As you know, my beautiful daughter Alyssa has moved to the other side of the galaxy to begin a new job and new life…without me.
Did that sound too loud? I didn’t mean it to sound loud, but I’m going through a bit of an emotional upheaval right now.
So before you launch into, “She’s never really without you” or “She’s only as far as the phone or Skype,” let me assure you that without Alyssa walking in the door each night after work, kissing me goodnight, and resting her head on a pillow in her room, she is in a life without me.
AND before you say, “This is normal” and “It will get better,” I already know it is normal for children to leave home. I never thought, however, she would move so far away with the intention of it being a permanent location. THAT was a bit of a shock, but the emotions I feel are not a shock at all. Nope, not a shock at all. It took forever before I was able to have Alyssa so after being without a child for so long and thinking that I was going to be childless forever, I comforted myself back then by saying, “At least I won’t have to dread the day my child leaves the nest,” but then I got pregnant and now my child has left the nest.
The past few weeks have not been easy. In all honesty, some days I have cried the whole day. My face, well, my face lately is red, swollen and splotchy more often than it looks normal. I don’t feel the least bit ashamed that I’ve cried so much, nor do I care what anyone thinks about it. I’m grieving and THAT is also normal with empty nest syndrome.
What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of sadness, depression and grief experienced by parents after their children leave their childhood homes. For many parents, this occurs when their child goes to college or gets married.
Women are more likely than men to be affected and stay-at-home mothers are affected even more because:
- Women are often going through menopause as the same time as their children leave home.
- A stay-at-home mother does not have that daily outlet where she can escape the loneliness of the missing child in the home.
- Women who identify first as a mother, tend not to have as much of a “self” to help get through the loss.
Basically, if you are the type of mother I have been AND you have let the “self” part of you slide away like I have AND you are going through menopause meaning that the likelihood of having another child is nearly non-existent, then you are going to experience a traumatic and very lonely time when your last child leaves home.
Yeah, I’m feeling it and choking back the tears as best as I can.
Symptoms Of Empty Nest Syndrome
There are four basic symptoms of empty nest syndrome:
- Identity Crisis
- Marital Conflicts
I guess I should be thankful that I’m not suffering all four of the main symptoms of empty nest syndrome. I’m not an alcoholic and since I’m not married, I have no marital conflicts, but I am depressed and suffering from an identity crisis.
With Alyssa gone from home, I feel that my youthfulness is gone. I actually panicked and wondered if it were at all possible for me to have another baby. Yeah, really. See how messed up I’ve been?
Instead of seeing this as a new beginning for me, I totally view it as an end. A sad, lonely end where I have become useless and totally not needed. I have no value anymore.
What To Do If You Are Experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome
Psychologists say that now is the time parents who are experiencing empty nest syndrome need to:
- Rediscover personal interests/hobbies
- Put the spark back in their marriage/relationships or begin dating
- Treat yourself to things and experiences
- Acknowledge your grief and be kind to yourself
- Keep a journal
- Talk about your feelings to a good friend, spouse, partner, therapist
Things You Worry About Or Experience With Empty Nest Syndrome
Having Alyssa not live here has been a HUGE adjustment for me in a million little things as well as the big ones. So when your children leave home, there are some common feelings that many parents experience:
- Loss Of Companionship – Not that parents who remain under the same roof and raise their children aren’t close to them, but a single mother or a mother of just one child has a different bond with her child. On top of that, I was completely absorbed in motherhood and found it TOTALLY fulfilling. One of the great things about staying home this past year is that I have been able to see Alyssa A LOT. Being unemployed in that aspect has been a mixed blessing. Alyssa is SO FUN to be with and I always enjoyed her company. I miss her companionship because she really did brighten my day.
- Worry About Child’s Safety – Not only isn’t Alyssa just down the street, she’s nearly 3,000 miles away and I can’t protect her while being this far.
- When She Gets Sick – I won’t be able to run pick up a prescription, lemons, cough drops or chicken broth when Alyssa gets sick. If she throws up, I can’t wet the cloth to put on her head. I simply won’t be able to dote on my sick child. I worry whether she’ll be okay when she has to do it herself.
- A New Relationship – In many ways I think Alyssa and I were already peer like friends before she left home, but moving far away means we have to create a totally different kind of relationship if we are to remain close.
- Some People Criticize You For Not Being Overjoyed – I’ve had quite a few people condemn me for crying and being so sad. They say things like, “Don’t you want Alyssa to be happy?” and “Don’t you think you’re being really selfish?” I must say, I’m not a violent person, but I felt like punching them in the nose. Of course I want her happy! No I’m not being overly selfish! I’m grieving a loss! This is one of those times people need to learn compassion and how to be kind to parents who are sad.
- Was I A Good Enough Parent? – At this point, it is too late if you didn’t parent your child properly. Although I think I was a good mother, I wasn’t perfect. Although I enjoyed all the things that many think are boring and restrictive about being a mother, I wasn’t perfect. I worry that maybe I forgot to teach her something really important or that I didn’t emphasize something enough or that I just didn’t give enough of myself. Well, actually, I think I ignored being “myself” too often which is why I feel so lost right now.
The kitchen sink remains empty of dishes.
Alyssa’s bathroom is still spotless from when I cleaned it the day after she left home.
There’s never a pile with Alyssa’s lunch bag, shoes, other bag, shoes or boots, sunglasses, cell phone and various other items in the floor of the living room.
I don’t have to buy a billion eggs.
Alyssa doesn’t call me to ask that I cook a whole chicken and divide it in Mason jars for her lunches.
Alyssa’s car isn’t parked out front.
I never find the washing machine over stuffed with Alyssa’s clothes.
Bella no longer finds Alyssa’s underwear on the floor to confiscate and hide in her little house.
I don’t get to kiss my sweet daughter goodnight or see her off to work.
There is an eerie tangible silence that screams, “SHE’S GONE!”
As she was leaving, I said to Alyssa, “I just haven’t had enough time with you. I’m going to miss you so badly,” to which she replied, “You’ve had me 22 years!”
I said, “It wasn’t enough! Even if it was 122 years, it still wouldn’t be enough.”
Alyssa hugged me tight and said she loved me.
Yeah, I’m crying. How could I write this post and not cry? I’m tender-hearted and I have been a devoted mother. I miss being needed. I’m sure I will survive, but it’s going to take me awhile to cope with this change. It just feels like all the color has been drained from my life.