Empty Nest, the Gift and the Curse

Melissa hugged her daughter at the college dorm, got in the rental car, and wept all the way to the airport. The tears surprised her.

When you go through even an expected change, the reality settles in your heart when you wave goodbye.

Parents know the relationship they had will be different.  They aren’t sure what their role will be and that is unsettling.

For a while you might not have been the go to person or the number one with your children . They might have been your number one, which doesn’t imply you didn’t have “a life.”

No guilt or judgment about your relationship.  You did the best you could at the time.  Truth is, most parents would drop what they were doing if their child needed them no matter what age or stage.

Grieving the role you lived as parent is unique, based on your relationship with yourself and your child.  All parents feel the shift of this milestone.  Comparing yourself to how your friends or others are doing in this transition of life doesn’t honor who you are right now.

There  are many moments you are relieved at not addressing your child’s needs or schedule, but that has nothing to do with love, deep love.

When you love someone and can’t have time with them, you miss them.

Empty nest is a time of honoring all you gave. Reminiscing what you love about parenting and what you won’t miss.

You could write a letter to yourself , “ I appreciate the way I…   I honestly won’t miss the way I had to….” You will find your words.  Fifteen minutes of writing is healing.

Feelings are vulnerable and can be unavailable. Thoughts come more naturally, spinning us with pictures we make in our head, or leaping ahead to the “what ifs”…  Comfort comes in a smorgasbord. Get to know yourself day by day. Leave the judgment.  With every thought and feeling there is a gift and curse while walking changes.  Maybe you can practice holding both,” the gift of my spinning with thoughts is… the curse of it is….”  Empty nest gives permission to know yourself in new ways. Your two constant friends are compassion and curiosity.

Even if you have gone through this before, when the last child leaves, you weep.
Career, married, single, all weep when the house emptiness of your child and their friends.
Community is lost.
School days are over.
You long for new meaning and connections.
You want your child to call.

I know, as an empty nest mom, that life does get happy and fun.  Parents across the country have shared their journey with me and I am honored to hold their stories. Change doesn’t travel in a straight line. You don’t, “Get it,” and then life is wonderful.

You feel your feelings whenever and wherever they pop up.

Some parents take time to be. Some leap into action.

The biggest challenge I hear is , “What do I want to do that will be fulfilling, how do I grow a new relationship with my kids that respects me and respects them, and I’m not sure I am that into my partner anymore, which scares me.”

Change means you are in the unknown. You have never been at this stage of life before. There will be people who say, “Get over it. Your child isn’t gone forever. Get a life. People have it worse than you do.”  Well, I am sure you have read or heard the comments.  You be true to you.

Make friends with not knowing the answers, yet.  That could sound and feel like, “ I don’t know what I want to do with my free time and I do know I can get help.  I’m frustrated today, but that won’t last forever.  I am so sad, but who wouldn’t be when you miss someone you love?”

You have heard the lists of what people added to their life:

  • Travel
  • Volunteer
  • Visiting people they didn’t have time to see before
  • Hobbies
  • New careers
  • Mentoring
  • Learning a new language
  • Working part time
  • Piano lessons
  • Organic gardening
  • Book groups
  • Dating
  • Dancing
  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Walking
  • Water colors

What you might not have heard is you have done enough and you do enough. Trial and error for the next spark.  Begin and leave.  Adults forget they get to go somewhere and leave for whatever reason comes up for them. Yes, give it a try and at the same time , honor when the place, activity , or people aren’t a match for you at this time.  Keep going.  Keep going.  I say that louder because our mind tends to trick us into the voice of, “I will never find something or someone.  I will always be alone or left out of the fun of life.”

Find support. Ask for help. You would be surprised how many people wish they had called one friend or someone in the community who would hear them right where they are today.

If you don’t have someone, find websites where there is a community so you don’t feel alone. Friendships end. Relationships end. Career changes.  Begin some connection somewhere which could be at a bookstore, museum, art opening, café, religious setting, walking, etc. when you are ready.

If you aren’t ready, check in with yourself and ask, “Do I need to get out anyhow, or do I need to be for today?”

There are so many stories I could share. So here is one.

A mother didn’t want to commit here time to anything, yet. She did want something that made her feel needed and engaged.

Cooking worked. She would surprise a neighbor with comfort food, one dish. Once she called me and told me she didn’t really know the neighbor well, except for an occasional wave or hello.

The fresh fruit with banana bread turned out to be a way to feel more connected in her neighborhood and still have her free time.

No she didn’t want to start a business or do this scheduled.  She cooked and gave when she felt like it.

Wishing you time for being good to yourself and a building of inner trust that you will feel happiness and meaning.

Take good care,




Change is inevitable. Get Ready. Get Support. Life transitions need a hand to hold.

-Private Telephone Consultations

-Speaking engagements

-Online classes

-Support groups


-Free active message board – connect with others

-Story of the Month

Facebook, Linked In, Twitter

-Los Angeles, CA.



Speak Your Mind


5 × 2 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.