And just like that,
And just like that,
They are gone
Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC
Your child has moved away
They have flown the nest. Having an empty nest can be a challenging time in a couple's lives as they transition from being a caregiver in a house, once full of noise and laughter, to being all alone. It is a typical time for parents to go through an identity crisis. Some people feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that they have raised little humans into successful young adults, while others may feel anxious, sad, and lonely.
While some may be experiencing loss, loneliness, worry, or sadness, others may feel a sense of relief as this phase of life may open doors of opportunities and time to do what they have always wanted to do but didn't have the time for, fostering other relationships, or finding new hobbies.
You May Feel a Sense Of Pain
How do you prepare for the emotions that may arise as you learn to live with your child or children living independently? Now that you are no longer running your child to sports or helping with homework, who are you now? Knowing that you have raised your child to adulthood may make you feel old and cause you to face your mortality. A wave of overwhelming grief or depression may enter your veins. You may feel like you are crying all the time, having difficulties sleeping, or eating more or less than expected. On the other hand you may be looking for new hobbies or interest to allow you to fill the time you always spent with your children.
Single parents may have a strong bond causing a more profound sense of loss or purpose. However, it is possible
that you feel a sense of relief and pride that your child was able to find their independence, and you feel like you raised them to fight the world.
Holidays May Look Different
Holidays may look different now that the children have moved away. Sometimes, your child or children have moved far away, making it difficult for them to come home every holiday. Not seeing your child on holidays could create deep sadness that may progress to depression. Often holidays must be shared with your child's partner's family, which also can be difficult, knowing they are celebrating the holidays with someone else besides you. When your children come home, they may be trying to see friends and other family members and may feel stressed for time. The stress your child may be experiencing may make coming home harder as they try to balance time for everyone. Determining your child's plans for the holidays in advance is essential. It may not be what you are hoping for, but creating new traditions while keeping the old ones can make your time together during the holidays more enjoyable. Remember, it is about quality of time, not quantity. You may feel grief as you long for the days when they were little and always around. It would help if you found ways to care for yourself during this transition time.
How Couple's Lives Look Without Their Child at Home
Couples have more time to concentrate on each other and strengthen their relationship. However, some couples realize that their relationship isn't as strong. They may want different things out of life than they once did, causing the couples to separate.
This transition period allows time to think about what the family will look like now. Your time has been spent cultivating your child for decades. It is time to give back and invest in yourself. Go for that trip you always wanted, take up yoga, find what makes you a better version of yourself, and do that. You will always be a mom or dad, just in a different capacity, and it is time to recognize your new role while taking care of you. The time you spend with your child now will be quality rather than quantity. Remember, things will be different, and the transition may come with some road bumps, but you've got this.
Help Is Available
If you are struggling for longer than a few months, contact your local mental health professionals to have them walk alongside you during this transition. It's okay to reach out for help. Therapists can provide coping mechanisms and self-regulation tools to assist you during this difficult time.