Finding Identity and Overcoming the Empty Nest

Finding Identity and Overcoming the Empty Nest

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

As parents, we look forward to the day when our children leave home so we can restart our own lives and enjoy our empty nest. However, few people realize the ramifications of their children leaving home. Having an empty house when we have based so much of our lives around our children can have a profound impact on us, especially on mothers. Adapting to this transition can be tough, as those who have experienced it can attest.

Empty nest syndrome is the label we give when we experience feelings of profound loss and sadness when children leave home. This condition primarily affects women, who often take on the key role of caregiver in the home. When we talk about empty nest syndrome, we are talking about the emotional response and adjustment difficulties that parents may face during this significant life change.

Sometimes empty-nest sadness can develop when women base their entire identity around motherhood and their caregiver role. When they are no longer in that role, these women experience a loss of identity. It is natural for them to feel some loss as a result of this identity change. However, there are strategies women can employ to help them navigate this difficult transition. These strategies promote well-being as women establish a new identity solely for themselves.

Feeling Lonely in an Empty Nest

When children are young, it can seem as though the insanity of child-rearing will never end in our homes. Nevertheless, we all know there will come a day when our houses are a bit more silent and our children have gone off to college. Eventually, our families evolve, and children go off into the world to lead their own lives. When this happens, suddenly our homes seem as though they will be silent forever.

It can be a lonely feeling when we come home to a silent house. Feeling lonely is natural when we have grown accustomed to being around a bustling group of people and suddenly find ourselves alone. One of the best ways to curb this feeling of loneliness is to embrace the concept of solitude. To do this, we have to begin to discover who we are, and in a way, we have to meet ourselves again. 

Research published in the journal Psychiatriki suggests that empty nest syndrome can be exacerbated during times of financial stress. This form of stress is referred to as psychosocial stress. During these times, we must validate our emotions. Are we sad? Of course we are and that is okay. It is natural to be sad during the empty nest period. We cannot begin to move on and enter the second chapter of our lives until we acknowledge our grief that the first chapter has closed. 

When Women Fall Victim to the Empty Nest

Mothers who experience empty nest syndrome may turn to unhealthy outlets to release their grief and sadness. Sometimes these outlets can include turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Entering this new phase of life can feel traumatic, with unique psychological and emotional difficulties that we must face. However, alcoholism will only harm and will never help.

At First Steps Recovery, we understand that women who seek treatment for alcoholism during the empty nest period have specific treatment needs. To address the needs of these mothers, we are ready to help with gender-specific treatment options tailored to each client. 

Establishing an Identity of Our Own After the Kids Move Away

When our children leave home, we can still lead active and fulfilling lives. In fact, as adults in the second chapter of our lives, we can engage in activities we could not have before. Social events that previously would have been untenable with a family, such as late-night soirees and midnight movie showings, can become a possibility.

According to the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, researchers have found that employing some business models for the care of people with empty nest syndrome can have positive results. The SMG model uses three levels to create a hierarchical structure of treatment. In support groups, empty nesters can create friend groups based on common situations. Empty nesters can also receive mutual support from friends and neighbors, and these support structures can help them find meaning and purpose. 

Finding Solace and Overcoming the Empty Nest

There are many ways we can mitigate the lonely feelings we may feel during the empty nest period. Some of these include:

  • Finding an enjoyable hobby
  • Keeping in contact with friends, family, and neighbors by phone or email
  • Adopting a pet
  • Staying physically active
  • Joining a regular group activity
  • Getting involved in the community 

Pushing Past the Empty Nest Through Friendship

Friendship can have a profound effect on our ability to adapt when life changes occur. At First Steps Recovery, we believe that one of the most important networks is the friend networks we establish through our alumni program

In the First Steps alumni program, our clients find networks of support that build on shared experiences. This way of grouping people cultivates understanding among individuals who have gone through similar life transitions. Together we can promote friendship and social connection as vital components of navigating the empty nest phase successfully.

When You Need It, Help Is Always Waiting

It can be overwhelming when we first face the challenges of an empty nest. Still, we can rest assured that there is help and support out there. What is most important is that we get help when we need it and feel comfortable reaching out.

First Steps Recovery is a community leader, offering resources and the comprehensive assistance our clients need during times of crisis. From support groups to community programs, our offerings guide our clients and help them navigate the empty nest phase successfully.

Motherhood has been called one of the most rewarding jobs anyone could have. Nevertheless, this job is also a difficult and tiring one that can strain you to your limits. Still, you likely would not trade it for the world. It is easy to spend your whole life in the role of the caregiver and neglect to build another identity for yourself. The transition called empty nest syndrome can have a profound impact on mothers and may cause some to seek solace in substance use. At First Steps Recovery we understand this situation and are here to help you regain control and happiness in your life. Call us today at (844) 489-0836 and learn how we can help you.  

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