How We Can Learn To Embrace Empty Nester Syndrome

How We Can Learn To Embrace Empty Nester Syndrome

An Empty Nester is often used to describe the sadness and loneliness we parents feel when our children leave home.

It’s natural and healthy for kids to start their own lives, but it can leave mum and dad feeling blue.

The Mayo Clinic says it is not a clinical problem, but it is a real ‘feeling’, and I’d say, ask any parent who’s ever said goodbye.

It is a transition period, often marked by feelings of loneliness and loss.

This sense of emptiness can sometimes be overwhelming and in extreme cases, can even lead to chronic depression or anxiety.

So for those of us Empty Nesters, What Can We Do To Help Ourselves?

Overcoming empty nest syndrome is actually a journey, not a destination. It’s not a situation where you’re going to be stuck forever, believe me.

It will pass – like all transitional periods in our lives.

We’re so used to our parenting roles and we really like these little people, that we have raised from childhood, as friends too. We want to keep them close to home.

We don’t like the idea that a dramatic change is about to occur.

You’re never really ready for this to happen.

It can feel surreal, and you often can’t believe that they have really gone from home.

We know we are moving into a new place, and our kids may not return to live.

Or certainly, if they come back, it will probably be different.

So these changes are so hard to adapt to. That room is empty the next morning when you drop them off.

So they say Empty Nest Syndrome Is Not A Clinical Condition, But It Is Real?

Well, it certainly feels like a ‘condition’ anyway. And not a very pleasant one at that

So as parents, once we accept that this has happened, we can start to think about – okay, so what does this mean for our lives now?

This journey through empty nest syndrome is emotional, and it can be hard to know how to deal with these feelings.

The first step is acknowledging your feelings. Feeling sad, lost, or even a bit scared is okay.

These are natural reactions to a significant change in your life.

Allow yourself to grieve the loss of your old life, and remember, new opportunities can lie around the corner

Start Making New Plans For Yourself

So maybe there’s something we’ve been putting off – a vacation or perhaps a new hobby we have always wanted to partake in

We can attend to an awful lot that we’ve put off, possibly for decades.

After a while, we might find we have neglected swaths of our lives that we can now attend to.

So there are a lot of positives.

There is also that element of, well, we’re not going to be fighting like in that teenager-parent thing, so that’s good.

So there are some things we can feel grateful for, and be excited about.

We Empty Nesters Can Pat Ourselves On The Back

Yes, there’s that little victory of, like – wow, they’re grown and flown.

We have done our job as nature intended.

From the smallest mammals to us humans, the youngsters moving out to fend for themselves is part and parcel of nature.

How Long Does Empty Nest Syndrome Last?

A common question is, “How long does empty nest syndrome last?“.

The answer to this varies greatly from person to person and depends on several factors.

Some parents may move through this phase quickly, while others may struggle for several years.

A small feeling of emptiness tends to linger on, for an average of about three to four months, give or take.

If it lasts a lot longer than that, you might want to look at that issue.

Maybe the ’empty nest sadness’ shows you that you might be carrying some anxiety or depression that is manifesting in this way.

Downsizing Tips for Empty Nesters

One practical aspect of becoming an empty nester is the opportunity to downsize and simplify your space.

With your children out of the house, you may have more space than you need. This can be a great time to declutter your home and make your space more manageable.

You might even consider downsizing your home.

If your current home is too large or difficult to maintain, it may be time to consider moving to a smaller home or an apartment.

This can be a big decision, but it can also be a liberating one.

Remember, your home should be a place of comfort and joy, not a source of stress or burden.

Empty Nests Can Put Strain On Our Partnerships

A lot of research shows that many empty nesters actually consider divorcing, as relationships are put to the test.

We all ‘grieve’ the leaving of our children in different ways.

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But often, even when it comes to a child moving away, we handle it in different ways, which can create tension within the relationship.

Just Remember – This Too Shall Pass

It is crucial to remember that the departure of offspring from the household does not necessarily signify an end but a transition towards a new chapter in life.

This change often necessitates relationship recalibration, demanding both partners adapt and adjust their roles accordingly.

Therefore, I urge parents experiencing a difficult phase, to view it as a potential opportunity for personal growth and enrichment.

Rather than a cause for despair or dissolution of marriage.

I encourage parents who are sending a child off to college, that the next adventure may be just around the corner.

Hang in for a while, and you might find that you both have enough common ground to carry you through.

Also, listen to each other because you’re probably going to grieve your child’s leaving in different ways, and that’s normal.


  • Maureen

    Maureen is originally from Australia, now living in the UK. She previously worked in the tech industry for many years. Now semi-retired, she takes a keen interest in gardening, yoga and especially animal welfare. She enjoys writing on a variety of subjects and is a very valued contributor to our site.   

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