Your Nest is Empty – 5 Ways to Beat the Loneliness
When your youngest child grows up and leaves home, you might be left grappling with some mixed emotions, uncomfortable moods, and feelings of loneliness or grief. There’s a name for that: empty nest syndrome. It’s not just you.
First, understand that empty nest syndrome is a well-established, widely known pattern of emotional and mental distress. It’s normal and natural to be a little blue, to feel sad, worrisome, or anxious when the last of your kids leaves home. You might feel isolated or without purpose.
This can be especially troubling for single moms, who may have come to identify themselves with their role as mom. Without her son or daughter to care for on a daily basis, a single mom recently empty-nested might have more trouble adjusting to life alone than might a couple in a loving relationship. Even if partnered, stay-at-home parents or full-time parents might have more difficulty adjusting than their counterparts, too.
Single or coupled, there are steps you can take to combat the loneliness of an empty nester.
1. Stay connected
Just because your kids don’t live at home anymore doesn’t mean you should be any less connected to them. Sure, you’re no longer exposed to details of your kids’ lives like you were when they were home . . . But wait, that’s a good thing in some ways, isn’t it?
Anyway, it’s understandable that you miss having your kids around. You need to keep your connection, though. For some, that might mean frequent and routine phone calls, at least at first. These might be good for both you and your loved one for a while to help both of you adjust. If you’re internet savvy, you can keep in touch on Facebook or via email. Have you tried Skype? It’s free and it’s a good way to stay close to someone far away by chatting with him or her face-to-face.
Don’t just stay connected with your kids, though. Stay connected with friends and other family members. Maybe start going out for coffee in the mornings with friends. Or, make friends with other regulars at the coffee shop.
One way to combat the loneliness of empty nest syndrome is to give a little of yourself to others. Not only will it impart a feeling of purposefulness, you really will be making a difference in someone’s life. You might form bonds with local people. The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. So is your local pet shelter. Bonding with animals can do wonders to combat loneliness.
3. Treat yourself
You’ve been through quite a bit over the years. Enjoy and occasionally celebrate the freedom you now have. If you like to travel, take frequent mini-vacations. Go visit your kids.
Take an art class, go to the gym, or get a massage. You might find going places without kids is liberating in some ways.
4. A hobby or pastime
Now that you have a little more time on your hands, you have the perfect opportunity to master that craft, or work on that hobby, or enjoy a pastime that took back seat to child-rearing for so many years.
Try writing a story. The internet is hungry for written material, maybe you could become a blogger or columnist. Get back into gardening. Find a Scrabble opponent.
5. Face it and accept it
Finally, understand that it’s normal to be sad when your kids leave home. It’s going to take some time to adjust. You knew they were going to grow up and live on their own someday. That day has come and its okay. That you miss your departed kids is simply a sign that you love them very much and are hurt by their absence. Because they don’t still live in your house doesn’t mean they don’t still occupy a place in your heart and in your life.
Get Extra Support
Sometimes trying new things isn’t enough. You’re going through a major transition in your life shifting one of your primary roles. Transitions are tough and not always easy to manage on your own. Not to mention that finding yourself again after all those years of child-rearing is not an easy task. You’re a different person now than you were before you had kids (though at heart much the same). If you’re going through empty nest syndrome and need support, a therapist can help. Working with a therapist in Houston can help you evaluate and define the next chapter of your life and rediscover yourself. A therapist can also offer support and understanding and help you navigate the stages of transition smoothly. Even if for just a short-term, it can be valuable to have direction and support.
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