When the last of your offspring has left home, the adjustment can be difficult. This may be particularly so if you have focused the majority of your time and energy on raising your children, or if you’re a single parent and now find yourself alone.
Feelings of emptiness may be profound, and challenging to overcome.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are some suggestions that can help.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
- Recognize that it will take time to adjust to this new phase of life. Try not to dwell on the past, as it will keep you from moving forward.
- Prepare a list of things to do when you find yourself feeling lost or blue. Include small indulgences to give you a lift as well as tasks or projects that will give you a sense of satisfaction (de-cluttering your home, for example).
- Look after your health. Eat nutritious meals, get adequate rest and exercise regularly. This is a good time to take that Pilates class or join a gym. In addition to safeguarding your physical health, these measures will also help ward off depression.
- Keep a positive attitude about life and aging, and associate with people who have a similar outlook.
NURTURE YOUR SPIRIT
- Write down your thoughts, feelings and experiences, chronicling your journey of self-discovery and growth.
- Do things that centre you and bring inner peace, such as meditating, listening to music or spending time in nature.
- Do things that provide you with meaning and purpose, such as writing a family history, getting a pet or helping an ill or elderly neighbour.
- Think back to former pastimes that fell away once you had a family, and revive one that still holds appeal.
- Take up something new – for example, gourmet cooking, sculpting or modern jazz.
- Get involved in your community. Volunteer for a neighbourhood association, charitable or environmental cause, animal shelter or political campaign. Along the way you might make new friends. If you miss being around young people, volunteer at a local school or community centre.
- Cultivate some solitary pastimes. Learn to enjoy your own company.
- If you have been out of the work force while raising your family, look for a job.
- Return to school for a certificate or diploma, or perhaps even a degree.
- Or just take some courses here and there for personal interest. Check out the offerings from the local school board’s adult education centre as well as post-secondary institutions. Don’t forget the option of distance education.
- If you are married, go on regular dates with your spouse. Get creative, trying new activities and types of food, or revisit activities from your courting years. Take turns doing the planning. This is a good chance to step up the intimacy and generate some romance and excitement.
- Plan some trips, with your spouse or friends, or perhaps on your own or with a tour group, depending on your situation and preferences.
- Keep in touch with your offspring through modern technology. Learn to become comfortable with the communication methods they favour, such as texting and Skyping. Just don’t overdo it.
- Take the initiative in calling friends and relatives to catch up. Instead of waiting for invitations, extend them.
- If you don’t feel you’re adjusting well to your new circumstances, seek support from a counsellor.
- Whether or not you anticipated being an empty nester at this point in your life, the reality may initially seem unsettling. But with time, patience and trust in your resilience, you will successfully adapt and find yourself growing and enjoying life in ways you never imagined.