Empty Nest Syndrome: Who It Impacts and How to Survive

By: Ben McEachen

Janet Evans had heard about “empty nest syndrome“, where parents feel loss, grief and despair when adult children leave home and she did not think she was the sort of person this would happen to.

So she was not prepared when it suddenly arrived on her own doorstep.

“Literally, he was there one day and gone the next,” Janet said about her son in an interview.

During one of the toughest restriction periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, Janet and her adult son spoke about the incoming limit upon wedding guests.

Janet actually made the suggestion that her son could bring forward his wedding – to the next day.

“They took my advice and turned it around in eight hours,” Janet said. “The day after [the wedding], I went into his room… And it was like having a limb severed.

“I’ve never had a limb severed but it was like a piece of me had gone out the door at the same time he did.”

This feeling of loss continued and deepened for Janet, who never had been opposed to her son eventually moving out. She gradually diagnosed herself with empty nest syndrome, an affliction Janet believes is experienced by many more parents than is discussed.

Is Empty Nest Syndrome a Medical Condition?

Wanting to help break down any stigma or taboo around this subject, and offer support, Janet wrote Empty Next with relationship therapist Dr Amelia Haines.

Although empty nest syndrome is not a medically diagnosed condition, as Amelia said in an interview, it is real and encountered differently by everyone.

“Like pretty much anything in life, there is a spectrum,” Amelia said. “With any kind of loss or grief, some people suffer from it extremely… while other people come through it [as if they are] swimming.

“Not just floating or quietly drowning, they are actually swimming through the event itself.”

Amelia said it was uncommon, though, for people to present to a doctor or therapist if they think they have empty nest syndrome.

Such an underrepresentation of what Janet and Amelia are convinced is a widespread issue prompted Empty Next.

Tips for Dealing With an “Uncool” Syndrome

Alongside Janet’s personal story and the experiences of others are Amelia’s professional insights and practical recommendations about preparing for, or overcoming, empty nest syndrome.

Empty Next provides tips for the “inward” and “outward” parts of your life, to address the physical and spiritual challenges being faced.

Key suggestions to improve your everyday handling of empty nest syndrome include, according to Amelia: “The usual suspects – diet, sleep, exercise – but also doing something that you find humorous”.

“Laughing is actually helpful in every situation like this,” she said.

Janet’s own Christian faith also figures in Empty Next‘s candid conversation about the most “uncool” mental health challenge anyone can have (according to Janet and Amelia).

“It’s almost a ‘selfish’ syndrome,” Janet said about a perspective on empty nest syndrome she wants to combat.

“At the very time you are supposed to be happy for your child – and, actually, you are – but you are just missing that person and relationship. Often you don’t even want to tell them; you don’t want to burden them with how you are feeling.”

Janet and Amelia want to stop the silence and promote awareness, understanding and sharing about a condition that may come close to home. Closer than you might have thought, as Janet confronted.

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

Feature image: Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash