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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

“Of course, everybody feels it when their child leaves—whether it’s the first or the last,” says Patty Heselbarth, mother of three sons and a rural letter carrier in Greenwood, IN. “It’s just more devastating with the first. It is a whole new beginning. Parents worry about them more.”

“The emotional jolt was with Andrew,” Karen Barr of Phoenix, AZ, editor and publisher of Raising Arizona Kids Magazine, says of the eldest of her two sons. “Maybe it’s because the anticipation is worse than the reality. You’re thinking, ‘My whole life is changing.’ But you don’t lose the relationship.”

Though many assume that mothers are most affected by the empty nest, fathers are affected just the same. “It just hit me when we came up to the summer cottage for vacation and the kids weren’t there,” says Brian Dickerson of Philadelphia, PA, who watched two of his children move out. “There was no one to play with or work on projects with around the cottage. It took me several days to get over it.”

The sadness and grief of the empty nest can be more easily handled during the first 30 days if feelings are acknowledged, honored and shared. “Chances are, mom and dad are going through different emotions and feelings,” says personal and business coach, Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, host of the Denver radio show, “Live the Day with Coach Lee.” “Understanding how each is feeling about the transition will allow parents to support one another.”
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