Empty nest syndrome

Empty nest syndrome

Sharing is caring!

Did you know that empty nest syndrome is a real thing?

I didn’t, so becoming aware of this has at least explained some of the feelings I’ve experienced. Some people struggle with it for a few weeks or months, but some for a few years. I guess I fall into the latter category. Lucky me.

I learned that a person goes through the steps of grief when they suffer with empty nest syndrome. These steps are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Depression, when a person feels the deepest sadness, is the most difficult. Apparently, that’s the one I’m stuck in.

Empty nest syndrome explained

Parents who are stay-at-home or full-time parents are among those who suffer from empty nest syndrome. Homeschool moms fall into this category. Being a parent is part of our identity, purpose, and motivation for getting tasks accomplished each day. Feelings of insecurity and doubt arise when our roles change. I relate to that. I homeschooled for over 20 years, so when my youngest headed off to high school, there was a sense of “what now?”

But I did have a plan, which doctors recommend. It’s just that the pandemic sent those on a tailspin.

Stay-at-home parents aren’t the only ones to suffer. Others who experience this syndrome include single parents, parents who hover, and parents struggling in their marriage. Those with a combination may feel deeper losses.

According to the website BetterUp, to overcome this syndrome, people should make more social connections to alleviate loneliness, seek professional help with a professional counselor to work through grief and emotions, set future goals to find a new identity or purpose, take up a new hobby or career, and reconnect with spouse. They also recommend self-care, staying positive, and communicating with your children.

My experience

Reconnecting with people, going out to eat, or even exercising with friends didn’t help me with my slump. Often, I don’t think people even noticed my sadness. Either I can put on a good mask, or they just didn’t see it.

I mean, I don’t go around confessing my sorrows, but I did try reaching out. One person advised me to get busy, but that wasn’t what I needed. Some people may need to find activities and jobs to occupy their time, but my schedule is jam-packed. In fact, I wail about feeling behind all the time. Perhaps that is something I should address by slowing down and saying no more. After all, I learned that rushing about is something that the enemy of our souls relishes in. Who wants that? While I am with my friends, the time may be precious, but when I get into the car and head home, my pal sadness keeps me company again.

At a church function, a complete stranger commented that I struggled with loneliness. That’s true. The people I spent most of my life with have moved on. But I can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. I think loneliness arises from a lack of connecting with someone who understands you. And people are busy. I’m busy with all the tasks in my life, and my friends are busy with all the tasks in theirs. Busyness may proclaim importance in our culture, but I think our obsession with busyness is more a detriment than a compliment. I relish down times. I need quiet. Without peace and quiet, I cannot create. Creativity brings me joy. Broken expectations and busyness stole my joy and my peace. This just complicates the empty nest syndrome.

Making a new plan

I sought to find a new identity and purpose, a new hobby or career, but my plans didn’t unfold as I expected or imagined, so that added to the sadness. I wrestle with feelings of failure now. These emotions are raw, big, and unrelenting, so I spiraled downward. My losses felt larger.

Recently, I concluded that I needed a new plan. Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I certainly don’t want to fall into that pit. Wiping the slate clean though takes time because a person must complete the work and commitments previously made. And if you’re like me, everything always takes way longer than I anticipated. Ai yi yi! But I think I will head in that direction and make a new plan.

Reconnecting with your spouse will alleviate loneliness. Communication and spending time together will draw a necessary closeness to fill the gap the empty house left. Sometimes spouses choose their own busyness instead, or perhaps they are trapped in a rat race they need to address themselves.

I communicate with my children, take care of myself, and remember my blessings. Saying something positive, remembering the good things in life bring hope for a moment, but conquering the sadness takes time. It’s something I talk to God about anyway.

I didn’t really want to share about this struggle, but perhaps opening up about it will bring healing for me and for someone else.

Did you struggle with any empty nest? How long did you struggle with empty nest syndrome? Please share.

Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash.

10 Replies to “Empty nest syndrome”

  1. Absolutely! The empty nest brings huge changes. Our sons chose colleges over 1,000 miles away, too, so we only got to see them at Christmas break. I was jealous seeing their friends home on weekends with their families because they attended nearby colleges. There aren’t formulas for adjusting to the different stages of life, and some transitions feel harder than others. Don’t beat yourself up as you struggle to regain a sense of balance and purpose.

    1. Thanks, Gretchen, for your good advice. Having your kids so far away would be super hard, for sure! I was blessed that way as mine never went over one and one-half hours away. As each of us struggle with different things, it is wise to give ourselves grace, as you said. I appreciate your taking time to comment.

  2. It is certainly a challenging period in a woman’s life. You’ve done a great job raising your children into successful, independent adults. They’ve been your passion for decades, and they always will be. You’ll have to try to find some other things you’re passionate about, too. Maybe something in which you’re not alone so much. There are no easy answers. Be sure to do something special for yourself and take care of YOU. Days when both girls are home are busy and crazy, but I still miss them so much the minute they walk out the door. Hang in there!

    1. Thanks, Shari. Those are good ideas. I agree that when the kids are home it can get busy and crazy, but as soon as the door closes as they leave, I miss them and feel sad. I know things will get better as soon as I discover some new goals to be passionate about. I appreciate your taking time to comment and encourage.

  3. Michelle…I had to give this a LOT of thought. Knowing already your struggles and trying to understand/support. And it suddenly dawned on me. I was in my early 40’s when my only daughter moved out of the house. And then got married and moved to Macomb, IL. Even though we/she had issues/problems before then…I remember that time in my life. I missed her so much my heart ached. I would go on a shopping run to town and eat at a fast food place and see mothers and daughters eating together and I would cry. I thought my heart would burst. Fast forward…it’s a long story but she moved back, we got our beautiful *adopted* granddaughter (adopted at birth)…and life blew up. For all of us. And almost 19 years later…it is still blowing up. But I tried to be the mom and grandma that they both needed. And we lived through A LOT!!! Mostly bad. When the decision came that our daughter/granddaughter were going to move to New York 3 years ago…I was ready. Fly little birdies…fly 🙂 I guess all to say…I can picture and feel your newly empty nest. I remember that time when it was fresh in my heart too. And I know you have not had to endure the many horrid things we had to endure in the in between years and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. From the outside, your life/family looks perfect. But we live in a fallen world and I’m sure some of that is an illusion as well. At our granddaughter’s last visit here this summer she asked me…”Grandma…do you ever cry?” I kind of brushed it off and said, “Well of course.” But that night when I tucked her into bed (yes 18 years old and still wanted to be tucked in by me) I told her that I wanted to give her a better answer to her question. I told her that as *their* lives unfolded, I couldn’t cry because I had to be the strong one.
    All I know is that you and Pat have raised a wonderful family, with kids that are good, wholesome, and love you. It has always been my privilege to share a bit of your lives with mine. I pray to God that your sadness and pain will give way to happiness and a new outlook and plan.

    God created you on purpose for a purpose. He isn’t done yet.

    1. Thank you, Deb, for this encouraging message and for all the times you’ve listened as I cried. You are a good friend. You are a blessing to your family and friends. I continue to pray for you and your family as you go through stuff, and I thank you for the prayers you say for me and my family. God does have a purpose for us all, and He will see each of through our trials in His good timing. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Yes, the empty nest syndrome was a painful stage for me. Both our sons chose colleges that were out of state and far from home. I remember feeling jealous of other mothers whose children attended nearby colleges so they came home for weekends. There are no formulas for getting through major changes and the different stages of life, but the Lord will continue to direct and walk with you. You have a purpose.

    1. Many moms experience the sad empty nest, so I appreciate you sharing your experience to remind me and others that we aren’t alone and that we all work through our major changes and stages with the Lord walking alongside us and directing us. Thanks for coming alongside me and others with your encouragement and reminders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.