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Parenthood can be quite a roller coaster ride. You may, at times, wish to have your life back. You’ll reminisce about the freedom you enjoyed before having kids. I wonder at times what exactly I did with the extra time I must have had before I had children.  Then, empty nest syndrome snaps you back into reality. The grief parents feel when their children move out is a powerful reminder of how deep this bond can be.

Empty nest depression isn’t a clinical diagnosis, but the pain and confusion it can provoke are serious. You miss your children, and, of course, you worry about them. At the same time, you may feel more than a little lost, and you wonder: Now what?

Common Signs of Empty Nest Depression
  • Loneliness: Your home will feel much emptier and quieter. You may sometimes wake up to suddenly be reminded that, yes, your children are no longer living with you.
  • Worry: What are they doing right now? Are they safe? Will they thrive? What haven’t they called?
  • Lack of Purpose: This feeling is temporary, but, let’s face it, parenting is a full-time job. How will you fill this void?
  • Grief: Empty nest depression is a form of loss. Like all losses, it requires mourning.
Are Some Parents Most Susceptible to Empty Nest Depression?

Generally speaking, this can be true. For example:

  • Single parents will feel the emptiness more than others.
  • Helicopter and/or stay-at-home parents have a hard time giving their children space.
  • Couples having marital strife are suddenly left without the “stay together for the kids” excuse.

However, empty nest depression can be a challenge for every parent. Fortunately, there are self-help steps you can take to smooth out the process.

3 Tips For Dealing With Empty Nest Depression
  1. Feel What You Need to Feel

Acknowledge your grief. Let yourself cry. Feel what you need to feel. Like any form of bereavement, there is no linear path to travel. Honor you’re feeling while cutting yourself some slack. This is a new experience for you, so it will require time to find a new rhythm.

  1. Remember That Parenting is Still Needed

Your job is not done. You don’t stop being a parent just because your children don’t live under the same roof as you. “Parent” is a powerful identity, but there is absolutely no need to surrender it. Yes, your job description has changed, but you can find satisfaction in being more of a mentor than a care taker.

  1. Re-Imagine Your Life!

Here’s where the real possibilities exist. Let’s talk about a few:

  • If you have a partner, this is the ideal time to rekindle and re-imagine. For starters, accept that it will be a little tricky to suddenly adjust to so much alone time. But this is a golden opportunity to reinvent your relationship and find new ways to keep your bond strong.
  • Renovate, redecorate, and repair. What have you been waiting to do in your home that you can now make happen?
  • You now have the time and energy to develop some new interests and hobbies. Go back to school. Join a gym. Focus on a creative project. Get back into an old hobby that’s fallen by the wayside.
  • Now, you can say “yes” to social invitations. Reconnect with old friends. Make new friends. Host a dinner party. Take a weekend trip. Your calendar has a whole lot more open space on it.
Ask For Help

Empty nest syndrome may not be a diagnosis, but the depression it can cause is nothing to shrug off. If you discover that you just can’t make peace with this transition, help is available. Connecting with a therapist is an excellent option for adjusting and adapting to life’s big changes.

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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret which offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.