Empty nest syndrome hits every mother at some point in her life.
Empty nest syndrome is NOT a medical problem. It is just a phase that many parents experience as they grow old with their kids. You probably just Googled the symptoms of how you feel right now, and from all indications, it appears you may be having the empty nest syndrome, but before you hit the panic button, take a deep breath and read on.
Wikipedia helps us with a simple definition: “Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university.”
Note that this may not happen to every parent because some may be well prepared before it happens. What usually makes the syndrome crippling is when the departure of the last child comes sooner than expected so in that case, the parents are not ready to let go and even when they do, the loneliness becomes deafening.
The truth, however, is that no matter how prepared a parent is, the reality of all the kids leaving home can be quite difficult. You can plan and prepare for it mentally but when it finally happens, you discover that it is not as easy as you thought it would be.
The symptoms of empty nest syndrome include but are not limited to:
- Anxiety and;
- Feelings of rejection.
These symptoms could be worse if the parent in question is a single parent or in a failing marriage but thankfully, there are steps you could take to get over the feelings that usually accompany the empty nest syndrome regardless of your marital status.
David Arp, in his book (written along with his wife, Claudia Arp who have been empty beaters themselves), 10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters, talks us through making it past this phase gracefully by breaking down the process into three stages:
This stage involves brooding. Sit back and think of what happened before you got to this point; your first few years after getting married, the time frame during which you started having kids, all the memories you made with your kids, how the addition of extra humans impacted your relationship with your spouse and all that you learned during those years.
After recollecting those memories, think of which ones were your best and which were the worst. Which ones do you wish you could let go of and which do you want to cherish forever? Where do you see your kids in the next few decades? Oh, you just realize they would also have kids who would one day leave them too.
Now that you realize that this is just a cycle almost every parent has to go through, look forward to how you can make the best of yours.
Having looked at the three basic stages in getting over the empty nest syndrome, let us walk through the ways to cope with it.
Come to terms with it.
This is easier said than done but it is the first step to overcoming the empty nest syndrome. Remind yourself of all the good times you had with your kids and how this is a good decision for them. You’ve always wanted them to grow up, go to college, get married and rock the world and that is exactly what they’re doing. Whether now or later, this phase was bound to happen so accept it.
Reel out your responsibilities.
This is one helpful tip that the Verywell Family suggests. Think of all that you’ve been in your life – from someone’s little daughter/son to being a sister/brother to having a niece call you “aunt”/”uncle” to having your own kids call you “mom”/”dad” and now to being a mom/dad without the kids. You would see that it’s a process and having no one to call you mum/dad doesn’t mean that you’re no longer one. So, you haven’t failed but instead, you’ve done well by raising kids who can now go to college.
Most often than not, we lose ourselves when kids come. Everything we do, we tell ourselves that it’s for the good of our children so we work hard, deprive ourselves of certain pleasures and apply more caution because “kids”. Now that the kids are out there living their heat life, find your own best life. What are the things you were doing with enjoyment before they came? The places you loved to go to? The dreams you used to pursue?
Don’t neglect the other half.
Understand that you’re not the only one dealing with this period of loneliness, your spouse is too. So, don’t focus all your energy on yourself and expect your partner to focus his/her on helping you as well. Instead, you could help each other by rekindling your young passion. Do the things you used to do before those kids came to steal your privacy. Take long walks, have intimate talks, go out on romantic dates, make use of all the space you have to please yourselves. You don’t have to bother about anyone waking up or walking in on you.
Get down to something.
You may be retired by this time or just possibly have so much time on your hands so don’t sit at home drooling. Go after those things you just thought about; the hobbies, sports, crafts, whatever. If you’re too aged to continue any of those activities, you could volunteer with a social group. You’d meet lots of people who would keep your mind away from the loneliness you feel.
Keep in touch with the kids.
Thanks to phones and the internet, you don’t have to wait for a whole year or session before speaking or chatting with your kids. However, do not go overboard with the calls and texts and monitoring. This may slow down the rate at which you’re trying to move forward and clamp down on your kids’ privacy.
Accept your feelings. ,
Do not try to mask your loneliness with work and so many activities. It is a normal phase that almost every parent goes through, so don’t beat up yourself for being sad and shedding a couple of tears. Cry if you need to, but don’t let it hold you back.
Finally, empty nest syndrome once again is not something you should panic about. The need for professional help may only be necessary if you can’t get over your feelings of depression and anxiety. Apart from that, you’d do just great with the steps outlined here. Don’t rush it, walk through it, gracefully.