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Our Your Empty Nest Experts

Claudia Arp

Claudia Arp

Co-founder of Marriage Alive International

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Natalie Caine

Natalie Caine

Therapist, coach and author

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Dr. Ellen Neiley Ritter

Dr. Ellen Neiley Ritter

Founder of Family Transitions Coaching

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Filling Your Empty Nest

Humorist Erma Bombeck once said that empty nest parents don’t miss the work that goes along with being a parent, but rather “they’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” The day you become a spectator, you may feel it came too fast and far from ready to let your baby bird fly away into adulthood.

For some, the first 30 days of enjoying your empty nest can be an oxymoron. It’s hard to celebrate when you’re experiencing very real feelings of loss and questioning your identity. “When our kids left, there was a measure of sadness, but also a measure of trepidation,” says Sal Santonastaso, a land surveyor from Rensselaerville, NY. When his two children, Jesse and Anna, left for college, Sal and his wife, Deb, were left with many questions. He remembers thinking, “Are they going to be OK? Have I done my job well? As a land surveyor, if you make a mistake, you can make what’s called a revision. But when you raise your kids there are no revisions.”

Though you may worry about how you will move on with your life and how your kids will turn out, try to look at your first 30 days of enjoying your empty nest as an opportunity to learn about yourself, work on relationships and start a new chapter in your life.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Experts define empty nest syndrome as a collection of symptoms including sadness, loneliness and/or grief experienced by parents whose children come of age and leave home. Unfortunately, because the empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, there are few statistics on how many people are affected by it.

While researching The Happy Empty Nest: Rediscovering Love and Success After Your Kids Leave Home, author Linda Burghardt estimated that approximately 75% of the parents she spoke to suffered from some symptoms of the empty nest syndrome, even if they denied it. “After about an hour of talking with them, many admitted that they didn’t want to talk about it—it was just too painful for them,” Burghardt remembers.

These feelings are not always the result of the last child leaving the house—they often result when the first child flies the coop. This is the first sign that your role as a parent is evolving. It’s the end of an era.

Posted: 11/29/07

My last child left the nest, and is over 3000 miles away, about 3 days ago. I feel like nothing I do-making dinner, cleaning the house, etc. has any real purpose anymore. All three of my adult children are hours away. My family lives in Michigan, and we are in Windsor. I'm really in a funk right now. The silence is overwhelming. I turned to your website for some inspiration. I have a job still-five days a week, so that keeps me busy. My son & his girlfriend were my best friends. I feel like a big piece of me is gone. Nothing seems to make me feel happy right now. I really need to get up and get motivated. I'm hoping your website will help me to cope. We don't have a lot of money to go on trips right now. I have no desire to return to school again. My friends are great, but they are busy too. I have found just reading that this is a normal thing that alot of parents go through has been helpful. Thank-you.

  • By Denben
  • on 3/6/11 6:31 PM EST

My daughter, only child, left one month ago for college. It was really the anticipation that was the hard part; Is she going to be ok, how are we (my husband and I) going to be after 19 yrs with a child to back to just "us". Turned out she was fine and knowing that we are fine. We love the peace; love the visits...funny how it all just seems right...we are all good!

  • By Stella2
  • on 10/1/10 7:18 PM EST

I have the emptiness of "old age" never had 'empty nest" when the children left- i had a wonderful carreer, many friends, and
charity activities. Now i have had 2 surgeries, most friends are gone either by death or moving, and i the busy freak ,am just really undecided as to what to do-there is not one group that fits this. I may move to a "community" but that takes effort and stress. And the "family" is scattered. I cant be the only one because no one is ever the only one. and the 3rd surgery scares me. mclaire12


I hit the empty nestor syndrom big time 8 years ago when my only daughter left to College. It does get better... My daughter is a Jr. High School teacher...Those first few years were hard...being a single parent..but I had to learn that my identity was not my daughter.

  • By hzleyz
  • on 4/28/08 8:40 PM EST