Empty Nest Syndrome: A journey of grief, relief and joy

By Alice Johnsen
It’s funny isn’t it, the time when we raise our families, those of us who are lucky enough to do so. Those years are all consuming and pass by at a pace that is both snail like and so fast we don’t realise what’s happening. Then – the doors stop slamming, the fridge is noticeably fuller and we actually get to the bottom of the laundry pile. The Empty Nest years have arrived.
For some this is a small change that goes almost unnoticed but for many it is a time of huge challenge. Of the many people I spoke to about this over the last few weeks, all told me the early evenings are the worst. Your mind drifts back to when the house was filled with the noise of returning children, tea and homework. You think of friends still enjoying that routine. Your evening feels like a ghost town.
Coping mechanisms shared with me included phoning a friend in the same position to chat while you cook supper, walking – the dog or with a friend – making that 5-6pm hour a time for something specific – painting, freezer filling, setting up a tea-time book club to meet once a month, a swimming class.
Everyone advised getting busy. Volunteer for a local charity if you have the time or contact Citizens Advice to see where they need help. Sign up for a course with a friend. Clearly, if your nest is emptying, you need to be proactive in filling the gap.
Empty Nest Syndrome has phases. How you move through those phases and to what level you experience each one is an individual thing. Grief followed by Relief and lastly Joy. Sometimes phases two and three can bring with them feelings of guilt. Should we feel guilty when we feel a little spring in our step in this new phase? Is it okay to feel okay about our nests emptying? I think it is.
Let’s not forget, we were whole and complete people before we were lucky enough to be parents and we are all so much more than a mum or dad. So, when the time comes, take a big breath and aim for being a ‘me’ not just a ‘me plus my children’.
Alice Johnsen is a life coach. Phone: 07961 080513; visit

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