COVID-19 has given new meaning to the idea of empty nest syndrome. Millions of families have been in isolation together, and while proximity can cause us to drive each other crazy, the pit that opens up when it ends can be even more painful.
For the parents and grandparents who have relished having kids and grandkids at home again during the isolation period, going back to "normal" may come with feelings of loneliness or sadness. If you are struggling with empty nest feelings as a result of your quarantine household disbanding, know you are not alone.
The Empty Nest Is Actually Full—of Emotions
According to GoodTherapy.org, empty nesters may experience insomnia, anxiety and/or panic—as well as feelings of extreme grief, isolation/loneliness, guilt and purposelessness. They may even lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. These emotional impacts are only heightened by the stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic.
If you are struggling with empty nest syndrome, here are four suggestions for coping and finding your groove again.
Four Ways to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome
1. Participate in Activities That Include Others.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, we all need friends—and one of the most positive impacts of the pandemic has been the development of all kinds of new, creative ways to connect with others.
If you’re already involved in a community group, don’t stop now! If you’ve been too busy, go ahead and sign up for those art classes, look into university extension programs, or join a new online class at the gym. The excitement and energy of taking up a new hobby or learning something new is a real balm for feelings of loss, and being around other people (even virtually) can help stave off social isolation.
2. Find New Ways to Feel Valued and Needed.
One of the rewards of parenting and being together with your kids is the feeling of being important to another person. While nothing will ever replace the love between a parent and child, you can find some fulfillment in helping others. Look for a volunteer organization that aligns with your values and sign up! Offer to make masks or join a phone tree. If you have the resources to do so, foster a dog or cat from a shelter in your area. Or use your skills to help others—knit blankets for hospital patients, teach home repair skills online… the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
3. Embark On an Encore Career.
If you’ve reached retirement age, becoming an empty nester might inspire you to re-enter the working world. Encore careers can take on many forms — a coaching or consultative role in your former industry, professionalizing one of your skills (such as giving art lessons), or even joining the staff at a nonprofit. These “second-act” jobs can be a great way to recharge your spirits, stay engaged and extend your retirement income.
5. Discover the Benefits of Homesharing.
Sometimes an empty nest means you’ve got unused space in your home. Homesharing offers a wonderful way to put that space to work and have some company around the house. In homesharing, your renter (or “housemate”) pays rent or does household chores (or a combination of the two) in exchange for living space.
Some homeowners find housemates by asking around among friends and neighbors, or by advertising in the community, online or on social media. Silvernest uses unique roommate-matching technology and other tools to make homesharing simple and worry-free. We’ve helped build happy homesharing agreements between people of similar ages or across generations.
There’s Hope Ahead.
Those “empty nest” feelings are normal and natural. While you’ll always miss having your kids around, the most intense emotions usually ease with time. However, if you find yourself too depressed or anxious to fully participate in your life as you once did, please seek out professional support. A trained therapist or, if need be, psychiatrist can help you work your way through this transition to a brighter future.
Image credit: Rebecca Siegel on Flickr