedies:

Assess your options

You are in a bit of an identity crisis. For many years you have been “someone’s mom” and now you must view yourself as an individual in your own right. What will you do with the rest of your life? There are dreams you put on the “back burner” until the kids were grown. Now is the time to dust off those dreams and turn them into reality. This could include going back to school to futher your education, seeking gainful employment or investing time in advancing your career, volunteering for a worthy cause, or simply starting that book you always wanted to write, but never had the time.

Refocus on your life and relationships

Transfer your need to nurture to your significant other. You now have the time to analyze what brought you together in the first place and rekindle the spirit of being a “twosome.” If you are a single parent, you now have the time to meet new friends and perhaps find a significant other. Pay special attention to a healthy diet and exercise program to insure you are both in optimum health to enjoy each other and your time together. Travel, if that has always been one of your dreams. Share a hobby. Perhaps one of you is a golf enthusiast and the other always wanted to learn the game, but never had the time. The couple that plays together, stays together. Create a network of friends with the same interests. Don’t just “stay busy,” but do so in a meaningful way.

Avoid Setbacks

Your children could also be going through a period of adjustment. Be supportive, but resist the urge to coax them back home. Once your children have left the nest, having a “revolving door” policy creates havoc for both generations. What might seem like “loving help” can often create “faux independence.” Cut the apron string, in lieu of extending it to far reaching locations in order to pull back when temptation to do so arises. Your children will thank you for letting them “go” and letting them grow and have their own experiences.

By the time you have perfected the role of happy empty nester, there will inevitably be grandchildren introduced on the scene and you will begin a whole new and incredibly fulfilling stage of life as grandparents.

Empty nest will be a vague memory in the far distant past. Your nest will be full again, only this time around you can “love them, spoil them, and send them home.”