Here are the typical symptoms of people who struggle with an empty nest, and suggestions for coping with each of them:
Sadness: It is totally natural to be sad when your children leave home. Both moms and dads can experience deep levels of sadness. You may be sad that your child is not around, or sad you did not better develop your relationship when they were around. The truth is, change can often lead to people feeling sad. So how do you cope with the sadness? The truth is you do not ignore it, take the time to mourn. As a parent you sacrifice a lot for your children, and them leaving the home is a big step and one that creates a loss. But once you have devoted a small amount of time to mourn, it is time to move past the sadness. Be happy that you raised a child able to go out on their own. Be happy that you no longer have to be the bad guy when they break curfew. Be glad that now you can form closer relationships because you do not have to do the strict parent thing, but can be a friend and advice giver. There are plenty of things to be happy about, you just have to turn your focus to those.
Loneliness: A parent who spends most of their time in the company of their children will likely experience loneliness when they no longer have their children and their friends in the home. This is especially true for the stay-at-home parent. So how do you cope with this? Well the best way to cope with loneliness is to not be alone, or fill the time that allows you to dwell on loneliness with something else. This is a great time to renew your relationship with your spouse and let your better half actually be your half again. It is a great time to join clubs, book groups, church groups, a gym, or anything else that provides social interaction on a regular basis. If you schedule regular date nights with your spouse, game nights with friends, and have a few clubs or groups you are a part of, as well as a hobby to fill your time such as quilting, you won’t have time or the need to be lonely.
Emptiness: Many parents spend their days doing laundry, fixing meals, helping with homework, and being a parent. This can leave them feeling very empty when their children leave home. Many parents wrap their identity around their children. Instead of being who they are, they are so and so’s mom or dad. So, to cope with the empty feelings it is time to discover who you are outside of being a mom or dad. This means take time to form your identity. It is best to start this when your children are at home by finding things to do that have nothing to do with what is going on at home. However, if you did not do it previously, do it now. Take the time to take an art class if it has always fascinated you. Learn to sew. Write a book. Walk across hot coals. Anything you wanted to do or try at some point do now. You will love this quest for identity outside of parent.
Uselessness, or no longer having a purpose in life: If your main role in life was raising your children and taking care of their needs it is natural to feel pretty useless when you are no longer needed for those things. So, how do you cope? Well, find your usefulness. Volunteer. There are always needs for people, and you will realize how needed you are, or how not useless you are when you teach an illiterate child to read, or feed someone who is hungry, or clean up an abandoned park. There is a lot of good you can do, and getting lost in the service of others is a great way to combat the hard feelings of being an empty nester.
Guilt. Many parents feel guilt for not spending more time with their children when they were at home, not teaching them more life lessons, or letting things end on a bad note. To cope with these feelings the best thing to do is simply stay in touch with your child and let them know you love them and that you are there to help. You can do this by texting, phone calls, emails, or letters. It really does not matte. Give your kid their space, but make sure they know you are approachable.