Empty Nest Syndrome: Practical Tips And Advice

Empty nest syndrome is no joke.  A natural response to children reaching adulthood and a common phenomenon experienced by many parents worldwide. Some mothers might welcome the change, but others, myself included, will crumble. I wrote this blog based on some of the coping strategies I practised when my daughter left for university four years ago (she’s still not back home, even though she already graduated).  I sincerely hope this blog helps other mothers (and fathers) struggling to come to terms with this new season in their lives.

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Navigating Change: The Bittersweet Moment Of Letting Go

Life is composed of a series of seasons, each bringing its own set of challenges. One of the hardest chapters of my life was when I travelled back home after dropping off my firstborn at university in Cardiff, a three-hour plane ride from home. 

It felt unnatural, like leaving a part of myself behind. The intensity of my emotions as my husband drove away while watching my daughter wave goodbye, will forever be ingrained in my mind as the most soul-wrenching moment of my life. My baby was all grown up, ready to spread her wings and conquer adulthood. I had no choice but to set her free and trust that I had provided her with all the necessary tools to navigate this new phase of her life.

Fear washed over me. Worse-case scenarios played on repeat in my mind. I was leaving her behind, what if something happened and I was so far away? I thought that my biggest hurdle would be to silence my mind and trust that she would be just fine. Little did I know that once I got home, overcoming the sense of loss of purpose would become my greatest challenge. Letting go was not easy, in fact, it was heartbreaking. But, I really didn’t have a choice, did I? 

What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty nest syndrome refers to the emotional experience that parents, particularly mothers, often feel when their children leave home for college, work, or other independent pursuits, leaving behind an “empty nest.”

Based on my own experience I can certainly confirm that it can manifest as feelings of sadness, loneliness, or loss. Ironically enough, adjusting to a quieter household becomes a challenge. I remember those days when my kids were small and all I wished for was some peace and quiet so that I could read a book or watch a TV show. And then in what felt like a blink of an eye, I found myself walking into my daughter’s empty bedroom, sitting on her bed, and cuddling her soft toys. With a profound need to feel close to her, I felt as though I had lost my purpose. Motherhood had been part of my very essence for so long that even though I still had my son at home, I felt an indescribable sense of loss of identity. 

Researching Other’s Experience With Empty Nest Syndrome

Before sitting down to write this blog, I discussed empty nest syndrome with friends and fellow mothers who have also experienced it. Many of their coping strategies were similar to mine, but I picked up a few extra tips along the way. What we all shared, without exception, was a profound sense of loss of purpose. If you are feeling this way, don’t despair—you can find your way back and discover a new purpose.

Let’s dive into eight practical strategies to help you cope with empty nest syndrome. These tips will not only aid in rediscovering your sense of purpose but also empower you to embrace this new chapter of life with confidence and optimism.

Eight Tips To Help You Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome

1. The First Step:  Acknowledge Your Feelings

Sadness, grief, and loneliness are common emotions when your child moves out and begins their journey into adulthood. For me, one of the first steps was acknowledging how I truly felt. There’s no point in pretending everything is okay or holding back tears. It’s okay to feel like crap. Embrace those feelings, experience them fully, and then move forward.

I vividly recall my first week at home without my daughter. After returning from work, I found myself standing by her bedroom door, tears streaming down my face, asking myself, “What now?” The silence was deafening, the loneliness evident. The memories were replaced by a profound stillness that seemed to magnify the absence of her presence. 

Despite it all, acceptance was key. I had to accept that she had moved out to live her best life and that it was okay for me to feel miserable in her absence.

2. Establish A Schedule To Stay Connected

In the first few weeks, establishing a routine for staying in touch with my daughter was crucial for my peace of mind. I explained to her that my need for regular communication wasn’t about controlling or dictating her life; it was simply about knowing she was doing well and thriving. Over time, those scheduled calls and messages became less frequent as my anxiety eased. My daughter understood and graciously accommodated my needs.

Fast forward four years, and now we talk once a week, which feels just right. I’ve learned to cope with her independence, knowing she’s making the most of her life at twenty-two years old.

3. Rediscover Yourself

For years, your main focus has been the well-being of your child—their passions, goals, studies, and so much more. Now that they have left home, it’s time to rediscover yourself and find out who you are as an individual.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Personally, I didn’t take up any new hobbies when my daughter left. Instead, I threw myself into some much-needed DIY projects. I concentrated on refurbishing and redecorating my living room and my son’s bedroom.

This was actually my husband’s idea. He knew I needed to stay busy and channel my energy into something other than my thoughts. DIY became the perfect outlet, providing the distraction I needed during those initial months.

Some of my friends signed up for classes, such as fitness or cooking. One of them even joined a pottery workshop. Trust me, redirecting your thoughts to something new will make a world of difference.

4. Nurture Relationships

Whether it’s reconnecting with childhood friends, focusing on your partner, or spending time with other family members, nurturing relationships can truly help fill the void.

Everyone has that friend with whom you’ve been saying for years, “Let’s meet up.” Well, now is your chance. Or consider taking a short weekend trip with your partner—couple’s getaways should not be underestimated. Arrange a spa weekend with cousins or friends. It’s all about finding a balance between continuing to live your everyday life and introducing new opportunities to connect with others outside of your motherly duties.

5. Pursue Personal Growth

This blog is one of the projects I took on for personal growth. Designing and creating this website was my second chance to pursue a passion that had long been forgotten in the midst of motherhood.

The Opinionated Magpies was created with the intention of providing both myself and my partner Colleene, with something exclusively ours, beyond the expectations firmly placed on us as mothers and women.

It wasn’t easy, but it was exactly what I needed. It gave me a newfound purpose that pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and embrace life as an individual, beyond the realm of motherhood.

Empty Nest Syndrome Related Articles

A Practical First-Time University Checklist – Ensure a smooth transition as your child heads to university for the first time with our comprehensive ‘First-Time University Checklist.’

Creating Memories With My Daughter – Five amazing days of good food, a Beyonce Concert and lots of laughs. The best part of my life is creating memories with my daughter.

A Journey Of Shared Milestones – A journey of shared milestones is a blog post about co-parenting whilst navigating the ups and downs following the end of a marriage, with a glimpse into Celine’s graduation day.

6. Seek Support

Sharing your feelings with other mothers will undoubtedly ease your sense of loneliness. Eight out of ten of those mums will be able to relate.

I am fortunate to have a strong group of mothers as friends. After our daughters left, we reconnected and committed to meeting up for dinner three or four times a year. Our daughters left for university four years ago, so our current topics of conversation now revolve around what they are up to, new job opportunities, etc. However, back when they first embarked on their journey away from home, the main focus of our conversations was about how we were coping and how our daughters were adjusting. This turned out to be a great source of support, reassuring me that I wasn’t alone and that the loss of purpose I was feeling was completely normal.

7. Take Care Of Yourself – You Deserve It

In order to support others, you need to take care of yourself. As mothers of young children, we often place our children’s needs before our own, leaving little time for self-care. I’ve been there—it was hard and at times frustrating—but I would do it all over again if I had to. I’m sure you would too.

However, now that one or all of your children are grown and off on their own adventures, it’s imperative to give yourself some downtime.

Practising self-care is not selfish, despite what society might suggest. In fact, it is essential. Self-care helps you maintain physical health, and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ultimately enhancing your productivity and focus. Additionally, it boosts your self-esteem by reinforcing your self-worth.

It’s time to reclaim yourself.

If you require self-care ideas, we have you covered. Check out our most popular self-care blog posts below:

8. Seek Professional Help If Needed

Once upon a time, my mother experienced her own case of empty nest syndrome. When I got married and moved out, she seemed to handle it well initially. However, a few months later, it all came crashing down on her. As a stay-at-home mum, the change was overwhelming, even though my brother was still just thirteen at the time. She sought professional help.

If you feel that your emotions are becoming unmanageable, with long bouts of anxiety and an inability to calm your mind, please consider finding a professional therapist or counsellor. They can help you navigate and overcome the sense of loss you are experiencing.

Recommended Books On Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome
Empty Nest Syndrome

Final Thoughts

I became a mother at what is now considered a very young age—twenty-two. The birth of my daughter changed me to my very core. Until then, I had been a self-proclaimed loner. Suddenly, I had this little person depending on me for survival. We became an inseparable duo, our relationship more akin to siblings than mother and daughter. At the time, my marriage was in shambles, and she became my entire world—my companion, my littlest best friend.

For years, it felt like it was just her and me against the world. Celine was six when her brother was born, and despite my efforts, she became a co-parent. My little girl grew up fast during those years. We clung to each other through life’s unexpected challenges.

Despite life’s chaos, we managed to rise above it all, finding stability in our daily lives and forging a bond that will last a lifetime. So, when she left, my world came crashing down. My confidante, my best friend, had departed to live her own life, and the weight of her absence almost consumed me. I felt proud and happy that she had the courage to pursue her dreams, yet simultaneously lonely and empty.

As I write this, I’m mindful that my teenage son will also leave the nest in three years’ time. The thought overwhelms me. However, I find solace in knowing that I have faced this so-called empty nest syndrome before and will do so again.

When the time comes for your child to spread their wings, find solace in knowing that you’ve laid a foundation of love and resilience. Embrace this new chapter with courage and optimism. You are capable of overcoming any challenges that come your way. 

Thank you for reading xx

Share With Us Your Own Experience

We invite you to share your experience with us and other mothers alike. How did you navigate the emotions that accompany empty nest syndrome? Do you have any tips that could offer support to mothers currently going through the same experience? Your insights and advice can provide comfort and guidance during this significant transition in life.

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