Hi, how are you doing today? That is fantastic! Um, could you possibly sit down for a minute? Yeah, I may have some bad news for you. Ok, are you sitting down? Great. Well, I’m not sure how to say this to you, oh hell, I’m just going to say it; here it goes.
Do you know how your last child just left the house? Well, and this is perfectly natural, but, I think you may have Empty Nest Syndrome!
Ok, go back and re-read that with some terrible, dramatic, soap opera music playing in your head! I swear it will be a lot more fun! Did you try it? See, tons more fun.
Empty Nest Syndrome
It is a real thing, do not let anyone tell you it is just a made up psychosis that weak parents go through. It is a well-documented occurrence for parents when their children leave. Is it a clinical diagnosis? No, it isn’t, but it can lead to a clinical diagnosis if you are not attentive to your mental state of mind.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor am I offering medical advice. If you are feeling abnormally depressed or suicidal now that your children have moved out, or just as a general state, please seek help from a medical professional immediately; or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. OK? Do we have a deal here on this?
I can tell you this with a 100% accuracy; your children will always need you.
If it’s real, why does it happen?
Look at you with all these excellent questions.
Empty Nest Syndrome is caused by the lovely little devils we raised moving out of the house and leaving us alone. How dare they do this! Even though we spent the last 18 or 19 years raising them to be responsible and move out. Well now that they have, it is rough, isn’t it?
Getting what we want and it not making us happy is depressing. We build our lives around them, and then they go and do the exact thing we wanted them to do in the first place. Ungrateful little %#$*!
It wasn’t even a surprise that they were going to move out, was it? We knew well in advance; we told ourselves it wouldn’t be a big deal. Guess what? We freaking lied to ourselves.
It was a huge deal, it hurt us to the core, and at some level, we feel utterly destroyed. Life changes, and we think we should be bigger than this. But we aren’t. We can’t be, because we love them.
What are the signs of Empty Nest Syndrome?
Some of the signs of Empty Nest Syndrome are simple, and they do depend on how we deal with stress in our own lives.
Do you like to drink to escape from life’s day to day problems?
Then this could be a problem for you! Yeppers, excessive drinking, and alcoholism are one of the possible side effects you could face from Empty Nest Syndrome. Hiding from those feelings of “abandonment” behind alcohol can lead to even more significant problems in your home and work life.
Does life often get you down?
Do you have trouble remaining positive and upbeat on a daily basis? Does change make you feel lost and alone? It sounds like you could be depressed. Empty Nest Syndrome can make your small problem with depression much worse.
Feelings of loneliness are common after your child moves out, especially if you were close before they moved. “Losing” a close friend can be traumatic for our feelings of well-being.
Have trouble sleeping?
Do you lay awake at night worrying about all the problems in your life? Insomnia can take many forms, such as trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep.
Delightful restlessness, making zombies of the best of us. Lack of sleep can cause a foggy brain during the day; it makes us irritable and short with others in our lives.
Don’t know who you are anymore?
Are you finding it hard to figure out what to do with yourself? Are you experiencing a loss of interest in activities that use to bring you joy? You may be experiencing an identity crisis. WHO ARE YOU without your kids?
They were such a big part of your day; you were probably involved in their school activities, spent time with them and their friends. Listened to their problems and helped to solve those teenage crises.
Now, you come home to a quiet house. You don’t know what to do with yourself without your child.
Who is that person next to you?
Marital problems, this is the tough one; it can be triggered by your child leaving and made worse by any of the above. It can be the most life-changing one, for good or for the bad. Marital issues can arise when a child leaves home.
Where once the child could act as a buffer between parents, giving them a focal point in which to direct their attention. When the child moves out of the house, this can leave a vast gulf that the parents can struggle to fill.
You and your spouse may have been together for decades, but with the sudden silence in your house, this can lead to you and your spouse fighting over small inconsequential issues in the home.
This may be anything from unwashed dishes in the sink to how loud the other is eating chips. (On The Border brand chips are extremely loud. Honestly, they are, it isn’t my fault!)
Chips aside, What now?
As silly as these sound, feelings that are left unspoken or unaddressed can lead to marital problems including divorce. We as couples get used to the comfort of our kids being home. As much as we love our spouses it is easy to focus more on our children then it is on our relationship. Especially in the child’s last year at home.
So have we learned anything new here? Yes and no. If you are reading this, maybe you see some of the things we have talked about here.
You may have heard about Empty Nest Syndrome in the past; perhaps you laughed when you heard about it thinking it was some made up fad.
Now that it is real for you, what can you do about it? Give up? Sit at home and feel sorry for yourself as you and your marriage fall apart around you.
I don’t know about you, but we haven’t fought to keep our marriage this long to give up on it now. There is always hope; you just have to work for it.
Here are 5 ideas to help you fight off Empty Nest Syndrome
1. Responsible Alcohol Use
I like a drink when we go out to dinner. Hell, I want to have a drink or two after a rough day at work. The trouble is, I was having a LOT of bad days at work.
One drink a night became two and then three. Every night. At one point I would buy a fifth a vodka every month or so; now I was buying one or two a week.
Did I see this as a problem? Not at the time, but now I know that I was coping with my feelings, by not dealing with them. If I drank the feelings away, then they didn’t exist in the first place, right? Wrong. I was replacing my hurt with numbness; it didn’t help.
Thankfully, I was able to see this behavior for what it was before it became a problem. So do I still have a drink occasionally? Yes, but it is not an everyday occurrence. When I do drink it is just one or two, any more than that for me is too much for me.
2. Fighting Depression
Feelings of depression are common when a change occurs in our lives; having an empty nest qualifies as a significant life change. Understanding that feelings of loss are going to happen and preparing for those feelings goes a long way in keeping them in check.
We know having a child move out is a hard thing, but can you imagine what it was like for our parents? With cell phones and social media being so prevalent these days; it is easy to not only talk to your child but see them and know how they are doing.
Discuss this with your child before they move out, we know that they are reaching for their independence, but odds are hearing your voice and seeing you may actually ease the transition for them as well.
Having occasional trouble sleeping is normal, but if trouble sleeping continues for you it may be time for you to seek help.
Sleep is terrific, but having too little, or to much sleep can be harmful to your long-term mental and physical health. Sleep, as we all know, (well not if you are sleep deprived, then you may have forgotten), gives our brains and bodies time to relax and decompress. It is healthy.
If you are not sleeping, do something about it before it becomes a significant health problem. Try herbal tea, an over the counter sleep aid, or in extreme cases go so your Doctor. Taking care of yourself is essential for you continuing to take care of yourself and your children.
4. Self Identity
Our lives get so wrapped up in our kids’ lives, we often forget to do things for ourselves. When your last child is gone this can lead to confusion on what to do with yourself. Prepare for this in advance.
Sitting around missing your child isn’t going to do them or yourself any good. You need to start re-identifying yourself. Does this sound easy? Maybe for some, but for others, it is a daunting task.
Who are you without children around? Finding this out can add so much to your life.
Do you like to cook? Look around your town to see if cooking classes are offered. Always wanted to learn a new skill? Take some colleges classes and see if you can turn an interest into a job opportunity.
I’m sure you, like us, have told your children that anything is possible for them if they only get out there and try. The same goes for us as parents as well.
Our lives did not end when the children moved out. In fact, it has given us a new opportunity on life. Empty Nestin’ is our way of re-discovering ourselves, what we like, and where we want to be. Don’t let your children moving out be the end of you. Go and do, keep being an inspiration to your child.
5. Marital Issues
All I can say here is, now is the time to focus on your relationship with your spouse. You have raised children together; so the tough part is out of the way.
Congratulations on that, you did a good job. Being a parent is difficult if you made it this far give yourselves a pat on the back and a well-deserved round of applause!
Be honest with your spouse about your feelings; it may be a hard conversation to have, but well worth it in the end. It was that kind of discussion that Heather and I had, that has lead to you reading this after all.
We are a kick-ass team together
When we work as a couple, we can accomplish so much more than trying to fight it out on our own. It is what helped makes us such a good team as parents. Use this time after your child has gone to not only learn more about yourself but to learn more about your spouse as well.
It can mean the difference between a lifetime together or an expensive and heartbreaking trip to the attorney’s office.
We know that it is difficult when your children are all gone. Being prepared for them moving out can go a long way towards easing the symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome, or even avoiding them altogether.
Parenting wasn’t easy but you and your children survived that! Being an Empty Nester isn’t going to be easy either, but you can survive this as well. We did, so why not you too?
Drop us a line and let us know how you survived and thrived after Empty Nest Syndrome.