Getting Ready for What Comes Next--Beyond the Empty Nest

August 26, 2013

As you can imagine, the past few days—without our son—have been…different. Even though I looked forward to this day, planned for it, prepared for it, I underestimated the impact of that empty bedroom. That bedroom that still smells like him….

OK, enough of that.

For more than 19 years, Nick has been my first priority in most things, and suddenly—pfft—he’s gone. I’m not feeding, clothing or supervising him. Now if he sleeps in and misses class or lives like a slob in his dorm, I don’t have to do anything about it! It’s time to finish letting go, a process that started when he climbed, crying, out of the car to go to his first day of preschool.

Just as in any life transition, I expected a period of adjustment. Here are some things I’m finding helpful in my transition—you might also find them helpful during a transition of your own:
  • Scheduling things to look forward to—lunch with a friend, date night, a day off.  
  • Keeping busy with my normal routine, and even throwing in a few extra activities. That way I don’t have time to sit and mope.
  • Allowing myself to feel sad or lonely when those feelings come over me. I acknowledge my feelings, then let them go. Soon enough, more positive emotions replace these negative ones as I revel in not having so much responsibility for another person.
  • Not concentrating on the full scope of the change (he’s gone—maybe forever!), but enjoying the smaller, positive details (the kitchen is so clean after dinner!).
  • Talking with those who are going through or have recently gone through the same change, including my husband. I have several close friends whose children have left home for college, and I ran into a volunteer at my library bookstore who just took her daughter to college last week. We spent a few moments comparing what situations made us teary-eyed before wishing each other luck with the transition.

Like so many life changes, attitude makes a huge difference, and here I’m on solid ground. I’m mostly excited about what’s happening right now. I want my son to grow up and be on his own—that has always been my goal, and the fact that he is already quite independent is a credit to us. I’m looking forward to the extra time, emotional and physical energy I’ll be able to devote to other interests—to my husband, my writing, my horse, even my house. I’m choosing to see this as a time of exploration, adventure and rebirth. I’m eager to see what comes next.

What do you do to cope with the big transitions in life?

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  1. I'd like to add one more thing to your list...pause and savor a job well done! You guys got him this far—a guy ready for college, independent to boot and ready to take on the world!

    That's no small accomplishment and it should be celebrated!

  2. You're right--in fact, that was what one of the presenters told us at our family orientation: we are the ones who got our kids into college, so we are the ones who should take credit for it. Now I'm patting myself on the back, and Larry too!

  3. Sounds like you've got a lot of helpful things on your list. Good job!!

  4. Thanks, Cheryl. You've been through this yourself, so it's nice to know that so much good stuff awaits.