The Empty Nest & More
Sobbing; that’s what I was doing. Standing smack in the middle of my son’s room so I’d have a perfect view of everything that reminded me of him. I promised myself that I’d wait before I went in. I broke my promise. Life transitions are messy after all.
It’s been 10 years since I broke my promise yet, I can still see that room so vividly. The red throw pillow where he rested his head was still scrunched up from the night before. The others were stretched along his perfectly made bed. That’s what he did when he finally got up. For as long as I can remember. The wooden desk caught my eye, cleared of the stacks of paper and holiday cards. The laundry basket, empty for the first time in 4 weeks. (I knew he waited for me to give in and do his laundry for him – and I did.) Sweatshirts thrown over his closet door and more teenage stuff just scattered around.
He was gone. Back to college after his month-long winter break at home. I really missed him already. I think I missed him before he left, reminding him of all the things he needed to do when he got back to school. Most of all, I missed the smiling face, with those silly earphones perched on top, that greeted me every morning—or afternoon as it often was. Over-protective, helicopter parent, too hands-on. Go ahead, say it. That’s what I was and still am. But listen up—I’m his mom.
My significant link to this universe has been, well, mothering. I’m talking about my child—who was nearly a grown man himself. And, it was hard to let go.
It was days later that I found relief from the sadness, perhaps a bit emotional, but that’s who I am. I recovered. I took the next small step. My letting go was his rite of passage.
Even if I didn’t long for our endless incessant debates, right out of philosophy 101, I could still see that this kid was changing and thinking and moving. My letting go enabled me to see a human being apart from me and whole in his own right. More, much more important, it allowed him to toss his own net—get out there and fly. If you don’t let go, you can’t move on. It’s a small step in a big way.
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We all know that letting go is never easy. But there are ways to gracefully cope with big life transitions like your kids leaving the nest:
We can’t hold onto the past. It hurts, I know. But failure to accept a situation puts us in a prison of our own making. Everything changes – it’s the only constant in life. The sooner we can accept that the easier life becomes. It doesn’t matter what uncomfortable situation you’re trying to deal with or which big life transition you’re facing, the solution is the same. Let it go to free yourself.
Here are 5 simple tips for letting go:
Understand that Relationships Change
People and situations change which automatically affects your relationships. Being aware and understanding this helps you to be clear on your role in your relationships and accept the role that others play in your life too. This may not be easy to do but it does help to prepare you for an inevitable life transition.
Don’t get invested in a Specific Outcome
Being invested in a specific outcome when it comes to dealing with other people is setting yourself up for disappointment. You can’t guarantee the outcome you desire when it comes to other people so it’s better not to have too many expectations. Letting go means accepting that you can’t control the actions and behaviors of others.
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Develop a Positive Mantra
Your inner dialogue can either propel you forward to the other side of a difficult transition or it can keep you stuck. Positive mantras offer a way to reframe your thoughts and overcome emotional pain.
Practice Self Care
Letting go isn’t easy, it isn’t comfortable and it doesn’t happen overnight. So, be gentle with yourself. Give it time. Practicing self-care is a wonderful way to help you get to a point where you can let go. Self-care can mean writing in a journal, setting boundaries, making time for yourself, and doing the things that bring you joy.
Recommended Reading: The Most Important Thing You Can Do While You’re Stuck at Home
Allow Yourself to Talk about it
Surround yourself with people who love and understand you and then talk to them. Even if you can’t be with them in person, you can speak to them on the phone, the next best thing is to be there, facetime, or have a Zoom call. You can’t keep your emotions bottled up inside forever. Give yourself permission to speak about how you’re feeling. Without this important step, you’ll be unlikely to let go.
4 Ways to Manage When Your Kids Leave the Nest
The new school year is about to start which means the kids are heading back to school or college (and yes, some are returning this year). This can be such an emotional time of year for parents. I know from first-hand experience how easy it can be to end up sobbing in your child’s room after they depart.
In full disclosure, I have twins so I had to send 2 off at once. Can you imagine how hard that was? So, if you’re a parent preparing for your baby to leave home for the first time, this guide is for you. This is a big life transition, no doubt about that and you’re probably feeling anxious, worried and most of all, sad.
Luckily, these feelings diminish over time if you deal with them in a healthy way. So, I’ve compiled a few ways to cope with empty nest syndrome. Follow this advice and you’ll soon be able to resume your normal life and not focus too much on the absence of your child.
Even though you’re feeling down, it’s important to keep busy once the kids are out of the house. Maintain your hobbies or take up a new activity that you’ve always wanted to try. This means going for walks, taking up tennis, or starting an online yoga class. Meeting up with friends and socializing is also a wonderful distraction when done responsibly with masks and sanitized hands, of course. Plus, surrounding yourself with friends will help you move through this life transition faster. Just make sure to adhere to social distancing rules so everyone stays healthy. Your child is in the process of developing their own life now and it’s important that you maintain your own life too. A rich and active life is the best way to cope with this tough situation. Allow your child the space they need to assert their independence and give yourself the freedom to remember your own independence too.
Set a Schedule for Communication
You may feel tempted to contact your child daily; especially when they first leave. But this won’t help you let go and can be stifling for your child as well. Make sure they know they can contact you at any time for anything but limit your own contact to give them the space and freedom they need. One way to do this is to set a schedule that you both agree on for phone or video calls. This allows for healthy boundaries to be established. Grab your day planner and schedule a set time for communication every 3 days or once a week to check in with your child. You’ll feel better once you do this as you’ll have something to look forward to and it will help you remain close to your adult child without putting a strain on your relationship.
Reconnect with Your Partner
Although empty nest syndrome results in a type of loneliness, that feeling doesn’t need to last. Your child may be gone but your partner isn’t. This is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with your partner. After years of focusing mainly on the kids, this is your time to focus on each other again. By turning your attention towards yourself and your partner, you rekindle the romance and avoid any issues that can occur once the kids leave. Show your partner that you value your relationship by spending more time together. Use the opportunity to remember why you fell in love in the first place and discover activities that you can do together. Chances are your partner is feeling sad too, so keeping busy together may help you both. Schedule some couple activities or date nights with each other and put in your day planner so you stick to it.
Go on Vacation
It can be difficult to be at home once your nest is empty, so why not plan a vacation? If you find it challenging to overcome your feelings of sadness at home, then plan a vacation. Choose an exciting destination that you’ve always wanted to visit and go with your partner, or a friend. Although travel options are limited at the moment, don’t let it hold you back from getting out and exploring your own country. Take a cross country road trip or rent a secluded cottage by a lake or even head out to visit all the National Parks. There are numerous ways to take a vacation that ensures that you stay safe and healthy. Alternatively, start planning a big exciting trip abroad for next year. Not only will planning your trip and itinerary help keep you busy and get your mind off missing your child, but the experience will be beneficial too. Being in a new place that’s away from your empty home with lots of new things to try and do will help you let go and move through this big life transition. Plan plenty of adventurous or novel activities for your trip so that you’re too busy to think about life back at home.
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How to Cope with Change & Life Transitions
Life transitions are inherently difficult and tend to bring up a lot of emotions. But the way you approach these big changes determines your experience of them. Most people view change in a negative way which is why life transitions seem so tough. However, by simply adjusting your perspective of change, you can find great value in those big life transitions. Here are some ideas for coping with change and life transitions in a meaningful way:
Life Transitions Create Memories
Big life changes are memorable and this time will hold a special place in your life memories. If it’s monumental at the moment then you know it will leave a lasting impression. The intense feelings will fade but the memories won’t and one day you’ll appreciate that. Instead of trying to numb the emotions, appreciate that they will help make this moment in life a guiding lesson in the future.
Accept the Benefits of Change
Routine can be detrimental to your health so change is beneficial. Change in your routine actually helps to stimulate your mind and nervous system. This allows new neural pathways to form in the brain which helps you to grow and evolve. Even though small changes are beneficial, big life transitions offer you an opportunity for great personal growth.
Remember Your Past Transitions
We learn from experience and that worldly knowledge can serve us well. When you’re facing a challenging transition, remind yourself how you successfully navigated life transitions in the past. Remember how you coped with that experience and apply it to what you’re dealing with currently. This should give you the strength and courage to cope and embrace the change.
Dealing with change is an uncomfortable part of life. But moving through life transitions can result in a wonderful sense of achievement. The day I stood sobbing in my son’s room is still a vivid memory. Those emotions may have disappeared but the impact of that moment in my life is lasting. Only looking back can you appreciate the opportunities that can spring from change. These experiences help us develop and grow to become the people we are today, so embrace it.
Which life transitions had the biggest impact on you?
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