You can’t believe it. Your last child has left home to go to college, pursue a burning interest, or find their way in the world. Your home is eerily quiet. The list of commitments on your time dwindles. Your relationship with your children has, in part, defined who you are. Consequently, you may find yourself rethinking how you will show up in the world. How will you restructure your identity after the empty nest? In our Evanston/Chicago-area counseling practice, we help empty-nesting women discover their priorities, reestablish social connections with their friends, and ignite relationships with their partners.
Grieving, an Important Step with Therapy
Many articles about women experiencing the empty nest skip right to the “go out and live your best life” step. Yet, you might be feeling anxiety or depression and not quite ready to go there. You may have spent much of the past few years focused on your children and their lives. You might benefit from a pause to honor that era of your life.
Since grief can be heavy, you might have some fear surrounding it. You would love nothing more than to have fun and re-create your life. You’d like to, but you can’t move on. You linger at the door of your child’s room, and you remember…..the meltdowns, the bedtime books and goodnight kisses, the slammed doors, the late-night talks, having “the” talk. Columnist Charles Blow expresses his grief like this: “Letting go is hard for me to do, I must let go, but my heart feels hollow. I can’t imagine me without them.”
Grieve for as long as you need and in the way that will best help you. Listen to your heart.
Dealing with grief is not a dead end, but a passage. We would love to work through these feelings with you. We hope that you will see the anxiety and sadness as a catalyst for redefining your life ahead.
One Woman’s Journey of Grieving the Empty Nest
Laura Munson chose to walk through the grief of the empty nest like “sitting shiva.” Shiva is a Hebrew word meaning “seven.” It refers to the seven days of formalized mourning by the immediate family of the deceased. She sat in every chair in her home and mourned “piano lessons and guitar lessons and school plays and orchestra concerts and soccer games and track meets and football games and baseball, baseball, baseball.” She spent the week in quiet. Piece by piece, she let go of that phase of being a mother to her children. If you would like to learn more about her journey, you can read more about it here.
Counseling Can Help You Move Beyond the Sadness and Anxiety of Your Empty Nest
The same thought stated in many commencement addresses, is very apt here. The empty nest is not just an ending but a very important beginning. As a result, this time in your life is a golden moment to say, “Yes!” to things that would not have been possible as you carpooled kids to their activities or guided them through their geometry homework.
Melissa T. Schulz penned the book From Mom to Me Again. In this article, she advises women to look at the women they admire. Mother Teresa? Michelle Obama? Brené Brown? She coaches women to “think of her as your role model.” Which of their attributes would you like to grow in your life? “While you’re at it, toss in some of that energy and enthusiasm you reserved for your child over these many years and sprinkle it like fairy dust all over yourself.”
Get in touch with the woman you were before having your children. What excited you? What passions lit you up? Writing? Social justice work? Traveling? Dancing? Rediscover these activities on your terms.
We are aware that you might not have the luxury of time and finances available for this time of introspection. You might be working full-time to pay for college tuition! Yet, find a way within your resources of time and money to do some of this exploring. This excavation of who you are and building who you want to be will benefit you greatly.
Rekindle Relationships through Counseling
While you raised your children, did you find that you were so focused on them and their well-being, that you drifted away from your partner? Did that relationship become secondary in your mind and heart? In this empty nest time would you like to awaken the love in that relationship?
Perhaps, your deep friendships also suffered during this time. As a result, you may feel that there is not anyone close to you to whom you can turn. We want to share with you that you can rebuild your life. In addition to creating a new spark with your partner, you can work to establish lasting friendship connections. Are you ready to release the sadness and create new energy and purpose in your life?
If you don’t know how to start on the path of reinvention, we are here for you. We will work with you to create new thinking and behavior patterns that can help you fill your life with more joy. If you would like a sojourner through the grief, we would be honored to accompany you. Reach out to us today and book your first counseling session in Evanston, Chicago, or Illinois.