Overcoming the challenges of empty nesting and divorce

Different types of cameras

From point-and-shoots to fancy DSLRs, there are so many different types of cameras that it can make choosing one extremely confusing. Here is a brief look at types, giving their pros and cons as well as a suggestion of a recommended camera within each range.

A camera phone makes it so simple to take photos and share them easily. Camera phones are coming out with better and better sensors all the time but they still do not offer the quality of mirrorless or DSLR. If you are quite happy with having a way to keep a visual record of daily life, grabbing a quick snap here and there, a camera phone is all you need. You can buy a camera phone at a very good price with a fairly decent camera.  Here is a comparison of the specs of nine different camera phones.  However, the fact that they have small sensors and a fixed focal length means that the quality of the photos is limited.  You will not be happy with a cell phone camera if you are intending to practice photography as a hobby. (more…)

Bridging the chasm between head and heart

Last weekend my whole family sat around the table together for the first time in a long time. It was too much like old times for me and after everyone left I felt depressed. Here I was urging others to make the most of their empty nest and I was sitting between my four walls all alone and feeling guilty for being miserable. What made me feel better was the realization that I was not the only one. There are many, many guitar2other women who go through the same process and feel the same way. Nobody seems to be immune, and even celebrities and career women have to deal with this stage in their lives. I realize that although I am moving forward and letting go, at the same time pain and grief demand to be acknowledged.

I came across an excerpt from what one mother had written to her son that resonated with me “I miss the constant noise in every room and the silent guitar seems to be a symbol of all the changes I am going through. I am trying to catch up with the reality of the change and know that I have to let go. Sometimes I have this intense longing to have you with me, but I know in my head that if I can let go of the past, and start looking ahead, some of the best years may still be ahead”. This mother managed to capture my own experience – what I know so well in my head needs to find its way into my heart. (more…)

What to look for when buying a camera

smartphoneI do not have a decent camera at present and I have been trying to take photos with my cell phone. It takes inadequate photos to say the least and when I went away on some weekend breaks recently, I was seriously disappointed that I didn’t have a decent camera. I have decided that photography would be an excellent hobby but I am a complete beginner and there is so much to learn. I am on a mission to learn more but all the technical details are quite hard to absorb. In the information below, I have tried to simplify what I have learned as much as possible. Of course, those of you who already know a lot about cameras will find this very basic but as a beginner I need to start at the very beginning.

Everybody wants the best quality images possible. However, in order to produce those excellent images, the equipment can be hugely expensive as it is so specialized.  There are tons of different types of cameras, from the small point-and-shoot variety to fancy dSLRs (digital single lens reflex) cameras with removable lenses. Mirrorless cameras are another option. Before I start comparing all the different types of cameras, I realize that I need to find out more about their essential features. All the acronyms, symbols and alien terms make me want to understand which specifications are important and which ones do not matter as much. (more…)

Supplements and memory loss

Memory loss is feared by most people as they get older. When talking about supplements and memory loss, some people are convinced they make a difference, whilst others disagree. What is the truth? Are there really ways to improve your memory and perhaps even prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease?

brain raysWe live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information about what products we should take. There are exciting advancements on the brain enhancement frontier suggesting that we can enhance our memory and our performance. Many new pharmaceutical drugs are being developed that target exact regions of the brain. Excellent supplements are being created that appear to be equally good at improving brain function although they may take longer. The benefit is that they do not have the negative side effects that people experience when using brain stimulants. (more…)

Venturing out – short trip ideas

One of the advantages of having an empty nest is being able to travel. Some people go for broke, selling their homes and traveling all over the world. Others, like me, are not able to go too far afield for financial and other reasons. However, this has not stopped me from making a list of short trip ideas.  I have been so busy for years that I have neglected exploring in my own backyard.  Recently I have been on some short weekend breaks only an hour or two away from home.

Postberg Wild Flower CarpetMy first weekend trip away was to the West Coast National Park. My mother and I set off to see a phenomenon that occurs every year after the rains. Some of the desert areas burst into bloom and fields of orange, pink, purple, yellow and white flowers stretch as far as the eye can see.  The park has an area called the Postberg Flower Reserve that is only open to the public for a couple of months during the flowering season.

The park surrounds the Langebaan Lagoon and I drove 37 kilometers, catching glimpses of boats on the water, before reaching the Postberg. I negotiated my way slowly through a gate and up a steep hill, bumper-to-bumper with other vehicles. The careless extravagance and combinations of color immediately created the desire to grab a camera and capture as many images as possible for future reference. I tried taking a few photos but was unhappy with the quality. I will definitely have to buy a new camera. We drove past many people with impressive looking cameras, some of which were set up on tripods. At one point I stopped the car and wandered off into one of the fields to have a closer look. A ranger came running after me and informed me that I was not allowed off the road. I walked guiltily back to the car, realizing that rules were necessary if this spectacle was to be preserved for future generations.

We spotted buck grazing – Bontebok, Gemsbok and even a lone Kudu with its distinctive markings.  The buck seemed undetkuduerred by the presence of humans and continued to graze peacefully in their colorful setting.  We turned left towards the Atlantic Ocean and the bright orange and deep purple blooms looked even more spectacular against the backdrop of the blue sea.

As we approached the exit, we came to an abrupt halt as another driver hit his breaks to let a long, smooth, black snake slither into the fynbos.  I vowed to return next year and my mother announced with satisfaction that she can cross another item off her bucket list.

My next trip was to the coastal town of Hermanus. Since 1992 the town has hosted an annual Whale Watchers Festival at the beginning of October. This event often attracts more than 100,000 visitors for the festivities and as we drove into the town, we realized that finding parking was going to be an issue. The arrival of the Southern Right Whales is cause for great celebration and the town bursts at its seams. The locals benefit greatly from the influx of tourists. All the restaurants do a brisk trade, accommodation is fully booked and huge marquees hold foods, wine, beer and all kinds of crafts. Sporting events, car shows and bands playing all kinds of music are just some of the attractions.

We managed to find seats awhalet a restaurant where we could see the water and sat drinking coffee and seeing whether we could spot a whale. It wasn’t long before I saw the flick of a tail. After coffee, we walked to the water’s edge to get a closer look. Sometimes you can see the whales only metres away from the shore, playing in the shallow waters. Sure enough, two of the massive creatures were lolling about in the bay. We could see huge humps in the water and occasionally the tails would flick up, making a huge splash as they came down. All of us watching collectively caught our breath as one of the whales breached, leaping right out of the water and falling back with a loud slap.

The reason the whales come here during winter and spring is to mate, calve and rear their young. I remember one occasion when we spent the whole afternoon watching a mother and baby playing in a protected bay. As we drove back home along the coast, we talked about how privileged we were to have seen these gentle giants once again. It is hard to describe the feeling you get when you watch whales – time seems to be of little importance, you are connected with the rhythm of nature and transported out of the confines of your every day life.


Tips on decluttering your home

When you’ve accumulated possessions over a period of three decades, it’s a mammoth task to try and sort them out.  I knew I would have to tackle the task slowly step by step.  What I have experienced as I get rid of clutter is how cathartic it can be. My mentality now is that there is no reason to hold on to items that I no longer need or want.

In a large family, clutter tends to pile up. Paperwork  lies on counters, school homework on tables and clothing in piles. When four people or more live in a home they can create a fair amount of chaos.  When my kids moved out, they left plenty of clutter behind. They were always accusing me of throwing out stuff they wanted to keep so I would store it in my garage.  I am still waiting for them to go through it many years later so they can tell me what I can discard.  Here are some tips I used to help me when I was feeling overwhelmed by all my clutter.

1. Create a schedule

Allocate a certain time to getting rid of clutter every day, even if it is half an hour. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted from your task during this time.

2. Start small

Begin with one small area – organize one drawer, clear one counter or choose an area that frustrates you every day. A sense of accomplishment will motivate you to want to do more.

One thing that bugged me endlessly was all the cords lying around so a cord organizer was essential.

3. Don’t have one major purge

Just as clutter takes time to build up, it also takes time to bring it under control. If you have a major purge, you may end up regretting having thrown out so much and with such an approach, clutter does not take long to build up again as you have not really changed anything, except divesting yourself of some possessions. It is far better to establish new habits, find new ways to organize and create new routines.

4. Use a four box strategy

I have found the method of using four boxes  really useful. One box is used for items to be keep, another for items to give away or sell, the third for items to store and the fourth for items to be thrown away. After using the four boxes for a session of decluttering, take time to follow through and put away items, leave the second box in a spot ready for giving away or selling and put the third box in storage. Clearly mark the storage box. Throw the rest of the items in the trash can and empty it quickly before you change your mind!

5. Establish good habits

I frequently lose my cell phone and my keys so I have developed a little routine. As I enter the front door, I immediately hang up my keys on a key rack. I hang up my jacket on another peg in the entrance hall and I have yet another peg for my purse. I take my phone out of my purse and place it on my desk next to my computer. I have also developed the habit of  immediately sorting through the mail and throwing out unwanted items. I place the rest of the items in a folder on my desk.

I love my small Mettle Peddler Daschund key hooks and holder.

Metal key hooks and holder

6. Create a home for items

One of the main reasons for clutter is because items do not have homes. If you have a home for every item and always return it to its home after use, you will always be able to find it.

Instead of having to dig through a drawer, organizers can make finding items much easier. It helps if the organizer is clear and you can see everything inside.  This deep utility organizer on Amazon has adjustable compartments.

deep utility organizer

7. Practice one in – one out

If you purchase a new item, like a new pair of pants, take the opportunity to throw out a pair you no longer wear. One in, one out. You can even build this up to one in, two out to really reverse the tendency to clutter.

I found that I began to feel much less burdened when I began to declutter. I couldn’t believe how much I was able throw away and I am still busy doing this, bit by bit.   As I become more organized,  I feel less as though I am drowning and more like I have some control over my life.

Change brain pathways – get rid of that negative bias

brainAccording to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, humans evolved to be fearful – this helped keep our ancestors alive. He says “understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry”. He says that once you become aware of this, you can change brain pathways, building those that produce calmness, inner strength and wisdom.

Studies have shown that the body generally reacts more intensely to negative stimuli than to equally strong positive ones. People in studies were able to identify angry faces far more quickly than happy ones. The angry faces activated their fight-or-flight response. When this happens, negative events and experiences are quickly stored. He says “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.

Trapped in negative thought cycles?
This may help to explain why we can fixate on negative experiences and go over and over them in our heads. The more these negative thought patterns become established, the easier it becomes to return to them. Ask yourself the following questions to find out whether you are caught up in negative thought cycles:

  • Do you constantly think about wrong choices or actions you have made in the past that make you feel guilty and worthless? You find yourself saying “I always mess up” and “I can’t do anything right”.
  • Are you are constantly dealing with ‘what if’ scenarios? You constantly worry about stuff that has not happened yet – illness,  a heart attack, financial disaster, a car crash.
  • Are you very critical of yourself, focusing on all your flaws and weaknesses? Do you tend to be critical of others in your life as well as yourself?
  • Do you always think about what is wrong with your life instead of thinking about what is right?
  • Are you so absorbed with the problems you have to face that they take over your thinking?
  • Are you focused on what you do not have, rather than appreciating what you do have?
  • Do you feel that your life is not good enough and that you need something outside of yourself to make it better?
  • Do you feel that everyone else is happier than you and you feel envious of them and sorry for yourself?

When you are trapped in this kind of thinking, you often feel helpless. You may be tired of people telling you to ‘think positively’ about a situation that is very difficult. It is not so easy to change your thinking patterns and this is when people often turn to alcohol, drugs, porn and any other diversion or distraction to cope.

Changing your thought patterns
brain headSo are there really practical and authentic ways that can help you from getting stuck in a negative cycle of thoughts? Yes, there are and the first step towards changing them is  to recognize that you are thinking negatively.  Perhaps you are attempting to build a business online and you are struggling. It is so easy to give up at this point and think that you will never succeed.  If this is the case, you need to develop a new mindset. New positive pathways must be established in your brain. A popular way of doing this is the practice of mindfulness where conscious attention is brought to thinking patterns. You step back from your thoughts and develop a new dimension of awareness. In this way the patterns begin to lose their hold over you.

Many studies have been done on the effects of meditation on the brain. It has been associated with decreased anxiety, stress, insomnia and pain and it also appears to increase quality of life. In studies done by neuroscientist, Dr Sara Lazar, people who had never meditated before were put through an eight-week program and after these eight weeks differences in their brains were found. For example, the amygdala, which is the fight or flight part of the brain, got smaller. Here are 5 meditation tips for beginners by Dr. Alice Boyes, PhD that will help to get you started.

10 Bible verses for depression

sunbeamsIf you are looking for Bible verses for depression, there are many to be found. I have selected just 10 verses that were  helpful to me when I was suffering from depression. Many great men and women, including those found in the Bible, have experienced depression.  Clinical depression is a medical condition. It is not caused by difficult circumstances and the symptoms are not cured by an exercise of will power. It needs to be treated with medication and/or counseling.  When I was suffering from clinical depression,  I resisted taking medication because I was trusting God to heal me. It took me a long time to come to the point where I was ready to ask for help. What pushed me to do it was when I realized how much my family was suffering as a result of my depression.  When I finally went to the doctor he said to me that if I was a diabetic, I would need to take insulin and in the same way,  my brain was not producing enough serotonin and I needed to take something that would correct this. What he said took away my feelings of guilt. I began taking anti-depressants and for me, that was the right thing to do.  For me the combination of taking medication and my faith got me through. When we are depressed, it is helpful to have Bible verses to read for encouragement. Our emotions may be unstable but God’s word does not change.

  1. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
  2. Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;  for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff,  they comfort me.”
  3. Psalm 40:1-2 “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm.”
  4. Psalm 91:1-4  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you may seek refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
  5. Psalm 139:13-14 “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou did weave me in my mother’s womb, I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.”
  6. Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you; Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  7. Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”
  8. Micah 7:8 “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall down I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”
  9. Matthew 10:29-30 “Are not two sparrows sold , yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
  10. Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

How to enjoy eating alone

eating alone

When you live on your own, you may feel that you will never learn how to enjoy eating alone, especially if you are used to huge family dinners around the dining room table. The steady flow of chatter about the day’s events is replaced by an intimidating silence. I generally enjoy my own company and I am not afraid of being alone but at first I found the silence quite overwhelming.

Family dinners may be over-rated

Family dinners are often the one time in the day when all members of the family sit down together. This is why they tend to have so much significance for most families.  Professors Ann Meier and Kelly Musick have discovered that their importance is possibly over-rated. Their findings suggest that the effect of family dinners on children depend on the extent to which parents use the time to engage with them. It is not the meals themselves that matter so much as the extent to which the family connects and communicates while eating.  Many families today do not even sit down at the table to eat together but sit around the TV instead. The fact is that not all family dinners are created equal. For some families they may be the highlight of the day but for others they may be fraught with arguments or lack of communication.

Does eating have to be a social experience to be enjoyed?

Eating is always presented as a social experience. We use food to celebrate all major occasions and there is no doubt that eating together with others is one of the most enjoyable experiences we can have. Food and socializing so often goes together that it is difficult to imagine really enjoying eating alone. If eating an evening meal with the whole family seated around the table was the highlight of your day, it’s understandable that eating alone just does not measure up. However, when you can’t do anything about it and you are forced to eat on your own, its preferable to find ways to try and enjoy the experience.

Are there ways I can improve the experience of eating alone?

Yes, here are just 5 tips for making the experience more pleasurable.

  • Expensive foods that you once avoided because of the cost for a big family, become affordable for one. A piece of steak or salmon are nutritious options that are easy to prepare. Here is a great recipe to try for spicy salmon with caramalized onions.
  • Prepare in advance.  If all the recipes you have collected over the years are for four or more, you can still use them. Make food for four and then freeze as portions for one. When you’re feeling lazy to cook for yourself, just reach into the freezer and pull out a healthy meal.
  • Turn on some music. Background music will help you to relax and aid digestion.
  • Try out new recipes and rediscover food your family did not enjoy. You no longer have to cater to the tastes of others and are completely free to experiment. I have discovered that I love curries.  I avoided cooking them for years because my children would not eat them.
  • Sit in a different spot. There is no rule that says you have to sit and eat at the table. I feel silly sitting at my large table on my own. I sit on my porch with my lunch and enjoy looking out at my garden. At night I tend to sit in front of the TV with my meal on a tray and often enjoy a glass of wine.

Maybe you are one of those people who never gets used to eating alone. Just remember that many people today are forced to do so, for one reason or another, and there are far worse situations to have to handle. Just because you eat alone, does not mean that you should feel sorry for yourself, eat unhealthily  or stop enjoying your food.  It also makes you really appreciate those times when you do have the opportunity to eat together with others. I never ever turn down an invitation to eat out!

Dining out alone

At first I was extremely self-conscious when going to a restaurant on my own after being part of a couple for 32 years. I imagined that everyone was staring at me and taking pity on me. I discovered that my laptop or a book was a wonderful piece of armour.  I have found that it’s perfectly acceptable to sit alone in coffee bars or restaurants and I am never the only one sitting there on my own with my coffee and my laptop.  Of course this is not a sociable activity but I find it pleasant to write in such a setting sometimes instead of always working in my home office. At least I can sneak peaks at all the activity around me.

I have only eaten out once on my own in the evening and I felt far too self-conscious to enjoy it. Other solo diners mention that it helps to sit at the bar or at a Sushi counter where it’s easier to start up a conversation with others. I was seated at a rather conspicuous table which was probably why I felt the way I did. I would like to feel free to dine out alone in the evening, focusing on the deliciousness of what I am eating instead of the stares of neighbouring diners. I would like to have the experience of tasting new foods, eating at my own pace and savouring every mouthful without having to wait for friends to invite me to go with them. One of the plus factors about dining alone is that you may have no one to share with but you also have no one to judge you on your order.

I know that just because I am eating out alone does not necessarily make me a loser. After all, I have noticed plenty of couples eating out who do not say one single word to eachother. Other diners spend all their time on their cell phones. I have come to the conclusion that many people are eating alone anyway, rather than together. Even as I convince myself with this sound logic, I still feel odd about doing it.  Perhaps you are an old hand at dining alone. If so, I would love you to comment and share your tips on how to make it a good experience.


When you’re missing your children ….


I miss you

  • REALIZE that it is something that affects most parents when one or more of the children leave home.
  • RECOGNISE that it often occurs at the same time as other life changes such as menopause, ill-health and retirement. There may be a number of reasons making you feel the way you do.
  • ACCEPT that sadness and crying are normal, healthy reactions. Other symptoms such as lack of motivation, sleeplessness and feelings of unworthiness are also experienced by many people.
  • BELIEVE it is important to give yourself time to work through your grief. Be gentle with yourself and do not impose expectations on yourself as to how long it should take you to get over the grief.
  • SEEK SUPPORT if you feel life is no longer worth living, you are not able to continue with any daily activities and cry excessively.

5 simple actions to improve your day

Some little actions on a daily basis go a long way towards improving your day. Before you know it, they will become daily habits:glass water with lemon

  • Drink a glass of warm water with lemon and wait about 15 minutes before eating breakfast. Your body will thank you because lemons are loaded with nutrients. Just some of the benefits are helping you to lose weight, cleanse your body, reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. The smell of citrus makes you feel good too as it releases endorphins.
  • When you wake up, think of one small reason to be grateful. Keep a little book for this purpose and write it down. Your list will grow every day and you will soon start thinking about how much you have instead of how much you have lost.
  • Identify one small task that needs to be done. This may be cleaning out a kitchen cupboard, writing an email or weeding a patch of lawn. When you have completed your task for the day, you have the satisfaction of ticking it off your list. The sense of achievement you get is ridiculous in proportion to how long the task takes. Yocleaning cabinetu will be amazed at how much can be accomplished in this way.
  • Stop equating exercise with going to the gym and get your exercise doing your housework or errands. You can even dance around your own living room as there is no-one else around to make you feel self-conscious. Start small and go for a walk around the block rather than not exercising at all.  Try to work up a sweat as this will release those ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain.

  • Make contact with one other person. If you live alone, contact with other human beings is vital.  You have to put in some effort to reach out to others in small ways, even if it is a telephone call or an email.  You will see how even the smallest ways of reaching out bring their rewards. Since my divorce, I have forced myself to accept any invitations from friends that come my way. I go out just about every Saturday mornings to eat breakfast with friends at one of the local wine farms. Another favorite outing is having a hot stone massage at a local spa.
  • Arranging a High Tea Spa Party for four friends where you can all relax and socialize is a lovely idea. (The offer below applies only to Canadians).

    Breakaway Experiences High Tea Spa Party and Manicure for 4 - $172

What is ’empty nest’ syndrome?

empty nest

Much has changed in the years since the term was first coined in the 1970s and some studies have suggested that the transition is much easier now with some parents getting a new lease on life when their children leave home. Today many mothers have careers and roles outside of the home and staying in contact with grown children is also much easier with more effective means of communicating such as email, text and skype. However, no matter how much parents prepare and look forward to the new phase in their lives, the experience of children moving on is significant and does not pass with some conflicting emotions.

A ‘shift’ rather than a ‘syndrome’

Speak to moms whose children have left home and despite the fact that they may have a career or other interests, they often still experience conflicting emotions. A part of them may be looking forward to the new phase but another part cannot help but feel sad about the stage that has ended. What happens to parents cannot be pigeonholed or generalized and each person deals with it in a different way, depending upon their unique set of circumstances.

It does not seem to matter whether you are a working parent, a single parent or a stay-at-home parent – when your children leave home, your life changes. Using the word ‘syndrome’ to refer to these changes makes them seem abnormal. They are completely normal, although they may be challenging. They are part of the life cycle of the family. This phase brings with it a need to redefine roles and find new ways to meet needs. As Wendy Aronsson, author of the book Refeathering the Empty Nest  suggests, a better way to describe this phase would be an ‘evolving nest’. She also refers to this stage in life as a shift rather than a syndrome.

Everyone experiences an empty nest in their own way

Some parents prepare for this phase and plan what they are going to do when their children have all left home – they intend to pursue their dreams that they have put on hold for the sake of their children.  For some couples, it is a time to re-examine what drew them together as a couple in the first place. They have more time to spend together and enjoy activities that were impossible when tied down by children. After all, friendship and enjoying time together is at the core of any successful relationship.

Any stresses in the marriage before the children left are often aggravated by an ’empty nest’ and a divorce may follow. This adds another element to an already stressful situation. Instead of looking forward to more time to spend together as a couple, the partners go through another major transition as they readjust to life as singles.

An empty nest often occurs together with other transitions such as menopause and retirement which compound the problem. I had my daughter late in life so I was already through menopause when she left home but I had to face the double whammy of an empty nest and divorce at the same time.  I am far from the only one to have to go through this and I have found consolation from others in the same boat as myself.

Some parents take much longer than others to adjust to life in an empty nest. They go through a period of mourning and battle to shake off the feelings of sadness that a certain phase has come to an end. They should not be judged by those who have found it easier to adjust. Everyone is different and although staying depressed and not moving on at all is obviously unhealthy, feeling sad for a while is not. There is nothing wrong with crying and taking some time to work through your grief.  Of course, if your crying continues to be excessive over a lengthy period of time and you are unable to carry on with daily activities or feel that life is not worth living, you will find it helpful to see a therapist.

Negative reactions to an empty nest

With a profound sense of loss comes a vulnerability to marital crisis, identity crisis, depression and even alcoholism. In the transition it is  easy to feel lost.  Nurturing your children was your primary focus and gave you a strong sense of purpose. Now that they are out of the house and your role is far less hands-on, you have doubts about your own identity. Once upon a time, before children, you didn’t think twice about life as a single person but that was so long ago, you can hardly remember what it felt like. Even those who have managed being parents and having careers still admit to being taken aback by the extent of their grief.

Someone with a history of depression will tend to be more vulnerable when going through a major life change like an empty nest. Depression is also one of the leading risk factors when it comes to alcohol abuse.  Parents who are retired and depressed now that children have left home can resort to alcohol as it offers a temporary escape and a way to numb emotions.  Dependence may develop and self-medicating with alcohol is a very bad idea as it affects the health of both body and mind. It is important to reach out for help if you feel you are becoming too dependent on alcohol.

An opportunity to re-invent your life

An empty nest can make you feel sad, lonely and abandoned but it can also present an opportunity to discover a new chapter in your life. Bringing up your children inevitably meant sacrificing some of the things you enjoyed, or not not having the opportunity to try out all the things you wanted to do. Now you have the opportunity so take it with both hands. It is possible to find fulfillment and a renewed sense of purpose in your empty nest.

  • Go back to the career you had before your children came along or learn some new skills.
    Taking up your career again at this stage of your life may sound impossible. However, there may be new ways to apply your past experience. I was a sub-editor of a local newspaper before I had children and I managed to find editing and proofreading opportunities online. I also took a copywriting course to  update my writing skills.
  • Take some classes for interest or for fun. Pursue a hobby you have never had time for before or learn more about a subject that has always interested you. I have done a number of online courses and I  went to a cooking class which was great fun. This year I am going to attend an art class.
  • Join groups to meet new people.  Meetup.com is a good place to look for groups – you are sure to find ones for your interests, age group and in the area where you live.
  • Exercise not only gives you the opportunity to get fit and makes you feel better due to increasing your serotinin or ‘feel good’ hormone but it can also provide a way to meet people.  This year I started cycling and I am feeling the benefits.
  • Pay attention to your appearance as it will help you to feel better about yourself. Try out a new hairstyle or even a new way of applying your makeup. Perhaps you have been sticking to what you know for many years and it is time to make a change.
  •  Too many empty hours can make the transition more difficult. Making a bucket list and ticking off items can help you to feel a sense of direction and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Rediscover talents that may have brought you joy in the past. Writing was what I enjoyed and brought me fulfillment before I had children. I had little time for it while raising my children and helping my ex-husband to run his business. Thanks to having time to focus on it again, I rediscovered my passion for words.

It is not always easy to face the silence of an empty house after years of activity and no time to call your own. However, rising to the challenge can be extremely rewarding. Another benefit is developing a mature relationship with your children that is deeper and more fulfilling now that they are adults. There is a real opportunity to re-invent your life when you are faced with an empty nest. It’s not the end of the road but just another branch in it taking you to a new destination.