Lately, I’ve been talking with clients and friends who’ve been sharing their varied emotions as kids graduate from high school, college, get married, or move away.
Empty nest is that phase of life when we’re happy and proud that our kids are becoming independent adults while simultaneously experiencing feelings of loss and sadness.
First, acknowledge yourself for a parenting job well done. Being a parent is rewarding and it’s one of the most noble and toughest jobs on the planet.
Second, be gentle and patient with yourself. The fact is you’re going through a major life transition. It’s normal to feel a wide array of emotions during times like this. You may experience feelings of joy, pride, love, and excitement along with feelings of sadness, grief, or even dread. Your life is changing. The key to moving through this phase with ease and grace is to accept that it’s happening and acknowledge your feelings.
Basic self-care habits such as daily exercise, proper rest, spending quality time with family and friends, and eating a well-balanced and healthful diet will support you well during this time.
I highly recommend “stacking your wins” each day. Begin each morning with 10-30 minutes of time for journaling, meditating, writing a note of gratitude to someone, or taking a quiet walk in nature. Get fresh air and exercise early in the day whenever possible. Drink plenty of water and enjoy a well-balanced breakfast such as a green smoothie or a veggie omelet. This time of self-care will allow yourself the space to experience and acknowledge your feelings away from the hustle and bustle of daily life so they don’t become overwhelming. You’ll be physically and emotionally stronger. “Stacking your wins” sets you and your day up for success.
By accepting and acknowledging your feelings AND taking excellent care of yourself you should find any hints of depression or sadness lifting. You may find that you’re excited by new hobbies, volunteering or career opportunities, traveling or are simply looking forward to the freedom that this phase of life brings. Life is an adventure. A door has closed – but a new one is opening.
(This article was first published in the September 2015 issue of Sunsets at the Bluffs & Palisades magazine.)