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Empty Nest Syndrome

Sylvia walks into Beth's room and sits down on the bed. There, piled up on the pillows are all the stuffed animals that she had given her over the years. Fluffy bunny was given to her daughter on her first Easter. He looks at her now with a sad look in his eyes, or so it seems to her. She picks him up and hugs him to her breast, and it somehow makes her feel close to her daughter. Sylvia looks around the room at the trophies that her daughter received for her many academic achievements. Beth always was smart in school, and now she is gone to college, to a new life without her. The memories come flooding back: the day she brought Beth home from the hospital, she was so tiny; the first day of kindergarten, she felt lost then too, but not this bad; and the first time she went out on a date. It seemed like yesterday. Sylvia begins to cry.

Sylvia is a fictitious character, but the sadness and emptiness that can accompany a child leaving home for the first time is real. It is called the Empty Nest Syndrome, and can be devastating for a parent. Even though it can affect both parents, more times than not, it is the mother who suddenly finds herself with these feelings of being lost and alone. The affects can vary, depending on different factors. For instance, when the mother is divorced and living alone, it can be particularly difficult. When a mother has been a stay at home mom, she might feel that life is over, that she has no purpose in living. In severe cases, when depression is severe or last a long time, counseling may be needed.

What some people don't realize is that Empty Nest Syndrome actually begins sometime during the high school years. Our children become more independent and begin to make important decisions for themselves, and their future. We begin to miss the children they once were.

I am reminded of a time when my youngest daughter was in high school. At the beginning of the school year, I went to Wal-Mart, and saw a lot of young mothers buying school supplies for their elementary aged children. I found myself wanting to buy colors and paste and scissors and one of those little cardboard boxes they had to have to put it all in. Remember those? One year, around Valentine's Day, my youngest daughter wanted me to buy a box of Valentine's Day cards, (Winnie the Pooh, I think), to give to her friends just for fun. She was in high school then too. I don't think she ever knew how happy I was to do it! It's funny the things we do miss.

When our children are in high school, they begin to form new friendships, and start going out on weekends. We worry about so many things during this time, and rightfully so. With drugs and alcohol abuse at an all time high, it is a frightening time for parents. While we must be diligent in keeping the lines of communication open, we must also remember that our children need some privacy too. As much as we wish they would tell us everything, the fact is, they will not. We have to respect that. All we can really do is let them know that we are there for them, no matter what.

When the time does come that our children marry or graduate from high school and leave for college, it can be difficult to deal with the emotions that we feel. We try to hide our sadness from others because these events in a child's life are supposed to be happy occasions. While we are happy for our children, we are also feeling a deep sense of loss. We have to remember that these feelings are perfectly normal, and not be afraid to seek out comfort from friends and family.

Even though this time in a mother's life can be a difficult time, it can also be a time of refreshing and a time for new beginnings. It can be a time of reflection, and a time to rejoice for a job well done.

Did you ever have dreams that you put on the back burner, and said to yourself, "Maybe when the kids are grown?" Now is the time to bring those dreams out, brush them off, and move forward. Maybe you had always thought about going back to school or starting a business. Whatever it is, know that it is never to late. Remember, Moses was 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Ever wanted to try your hand at painting? Or maybe you always wanted to start writing. Maybe now is a good time to start a journal. What are you particularly good at? Turn it into an extra source of income. There are many things that you can do to alleviate the feelings of sadness and loneliness.

I am reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:4, which says, " A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." Let this be your time to laugh and your time to dance.

About the Author
Ruth Rusk is a Transitional Life Coach and a writer. She graduated from the Christian Coaching Institute and is a member of Coachville and the Interntional Association of Coaches. Although her passion is working with Empty Nesters, Ruth works with people from all walks of life who are going through difficult changes and are looking for a more satisfying and meaningful life. For more information about coaching, email her at

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