Dear Dr. Levister: It has been a little more than a month since my daughter moved out and left for college back east. I can’t stop crying. Is this normal? S.E.
Dear S.E.: The sadness and emptiness that can accompany a child leaving home for the first time is real. It is called the Empty Nest Syndrome, and can be devastating for a parent. Even though it can affect both parents, more times than not, it is the mother who suddenly finds herself with these feelings of being lost and alone.
The affects can vary, depending on different factors. For instance, when the mother is divorced and living alone, it can be particularly difficult.
When a mother has been a stay at home mom, she might feel that life is over, that she has no purpose in living. In severe cases, when depression is severe or last a long time, counseling may be needed.
Empty Nest Syndrome actually begins sometime during the high school years. Our children become more independent and begin to make important decisions for themselves, and their future. They begin to form new friendships, and start going out on weekends.
We worry about so many things during this time and rightfully so. With drugs and alcohol abuse at an all time high, it is a frightening time for parents. While we must be diligent in keeping the lines of communication open, we must also remember that our children need some privacy too. As much as we wish they would tell us everything, the fact is, they will not. We have to respect that. All we can really do is let them know that we are there for them, no matter what.
While we are happy for our children, we are also feeling a deep sense of loss. These feelings are perfectly normal. Don’t be afraid to seek out comfort from friends and family.
Even though this time in a parent’s life can be a difficult time, it can also be a time of refreshing and a time for new beginnings. It can be a time of reflection, and a time to rejoice for a job well done.
I am reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:4, which says, "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." Let this be your time to laugh and your time to dance.
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