31 - Dec 2021
Empty nest syndrome is just another thing to look forward to in mid-life; along with the menopause. It’s something that will probably never enter your head, that is, until it happens to you.
I wonder why, as a society, we joke about empty nest syndrome or at the very least are dismissive of it? I profess to have been completely ignorant of how empty nest syndrome would affect me. Until now.
Google empty nest syndrome, and along with a simplistic definition, you will find this list of questions;
These are my answers.
1. Don’t know.
2. No idea
3. Um forever?
4. I don’t think so!
5. You tell me.
6. People whose kids have left home?
7. Divorce? It’s as good as reason as any
8. Now he can really see if ‘all you care about is the kids’
9. I’ll never let go of my child
14. Now that’s just a weird question
There were more questions …
I’ve had days where I’ve made a complete fool of myself at work. To be fair the pandemic hasn’t helped. Not having seen my eldest for a prolonged period, last year especially, was tough. I remember going in to work one morning and howling in the staff room. I was inconsolable. I just could not control my sobbing and the only person that understood was a woman a little older than me who knew exactly how I felt. I was so grateful for her kind words and support. As for everyone younger, men and women equally, looked at me sideways, made their excuses and left.
You cannot underestimate the natural feelings that go hand in hand with your children leaving home. To sum it up; it is a form of grief. Along with that can come feelings of sadness, depression, loss of purpose, and loneliness. You may also experience worry, stress and anxiety over their welfare.
In my experience, this affected how well I coped with every day activities. Being cheerful and positive was a struggle. Covering up how I was feeling was exhausting. I’d get home at the end of the day emotionally drained. The advice is to seek help feelings of depression continue for more than 2 weeks. How many of us do?
Can you ever really overcome empty nest syndrome?
I don’t think it’s as simple as what is suggested online; ‘painting, calligraphy, needlepoint, knitting, woodworking, sewing’; an empty nest provides the perfect opportunity to explore or rekindle a love of creative activities. A one size fits all approach is the best on offer, but I needed to find what worked for me.
Challenging myself helped. Alongside creative pursuits, (my secret ingredients) I’ve pushed myself to do things which are difficult. My new hobbies include open water swimming. Easy in the summertime, but when the water drops below a certain temperature, even the thought of getting into cold water is daunting.
More recently, I had the opportunity to go rock climbing. Me and rock climbing? Never. I am scared of heights. However, my new philosophy is never say never. That mantra has worked well, especially in times of uncertainty. I went, and achieved, what I thought was, the impossible.
No doubt there will come a day when I will overcome empty nest syndrome. Deep down I know the closer I get to rediscovering my true self and living my authentic life, the easier it will be to ‘let go’.
Here is one parent’s experience of a child leaving home including links to where to go for support https://dorsetmind.uk/blog/empty-nest-syndrome-one-year-on/
You are not alone