The emptiness of the empty nest

September 13, 2019

Janice Stone

So ... here you are in a spot and stage you had no idea would be this difficult. After all the bedtimes, birthday parties, lessons, recitals, activities, boo boos, break ups, car pooling, and late night conversations about joys, hurts, and dreams ... they have moved out and it is awfully quiet in your nest.

Do you feel like you just don't know what to do with yourself?
Do you feel a loss of identity, or are just confused as to what that identity is anymore?
Has their independence left you with a deep sadness?
Are you still feeling like you need to control choices?

Adjusting to an empty nest can be a very difficult transition and is one I hear of often. Hurt, surprise, and loss are some of the most common reactions.

Have you said or heard ...

Why don't you call home more often?
I didn't raise you that way.
Make sure you ...
Your choices are hurting and embarrassing me.
This will always be your home ..

One of the hardest things I have heard that women go through is their child leaveing home and making their own independent choices that are different from those of their parents.

So how do you maneuver these hard years?

*Talk about it! We understand. Make sure you are talking about your loneliness or hurts and not keeping things bottled up. Most often women don't want you to change anything, they just want a good friend that will empathize. Besides, guaranteed people around you already know you are hurting about something. If you are that friend, listen, listen, listen.

*The hardest part can be a feeling of loss of identity. It is so easy to have your identity wrapped up in what you do for others, without even realizing it. It can then hit hard when they move on to independence and you are not needed the same. Make sure you take some time to discover your unique purpose and identity, outside of what you do for others. Your purpose remains the same, but what that looks like practically will change. When both my children were first out of the home I sat often on the couch trying to think of what I should do next ... after a few nights of thinking and feeling, I got going and started to get busy. It wasn't long before I was feeling a sense of purpose again.

*Serve. Serving others can help you still feel that you are helping and supporting others. Volunteer with groups that you really enjoy being with or that fill your love bucket for others.

*Change your mindset and perspective. Gratitude is always a powerful mindset changer. This is a stage that you have poured yourself into getting to and now you are here! They are finally independent! Celebrate the journey with gratitude. Having a mindset of gratitude is a very intentional step to take. When you are struggling it can take some time before your intention of gratitude and your feeling of gratitude align. Take the intentional steps to list what you are thankful for in this stage and your feelings will catch up - I promise. Focus on the benefits and advantages that this stage will bring you and then embrace it! It is a powerful and intentional step.

*Don't own their decisions. O, this is a really big one. Hear me when I say ... you have done your job. You have poured into your children and done your best. You were not perfect, I know that because none of us are. But they are old enough to make their own decisions, and these may not be ones you are happy about. I mean, that isn't how you raised them, right? Allow your adult children to make their own decisions and realize that they are independent of you. Don't take responsibility for the decisions, don't enable them, and don't own them. You do not have to justify them, or explain them. If they are old enough to make them, they are old enough to own them.

*Make some fun. This is your time to have some fun that you put off while you were supporting and raising others. It will be an adjustment, I understand. If you are married, enjoy the additional time to do things you both enjoy but just didn't have the time or energy for before. Exercise together, take some trips you always wanted to but didn't want to splurge on, go out for dinner, make special dinners at home, turn your music up loud. The fun will also help you change your mindset if you are really struggling.

*Give yourself grace. It is totally normal to have a hard time letting go. Talk about it. Allow the sadness and understand it is part of the journey.

*Remember your why. When you identify and know your true and unique purpose you can apply it to every journey. Your purpose is not about what you do, but rather how you do it. It is how you filter what you do and not do. So be intentional and true to your purpose in your support of your adults as well.

This too shall pass. Keep your focus and clarity and you will make it through, with strength and confidence. You are leaving a legacy - even through the loneliness and sadness.

Your legacy will be passed on as they watch how you lead your life and live your purpose.