How to Deal With (And Accept) Your Newly Empty Nest: 9 Tips

Certified Grief Counselor

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Walking into an empty home can have a very unique feeling. You might feel relieved that you are no longer bombarded with questions, or asked to help or do a bunch of things you hadn’t planned on.

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Conversely, you might be missing that very notion of being needed, of being loved by someone who relies upon you. Perhaps your child is heading off to college, or you may be dealing with the aftermath of the loss of your child. Each situation brings its own type of grief and sadness, and neither can be compared.

Feeling a bit adrift without your child alongside you? Read on to find some ways for you to deal with an empty nest and cope with your new situation.

How to Deal With an Empty Nest After Your Kids Go to College

Are you feeling the effects of empty nest syndrome now that your kids have all gone off to college? You’re not alone. Feeling profound sadness and loss after that last of your children leaves the house is quite normal for a parent to experience. Many of the same grief symptoms may appear, like other types of losses. 

You may be experiencing mixed emotions now that you no longer have children at home to care for. Waiting on the kids to grow up and move out is the proverbial ongoing joke among middle-aged parents who can’t wait to start the next chapter of their lives. But, what many don’t realize is the grief that they’ll experience once it happens. 

1. Get a new hobby

Instead of sitting at home wondering how long grief lasts and how you’re going to make it through, try picking up a new hobby. Nothing takes your mind off of the pain and sadness of being left with an empty nest than doing something fun and exciting for yourself. 

Most parents don’t have the extra hours in the day to pursue individual hobbies and outside interests. With household chores and raising children, on top of heavy work schedules, all these responsibilities can contribute to feeling like you may have missed out on life.

Here are some ways you can keep yourself busy now that you have all this newfound free time:

  • Take up yoga
  • Learn to dance
  • Pick up knitting, embroidery, or another craft
  • Start an online video channel
  • Travel to new places

2. Brush up on technology

Most middle-aged folks may feel left in the dark when it comes to using technology. If this is you, enroll in online classes to help you learn how to use all of the most popular online apps that are currently trending.

You might get lucky and kick start a new career or side-income hustle. Here are five of the more popular social media apps today that may bring you hours of fun and add joy back into your life, like YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media services.

3. Plan a visit

If none of the above piques your interest and your left wondering how long does grief last, pack your bags and go visit your children.

Sometimes the best cure for your blues is to see your children in person so you can hug them and hold them close. They may not be super thrilled to see you so soon after they’ve moved out. But if it comforts you and eases some of the pain, a quick trip never hurts. Just make sure to check in with them.

4. Go on a trip

Let’s just assume for a moment that the planned visit doesn’t work out for whatever reason. At that point, there’s nothing to stop you from keeping things moving forward. Take that already packed bag and make a weekend trip out of it.

You don’t have to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Just a quick trip a couple of hours away to a mountain range or national park may do the trick and lift your spirits.

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How to Deal With an Empty Nest After Your Child Dies

Finding yourself with an empty nest after the loss of your child is so much more than having to deal with the typical empty nest syndrome described above. When you plan for your children’s eventual moving out, it’s because you understand the need for them to grow up and expand their wings. While it hurts to see them go, your heart has been preparing for this moment all of their lives. 

When you have a child that dies, it tears your heart apart in ways that can never be fully mended. Parents who’ve lost a child tend to deal with more serious issues related to empty nest syndrome. They may be more prone to falling into depression, having marital issues, going into an identity crisis, and experiencing a deep sorrow that doesn’t completely resolve with time.

Below are some tips to help you cope with your loss, or teach you how to help a grieving parent deal with the death of their child. 

4. Allow yourself time to grieve

Having a child die is one of the most painful experiences anyone can ever go through. When the death of your child results in an empty nest, the pain is compounded by their sudden loss.

When a child leaves the home after reaching adulthood, the change is anticipated and even looked forward to. When your child dies, so does the hope of the lifelong moments you were hoping to share with them.

To help with this sudden loss and the resulting grief, consider reading books about losing a child or seeking therapy. In some cases, grief counseling along with couples therapy can be helpful. 

5. Seek support

Expect that your relationship with your spouse will be tested in unimaginable ways following the loss of a child. It’s natural for a breakdown in your relationship to occur when you’re both dealing with grief and loss in our ways.

When a child dies, it has the potential to either strengthen the bond with your partner or cause you two to strain and break your connection. As you learn to cope with your grief you’ll also have to learn your new roles and identities about the death of your child. Seek outside support when needed.

6. Reconnect with your partner

Finding ways to reconnect with your partner after the death of a child is crucial to the survival of your relationship. You will both have experienced a debilitating loss that will take months, if not years to recover from.

No one is better equipped to understand what the other is going through than the two of you. Seeking solace in each other during this time will take strength, determination, lots of love, and compassion. 

7. Honor your child who died

Honoring your child’s life as you learn to cope with your grief will help alleviate some of the pain of losing them.

Consider dedicating an area of your home or garden in their honor where you can be alone with your thoughts. Both you and your partner can use this as your special place to retreat to when you need time away from it all to process your grief. 

How to Deal With an Empty Nest As a Single Parent

Being a single parent can always present a unique set of challenges. Experiencing the loss of your child is perhaps one of the worst things to have to go through alone. There are ways in which you can overcome your grief by having the support of others to help you along the way. 

8. Call upon your village

You may have heard that it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s that same village that will be needed to provide love, support, and care for you when tragedy strikes.

Ask for help when you need that extra support as you are dealing with your loss. If you truly are alone, reach out to others through social media and let them know what you’re going through. Most people are willing to lend an ear and offer support even to strangers.

9. Foster a pet

Fostering a pet can bring love and joy into your life when you need it most. They can provide companionship to you when you’re at your lowest and in return, they may develop a bond based on trust with you as you take care of them.

Pets can comfort you, while you experience new ways to share love with a furry friend. The bond you form with a pet is unconditional and they’ll likely lift your spirits in ways you never thought possible.

An Empty Nest is Not an Empty Heart 

Always remember that there’s room in your heart to give love and to be loved. An empty nest may represent painful times in your life, but it doesn’t always have to be this way. Find ways to move forward and allow for new experiences to fill your life with joy.

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