The “Empty Nest”

I was talking to someone yesterday and my heart was breaking for her.  Her youngest daughter is graduating this year and heading off to college in the fall.  Her oldest son left two years ago so for the first time, she’ll be sans kids to mother.

I went through the same thing and didn’t know what to say so I told her I felt the same thing.  She was quietly crying.  She said “really?”  She said “nobody seems to understand what I’m going through.”  I could see her trying to hide her emotions.  I could see her trying to hide the big lump in her throat and I very well remember when it was me trying to hide the big lump in my throat anytime I though about it. 

When I was going through it everyone said to me “this should be the happiest time of your life,” “now you can do whatever you want to.”  Well, for all their valuable information, I was doing what I wanted.  All I ever wanted in my life was being a mother and now all my work was just, I dunno…done!  HUH???  It just wasn’t that simple to me and so I just quit trying to talk to anyone.  How could I be the only one that I knew who felt this way?  Everyone thought my life would all of a sudden be what?  A great big party???

It took me a lot of years and pain to get through that time and that is another post in itself but I did make it.  It was hard.  So I did all I could and I told her if she ever wanted to talk, I’d be around and she could feel free to contact me and we’d meet for coffee.  I remember that last summer I had with Toby and Sue before they both took off in different directions and Jason and Nikki moved to CA… was pure HELL and it won’t be anything I’ll soon forget so I’ll be there to help maybe someone who might turn into a better friend.

I’m not that personally involved with this person so if I could see it, how can her friends and family not see it and help her????  Why do people say such insensitive things when your obviously in so much pain?

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23 Responses to The “Empty Nest”

  1. Tessa says:

    You are so sweet Joy! I think it is really hard for some people to give the right advice unless they have been there. And some people are just too wrapped up in their own things (self-centered), and others just don’t have that sympathetic nature.

    My best friend is amazing! So far, I have gone through most life transitions before her, yet she always knows what to say in times of need! She is an aged soul I say because she is very wise about things she hasn’t even experienced! But people like her are far and few between.

  2. Tessa says:

    I know it has been very, very hard for my mom also! I feel bad at times because I know it hurts her, but she is finding a new way. I can see how hard that must be, especially for a stay at home mom. Life transitions and big changes are always so hard- even graduating from high school to marriage to moving out of state to becoming a parent to this!

  3. nikki says:

    You know Jason jokes around all the time about Bailey wanting to get out of here and go to college out of state. I always say NO WAY!! And I mean that. He will be a gopher!! I know it!! And he knows how I feel and he will respect that…right? I pray to God he will. I would support him in any decision, but would not be very happy if he decides to leave. And that goes for even leaving the house! Call me crazy but I don’t EVER want him leaving, I know that’s selfish of me. But he’s my only one and I feel like my life started when I had him and I’m not really looking forward to life with him out of the house. People think I’m crazy because I can’t wait for school to be out and have the kids with me all the time. That’s the fun part of life I say. I don’t want any of them to grow up. I feel for this lady and hope her family will see that to her, it’s not about being able to PARTY it’s about the only life she has known for probably a good 20 years is over!!!

  4. nikki says:

    If her family can’t see that than at least she has you. I don’t know how close you are to her but even so, you are someone who knows how she feels and sometimes that right there is good enough. Just to know you are not alone. Who knows you both may end up getting a great friendship out of it.

  5. Tessa says:

    That is great Nikki that you are so crazy in love lol ! I cannot imagine- I will probably feel like my life has just started too! But I know for my mom, the hard time of letting go started in the teenage years! So, that is when Bailey may try to be gone a lot and want to be with friends the most. Thats when you’ll need tap into your self interests and maybe join things.

    That’s true, to know just one person that knows how you feel is enough.

  6. Joy says:

    @Tessa and Nikki, I don’t know this woman well at all. She is just someone I see once in a while. That’s why I felt so bad for her. All I did was ask her about graduation. I could see immediately that something was very wrong with her. She tried not crying several times and made a point of it to turn her head and pretend she was looking at something else. I wanted to hug her but like I said, I just don’t know her that well and I just don’t do that sort of thing. All I know is when I tried 85775 million times to talk to someone when this was happening to me, everyone diminished my feelings and what I felt. NOBODY understood. So I didn’t talk about it anymore, I turned my pain inside myself because I didn’t have anyone and we all know what happened to me!!

    I’m just wondering if someone who doesn’t know her well can see this, how can people who do know her, not see this pain she’s in? And why do people pooh, pooh everything? Make someone feel stupid for the way they feel?

    I do plan on calling her and seeing her more.

  7. Tessa says:

    This seems like it must be one of the hardest life transitions, and while you need family/friends support, I think it’s mostly got to come from within you. I know it’s got to be so hard to reach out to people, so that is good you will reach out to this lady. I think it’s so important to join things that interest you, take up hobbies and groups where you can met supportive people, to take away some of the loneliness and to start a new life.
    I really wish my mom would do this! And seeing what my mom has gone through, I know that is what I will do.

  8. Tessa says:

    i am sorry people reacted to you like that Joy and that no one knew how you felt!! I am glad you are a happy Grandma now :()

  9. nikki says:

    Tessa- you can’t put Bailey and teenage years in the same sentence it’ll make me cry:( I’m a HUGE baby!!
    Joy- I think sometimes people say things like, oh it’ll be okay, now you can start your own life, because it’ll make them feel better as if that will magically make her okay. She needs to know it’s okay to be sad and don’t listen to everyone else. I know, easier said that done right? They are being insensitive and not even realizing it I’m sure.

  10. candi says:

    My children are young as well, and i cannot wait for school to be out either i want my kids home with me. I do not want my children to grow up, but it is going to happen my first child is now 9 and she is getting so big, they will go off to college and i will be proud of them, i will support them for what ever they do.

  11. SKL says:

    Heh heh, you should have done like my mom and had 6 kids spaced over 16 years. She used to worry about the empty nest, now she wonders if it will ever happen! For years one kid or the other would move back in during a transition period, and my one sister still goes there every night for dinner & internet access, while another sister calls multiple times a day. Mom still does laundry for two siblings and a family friend. Is this what I have to look forward to when I’m in my 60’s?

    My girls are 40 years younger than me, so I don’t know how I will feel when they are ready to spread their wings. Right now I’m so crazy I even want to home school them (though I probably won’t). I hope my girls and I have as good a relationship as my mom and her girls, so we will always be friends after I’m no longer “the boss.” I don’t know what I would do if my girls went far from me. All of my siblings and my parents have always lived within an hour’s drive of me. I could never move away.

  12. Joy says:

    I guess what I’m trying to convey is that when someone is that down, it’s depression and if only one person would have said “it’s okay, I understand,” it would have made the biggest difference. But all anyone said to me was the way I was feeling was “wrong.” How can the way you feel be wrong?

    Also, I think this ties somewhat into my “telling other’s what to do” post and that most people want to just spout off and tell you things to “fix” the way you feel and I didn’t want anyone to tell me “how I should get over it.” I just wanted to know it was okay and with time, I would learn to adjust. All anyone seemed to do to me was make fun of me, tell me I was nuts or try to “fix” something that had to run it’s course.

  13. SKL says:

    You are right about depression. Whether it’s the empty nest or any other big change, there can be a lot of fear and disappointment and pressure inside that doesn’t show on the surface. Sometimes it happens to us, other times it doesn’t. I think that’s why it’s so hard to find someone who understands.

    Especially since it so often happens just when you have realized some of your biggest dreams. Seeing your kids off to college, bringing a new life into the world, completing an adoption of two gorgeous and healthy girls – what’s not to love about that? People fail to realize how hard transitions are, even when they are transitions to something very positive.

    When I brought my girls home (age 9mos and 12mos), I was already sleep deprived and exhausted, and my poor kids were too, and all of us were undergoing tremendous and sudden changes. I was on my own with the girls 24/7 for three months. Once in a while my sister would call and ask how things were going. If I mentioned how hard it was to orchestrate a trip to the store to buy milk she’d say “I don’t feel one bit sorry for you because you have been blessed with such beautiful babies. Just quit your job and you’ll have plenty of time. By the way, why don’t you come over Mom’s house more often?” My mom would say, “yeah, I know how it is, I had six kids. You just live through it.” My best friends would say, “are you saying you wish you didn’t adopt? I told you you’d regret losing your freedom.” Nobody just said “oh, I hope you feel better, is there anything I can do?”

    That’s one thing we could probably all stand to learn – how to just say “sorry, how can I help”?

  14. TiredMom says:

    “All I ever wanted in my life was being a mother and now all my work was just, I dunno…done! HUH??? ”

    You are never done.. Everything you taught follows your children. I don’t know about your kiddos but I pretty much talk to my mom daily now and she is still my mom in every way.. Her job still isnt finished.. I need her now more than I think I did as a teen..LOL

  15. Joy says:

    It’s a different kind of relationship though Tiredmom.

  16. jderickson says:

    Same as I T.M. I need my mom more then ever. When I was younger I knew everything. Why would I go to my parents? I’m such an emotional wreck when it comes to Bailey. Sorry I can’t help it. I was sixteen once and I don’t know how I hit!!!!! Knowing he’s not coming home to mom’s cookin’ and a kiss and a hug goodnight will drive me nuts. I can’t think about it now… Bailey’s never leaving……..

  17. TiredMom says:

    I know it is Joy.. I know.. But honestly.. My relationship with my mom is so much better now than it was when I was a kid. Its so much more to me now than it was then. We get along so much better now. And I think its so much more than it was when I was a child.. I dont know if she feels the same but she’ll tell you our relationship is much better now than i twas then.

  18. Tessa says:

    I feel the same way TiredMom- my mom is my best friend, but still my parent when I need advice or she wants to give it!

  19. Sue says:

    I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. At 18, I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and I’m pretty sure my mom was glad to see me go! She still had my brother, but even when he graduated and moved out she’s like, “he’s not moving back in!” NOW though, she’d happily let you move back in. It’s like she missed that stage of worrying about us when we first graduated, but now she’s worried. Or at least letting us all see that she’s worried.

    I will probably miss my kids dearly. Right now I like to think that I’ll be ok because I know they are going off to begin their life and spread their wings and become more independent. That said, if I am home and they are not I feel weird! Not if they’re in school (because I know they’ll be home) but if they go to sleep over at auntie’s or grandma’s and we’re at home alone. It’s like I’m missing something and the house is too quiet. I think a lot more people go through the empty nest syndrome than is known and there’s a support group for everything else so why not that? It’s a life change and those don’t always affect you the way you think.

  20. amberfireinus says:

    I have a friend who is a male 50 something year old orthodox priest. A couple of years ago both of his kids went off to college. Since he was the primary caregiver of his children (his wife is a lawyer) he went through a TERRIBLE time. He was so lost. So much of his own identity was wrapped up in his children and who his children were and raising them. He ended up having to go to therapy for a few months.

    My heart breaks for you and your friend, and every parent who goes through that.

  21. Jane says:

    Boy Joy, hey, that rhymed!! All joking aside, the more I read what you write, the more I respect you as a human being. I’m so glad I found you on wordpress. Your compassion overwhelms me.

    My mother had this really bad. When my youngest brother left she just fell apart. I think the thing that saved her was I was about to have her first grandchild and I shared him with her and it seemed to help. She also had to change habits, her hair and just little things. My dad got her a new car. We could see it and loved her and wanted to help because she’s a great mom. I can see how a lot of people wouldn’t take it seriously though. You have to pay attention to the people who are around you that you love because there are signs.

    Try and keep up with this person, you may be the only one who see’s it.

  22. Jennifer says:

    Well she could always do what my mom did…she had me!!!!

    Her youngest was graduating from high school and entering the military when she learned she was pregnant in her mid-40’s. She got to start completely over again. She said she felt so young as her friends were going through empty nest but by the time I left home 18 years later she was more than ready…she’d had children underfoot for nearly 50 years.

  23. robinrane says:

    I’m going through this right now. I tend to hate change. I have 4 children from 27-21. I had a rough time going from infant to toddler…and it’s been hard ever since.

    My baby, Emma, is in the process today of moving out! I’ve been doing a little self talk that has made me feel a bit better…”Would I rather all my adult kids still live at home? Haven’t I prepared them well? They are all doing things they love and making a life…”

    And also, I think of my little brother. He got married and moved out and a year later was diagnosised with cancer. His wife left him and he was forced to move back home. For the next 10 years my parents helped him as he journeyed through this terrible illness. They were amazingly close to him when he passed away, but I know they would have prefered he left the nest and made himself a happy life.

    Just a few thoughts…Blessings~

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