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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again

How to Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again

Empty Nest Syndrome is not a mental disorder or clinical diagnosis. Instead, it is a term used to characterize the real feelings of deep sadness, angst, and loneliness that parents can feel when all of their children are grown and leave home.

It is a very real and sad experience for many parents. Not all parents who raise children experience Empty Nest Syndrome. However, for those who think they may be prone to Empty Nest depression, there are things you can do to prepare yourself.

If you are already in the empty nest phase and are experiencing this syndrome, then there are also some ways you can help yourself overcome the sadness.

The Experience of Empty Nest Syndrome

For most parents and caregivers who experience Empty Nest Syndrome, it triggers the grieving process. This is more often experienced by parents whose primary life responsibility is caring for their children.

Research has shown that both mothers and fathers experience similar levels of Empty Nest Syndrome, but parents with a higher level of education tend to fare better when their children leave[1].

It can be compounded if there are other life events happening concurrently, such as retirement, menopause, or divorce. They have spent their days making meals, acting as chauffeur for all of the kids’ activities, and spending countless hours attending games, plays, and school functions. The parent whose life revolves around the lives of their offspring will definitely have emotions tied to the child leaving home.

The grieving process is triggered because there is a loss in that parent’s life. The child may still be alive and well, but the parents can still experience grief because that child is no longer in their home under their direct guidance and supervision.

Again, the degree that a parent experiences this grief and emotional distress varies from one parent to the next. The more the parent is heavily involved in their child’s life and activities, to the exclusion of their own activities, the more that the parent will likely experience emotional turmoil, distress, and grief.

How to Deal with Empty Nest Syndrome

1. Pursue Fulfilling Activities

For some parents, they now have a gaping hole in their life. They no longer are needed to go to sporting activities, help with homework, or cook nightly meals for their kids. For the parents who are heavily involved in their kids’ lives, this gaping hole needs some filling.

However, it can’t just be filled with meaningless activity. Parents need to pursue new interests or pick up an interest that they had previously. The more the activity feels meaningful to the individual, the more the void of the children being grown and gone can be filled.

For example, you may have an art degree that you haven’t used since you began staying at home with the kids. You always wanted to teach art classes. Getting plugged in at a local art studio that offers art classes may be a good option to look into. You may find that teaching others the love of art and self-expression through art brings you great life satisfaction.

You have to find something that is of interest to you that will help you also help you overcome the sense of loss of purpose.

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Avoid the pursuit of activities that are individual focused if you are dealing with loneliness. Instead, find activities that include others.

For example, if you enjoy photography, then join a photography club. Learn from others and develop friendships with others who are passionate about the trade. You may find that the next step would be using your photography skills to capture the memories of others and share your gift with them. Your skills and abilities can grow and flourish in the time that you now have to dedicate to them.

Figure out what you like to do, and then get involved in this activity in a way that involves other people. Support groups can also be great at this time.

There are other activities parents with Empty Nest Syndrome have found to be helpful in moving forward. Some of these activities include higher education, volunteering with a local charity, reviving old friendships, and pursuit of a job or career.

Whatever it may be, find something that interests you and makes you feel valued. Don’t languish at home, missing your child, and hoping for your feelings to magically change on their own.

Time will help heal you, as you process the stages of grief. Finding new pursuits and interests can also help you in this process of moving forward with life.

2. Rekindle Your Romance

There are far too many stories of couples who divorce or separate after the children have grown and the youngest leaves the nest. Couples find that they have nothing in common with one another once the children are gone.

This is a perfect opportunity to rekindle your romance and focus on your relationship[2]. It is also an opportunity for you to get into a shared interest together.

You may find that you have nothing in common, and that’s okay. Find something that you can both mutually agree to do together. It doesn’t have to be a passion for both of you. Instead, it is something that you are both willing to do because you want to be together. 

Rekindle your romance by sharing life together. It could be something as simple as taking up cycling, yoga, or bird watching together. It could also be something more extravagant, like world travel.

Whatever it may be, do it together to engage one another and share the experience.

3. Spousal Support

Not all parents experience the same emotions when the last child leaves the nest. Actually, more than likely, you will have very different emotional experiences. Your spouse or partner may be too busy in his or her career to even notice that you are going through Empty Nest Syndrome.

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Share with your partner or spouse what you are experiencing. Let them know that you are having trouble coping with the children all leaving the nest and that you need emotional support during this time of life transition.

If your partner or spouse comes to you, and they are experiencing Empty Nest depression, be there emotionally for him or her. Let them express their feelings and emotions free from judgement. Offer to do an activity with them in order to bond.

It is an adjustment to the home environment and parents left behind when all the children leave the nest. Providing support to one another and reinvesting in your relationship through shared activities can help with this transition.

4. Get Help if Needed

If you are having difficulty coping with Empty Nest Syndrome on your own, then seek professional help. Counseling can help you get through this stage of life.

Recognize that it is a stage and that life will be changed and new in some ways. It doesn’t mean your life situation is better or worse; it is simply different.

Seek help if you feel your grief is preventing you from completing your daily tasks and activities.

Also, if you are having trouble finding interest in things that used to be of interest, you should seek some help. Losing interest in your personal activities can be a sign of depression. It is possible to slip into a state of depression for a time because of Empty Nest Syndrome.

The five stages of grief are denial and isolation, depression, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. You may experience all, some, or even none of these when your child leaves home. It is good to understand that many parents do experience all five of these stages of grief if they have Empty Nest Syndrome[3].

Empty Nest Syndrome: 5 Stages of Grief

    If you find that you are stuck in the stage of depression and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, then professional help, such as counseling, is highly recommended in order to avoid developing a full blown mental illness.

    How to Avoid Empty Nest Syndrome

    There is no fool-proof method for avoiding Empty Nest Syndrome. However, there are some ways to help prevent it from happening.

    1. Help Your Child Prepare to Leave the Nest

    For many parents who experience Empty Nest Syndrome, the angst being felt is often related to feelings that their child may not be ready to take on the world. In the time leading up to their departure, it is a time to prepare them.

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    Ensure that they have all the supplies and skills needed. Do they know how to cook basic meals and work laundry machines? Do they know how to use city transportation if needed? Do they have everything they need to live in their new housing?

    Help them to prepare for their departure by equipping them with basic life skills that they will need to survive and thrive on their own. When your child moves, being there to help them get settled into their first apartment or living quarters is also helpful in this process.

    You can talk through setting up a home, how to meet neighbors, and how to be safe at home by locking all doors, even during the day. These topics can help them visualize themselves being not only successful on their own, but also safe and competent.

    2. Reassure Yourself and Your Child

    Some of the stress of a child leaving is that their home is changing. They now have a new home, whether that be an apartment, dorm, or something else.

    Let the child know that their home base is still with you. This will help reassure you and them that you belong together, even if you are miles apart.

    If you want to have close and healthy relationships with your grown children, then you must reassure them that you are always there for them and the door to home is always open as well. This doesn’t mean that you need to be the financial provider for your adult children.

    I know of adult children who have paid rent to their parents. Whatever arrangements work for your family members are fine, as long as the child knows that they have you, as the parent, to count on if all goes wrong in life.

    Acknowledge that your child may also experience emotional stress and turmoil in leaving home. Be there for encouragement in your child’s life. Being available by phone or text is also helpful to a child who may be experiencing stress in their departure from home.

    Every child is different. Just be aware of the potential for these emotions from your child. Be prepared to provide comfort, encouragement, and emotional support. One way that can help you both is to have a weekly phone call scheduled for the same time each week.

    3. Have Interests and Activities Outside of Your Children

    In order to not fall hard into Empty Nest Syndrome when your children all leave home, take the time for your own hobbies and interests. These should be interests that are outside your family and children.

    Taking the time to pursue your own interests and hobbies keeps you grounded as an individual[4]. This also helps parents in their own self care.

    We all need time to do things that are just for ourselves. It is not that we are being selfish. It is investing in yourself so that you can come back and care for your family in a refreshed and invigorated way.

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    Doing things that you enjoy and finding passion are helpful to making your life fulfilling. Don’t forget about yourself while caring for your loved ones.

    Someday they will leave the nest. When that day comes, it will be an opportunity to pursue your interests a bit more because you have more ample time.

    Don’t put all of your interests to the wayside for the sake of your family, or you are doing both your family and yourself a disservice.

    If you’re not sure what to do as a hobby, here’s How to Find One That Fits Your Personality.

    4. Invest in Your Marriage

    Take the time now, while the kids are still at home, to connect with your spouse or partner. Engage one another daily with conversation that doesn’t revolve solely around the children.

    Find interests and hobbies that you can do together so that you feel connected. Someday, the kids will be grown, and you will be left together in an empty home. Things will get quiet, and it can be deafening if you don’t know how to connect with the other person left in the home with you.

    Take the time and effort now to go on regular date night, to spend time together outside of the children, and to find activities you enjoy doing together. Check out these 50 Unique and Really Fun Date Ideas for Couples.

    Final Thoughts

    Not all parents experience emotional lows with Empty Nest Syndrome when their kids leave the nest. Some parents look forward to the day when their children are off on their own and they can reclaim their home for themselves.

    For many parents, it is a mix of emotions. You look forward to more time for yourself and your interests. On the other hand, you will miss your children being around all the time.

    Recognize that these varied emotions are normal. Know that the feelings of sadness and emotional angst will pass, but don’t count on it passing without some active change happening on your part.

    Your children may need you less now that they are grown, but there is a whole world out there that needs you.

    More Tips on Changing Your Life

    Featured photo credit: Charles DeLoye via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: Empty Nest Syndrome and Psychological Wellbeing among Middle Aged Adults
    [2] Marriage Dynamics: Reconnect with Your Spouse During the Empty Nest Years
    [3] PSYCH-MENTAL HEALTH NP: Stages of Grief
    [4] Harvard Business Review: Working Parents, Save Time for Hobbies

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    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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    There Is More to Life Than  ____________

    There Is More to Life Than  ____________

    I decided to leave the title of this article open ended, because I’d like you to fill in what words best fit that blank. We’re all unique individuals from different walks of life, and in different stages of life; so, that sentence will have a different meaning for each of us.

    If you’re a busy working professional, why are you working in the job that you have now?

    Is it because it’s something you’re passionate about and brings you a lot of satisfaction? Or, is it because you studied that in college and just found a job that hired you for those skills? Perhaps it’s because of the money that you’re earning, or know you can earn down the line?

    What if you’re about to retire? You’ve got, say, 2 to 3 more years before you hit your ‘deadline’ for retiring. Have you done all that you’ve wanted to do in the past 30-40 years? Any unfulfilled goals or dreams? Are you happy with the outcome of your life to date, all the decisions and/or risks that you’ve made thus far?

    I’m sure many of us started working after college in hopes of earning a good living–to be financially stable and able to afford the ability to experience and do things that we love. We start establishing a career, and with time, tick off boxes on our bucket or ambition list. As you look back on the last couple of years, just how much of your time has been spent doing things that you enjoy and love–the things that give you a great sense of fulfillment and meaning?

    Have you become a slave to the economy, a slave to your work, or a slave to your kids? Or have you found a balance between work and pleasure?

    When is Enough Ever Enough?

    Sadly, many of us live to work.

    Realists would argue that if you truly want to work to live, you still need the finances to back that up. No money no talk. That is how the world runs today. So if you don’t earn or make enough dough, it’s hard to truly enjoy life; it’s hard to be happy without money.

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    So, in this quest to provide just that, many of us end up spending our whole lives pursuing wealth and a life of status and material wants. But, is it ever enough? Is there such a thing as having too much money? And, at what expense?

    If you’re not sure about the expense you may have been paying already, take our Life Assessment for free and find out. After taking the assessment, you’ll get a report of your life’s analysis and understand how you’re balancing life so far. Take the free assessment here.

    Many wealthy entrepreneurs, millionaires and even billionaires have come to agree that money doesn’t bring you all the happiness in the world. It’s good to have, but it doesn’t truly satisfy all desires. There comes a point where you would have ‘had it all’ and still feel a sense of emptiness: an empty void that needs to be filled, not with money or material possessions.

    So the question is then, what more is there to life if not for financial stability, status or material possessions?

    How do we make work a part of life instead of having it consume our life entirely? Perhaps we need to go back to look at the word life itself.

    What is Your Purpose in Life?

    What is the nature of life? What does life mean to you? Is there a purpose?

    If we seek jobs, all we will find are jobs. But if we have a sense of purpose in how we are productive; if we seek a calling, then we will find more than a job. We will find our contribution to humanity and we will find more to life. Would you agree?

    Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. So it should be noted that to be happy in life isn’t always enough, because happiness is a surge of emotions that does not last. Instead, it’s more important to find and have meaning in life.

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    Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness, but not at all with meaning.

    Have You Been Going on a Wild Goose Chase?

    Ironically, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is leaving people less happy. “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness”, according to Viktor Frankl, a famous Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor. Going back to the common example of pursuing riches in order to be happy is exactly what makes many so unhappy.

    So again, look at the statement “There is more to life than ______.”

    Have you answered it meaningfully? If you’ve read on this far, and are now wondering how to take that first step to figuring out what your true purpose is in life, fret not; I’m here to help you reframe your mind and actions, so that you can embark on a journey of finding true meaning to your life.

    Everything that you can do and accomplish in life are bounded by the Life Multipliers. These are the true essentials needed to achieve excellence. They’ll put you on a path that gives great meaning and satisfaction in life. And, the best thing of all? They already exist in each of us. We just don’t always make the most of it, or sometimes we aren’t even aware of the power that each of these skills have to help us in life.

    On it’s own, each skill is unique and can help you through different stages of life, or problems. But as a whole set, these 7 Cornerstone Skills will give you full transformation over any situation. No matter what phase of life you’re in, what you’re striving to achieve, or what feel you’re lacking, your pursuit of meaning in life will be much faster when you’re able to make use of not one, not two, but all the Life Multipliers.

    The Life Multipliers

    So let me give you a glimpse into what these Life Multipliers are.

    1. Self-Empowerment

    This refers to sustainable motivation and confidence about what you want to achieve. It means being clear about your purpose and knowing how to stay motivated during adversity.

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    2. Self-Control

    With self-control, you can consistently set clear goals and follow through your plan. It means knowing how to build constructive habits and routines that support your goals.

    3. Renewable Vitality

    A person with renewable vitality is physically fit and healthy. They exercise regularly, eat well, and know how to look after themselves.

    4. Emotion Mastery

    A person with emotion mastery can manage and change the way they feel and cope with situations. They are also able to reframe negativity into positive actions.[1]

    5. Conscious Communication

    With conscious communication, you understand others’ ideas and are able to express and deliver your own thoughts and feelings clearly.

    6. Smart Focus

    With smart focus, you’re able to get things done in the most effective and efficient manner. You’ll know how to take control of your time and energy by working smart.

    7. Learning and Adaptability

    With learning and adaptability, you can quickly master any knowledge and skill. You’re also able to respond to change swiftly and never stop growing.

    8. Constructive Thinking

    With constructive thinking, you have a clear mind. You know how to utilize your brain power to solve problems and be creative.

    Are You Ready to Live Your Best Life?

    The simple fact is, that if you can sharpen these Life Multipliers, you will realize that finding meaning in life, or reaching the goals and ambitions that you’ve set out for yourself, no matter what stage of life you’re in, is very attainable.

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    There is no magical method to having life figured out. The skills have always been there since day 1, you just need to know how to use it to the best of your advantage.

    And I’m here to show you just how you can do that. Lifehack is all about equipping you with the best and most effective ways to increase your productivity, motivation and focus to achieve true Purpose in life, in as little time as possible.

    Embark on a transformational journey with us as we show you how to learn and improve your Life Multipliers so that you’ll come out a new person, ready to either pursue your existing goals at a much quicker rate, or to find new goals to pursue without being limited by time, age or responsibilities.

    If you’ve been wanting a change, or been stuck in a rut for a while now, here is your chance to get started on pushing towards progress again.

    Tired of being stuck time and again? It’s time to resolve that permanently and start living out your best days. We’ve got the solution at Lifehack — Find out More About Our Solution Here!

    Featured photo credit: Caroline Hernandez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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