The empty nest marriage syndrome is that empty feeling parents experience just after the last child has moved away. It can include moments of regret or guilt about how they could have done things differently to raise their children.
They must face the reality that one phase of their lives is now over, and they must cope with finding meaning in what will be their years alone. If the parents can work their way through the empty nest marriage syndrome, there are ways to cope with feelings and make those later years meaningful.
1. Feelings of loss: This is natural when you must realize that you are no longer a family together in the same house. You’ve spent years raising and nurturing your children, only to see them grow up and put you aside to find their own lives. You must also realize that you’ve done your job as a parent as well as you could, and turn those feelings of loss into ones of pride in your accomplishment.
2. Feelings of regret: After the children go their own way, parents can’t avoid the pangs of guilt. They say to themselves and to each other such thoughts as: We should have been more strict with them. Or, we should have been more lenient with them.
3. Feelings of anger: It’s tough on parents who find, almost overnight, that the dependent child has suddenly become independent and no longer needs parental advice and guidance. You can no longer control the child’s behavior, and there are things happening without your approval. When the child decides to move out, you can’t help feeling some anger that you’ve been cast aside.
4. Feelings of loneliness: The empty nest syndrome may hit hardest when you come home one day after work or shopping trip and find the house empty. The children may have moved out months ago, but at that moment the loneliness suddenly seems overwhelming.
How can you cope with that empty feeling? The only way is to continue living your own life, while filling in the now-available hours with other activities. You can take on a volunteer job, find some meaningful work, do travels you had to postpone while raising your family or fill your time with any number of enjoyable things to do.
5. Feelings for your spouse: We’re alone after two decades of raising our children, how do we relate to each other now? Maybe we can’t go back to our early relationship before the kids arrived, but we can find comfort and companionship in each other. We’ll have our memories, but we’ll also be able to face our new lives in positive ways.
The empty nest marriage syndrome happens to all parents when their children take wing and fly away to their own new lives. Coping with their new lives will be a challenge, but it can also be a time when they can find different kinds of happiness and fulfillment together.