It may not be an actual illness or diagnosis, but empty nest syndrome is the very real sense of loss commonly experienced by parents when their children leave home. According to Richard Miller, MD, Associate Director of Psychiatry at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), “Empty nesting most often affects the primary caregiver, leaving them with a sense of loss. It’s a mixture of missing the child you care so much about, and at the same time it’s a crisis of identity, with the parent asking: Who am I now? Am I still a parent? What do I do with myself?”
According to Dr. Miller, siblings will also feel the loss when a brother or sister moves on. “If there are other children left at home, they will also be impacted by the change in dynamic and loss of companionship. So, it’s important for the parent to also spend some time with the child who is left behind.”
Dr. Miller offers this advice on preparing for an empty nest:
- Plan ahead. Think about what you can do with your extra time once your child is gone. Consider things like reconnecting with old friends or taking up a second career.
- Instead of thinking about your new empty nest as a loss, think about this new stage in your life as an adventure.
- Set up a plan for staying connected with your child. Set a day of the week to talk on the phone, and make sure you are technologically up-to-date, so you can text and email in-between.
If your empty nest becomes very hard for you, seek professional support.