If your last child recently left home, it's not uncommon to experience feelings of sadness and mild depression. You may feel as if your world has been turned upside down, and you may wonder what your new role as an empty-nester parent will look like.
While feeling sad and depressed is a normal reaction to such a drastic change in life, there are ways you can help yourself to overcome those empty nest blues.
Give yourself time to grieve
Allow yourself some time to grieve the loss of full-time parenting. You will likely get plenty of advice from others who will encourage you to get on with your life. While they mean well, jumping into a new life too fast may only mask symptoms of depression that may rise to the surface again later.
Moving on is good in time, but in the early stages of becoming an empty nester, you need time to heal. By the time your last child leaves home, you have spent a considerable amount of time in the role of caretaker. Thinking you can just move on without experiencing some sadness is unrealistic.
As you work through the first months of adapting to a new lifestyle, take some time to coddle yourself. Invite your best friend over for a movie night and prepare your favorite snacks. Watching comedies is a great way to lift depression, and laughing with a good friend can be a great prescription for sadness.
You may also want to indulge in some new clothes or plan a weekend getaway for you and your significant other. Sleep in on weekends or take a nap in the middle of the day. Try out that new restaurant you've been wanting to visit.
Don't worry if indulging in yourself feels a little strange at first. You've likely devoted a lot of your time, energy, and finances to your child for several decades. Learning to take care of your needs may take a little practice, but it can help you feel better about yourself and may help to ease depression.
Turn to self-help books on depression
Reading books on depression can be a wonderful alternative to counseling when dealing with mild depression caused by the empty nest. Self-help books on depression can help you to understand the physiology behind depression. They are often a great resource for leaning ways to cope with your sad feelings. They can alert you to watch for symptoms that may mean you need professional counseling.
If you are a person of faith, you may want to look for a self-help book on depression that focuses on spirituality and faith. Using your faith to overcome depression is often a powerful and effective coping mechanism.
Start a new journey in life
Once you've allowed yourself time to grieve, coddled yourself a little, and read some self-help books on depression, you may be ready to begin a new chapter in your life. Begin by thinking about what hobby you would like to try and take steps to pursue it.
Look into new career options if you feel like your old job is no longer fulfilling. It's never too late to start a new career path. Take some classes at your local college. With the popularity of online learning, you may not even have to leave your home to obtain a new degree.
Remodel your house or work on a major landscaping project outside. Start a garden. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or animal shelter. The possibilities for starting a new life are endless.
Saying goodbye to an old way of life always requires adaption and change. However, learning healthy ways to cope with the empty nest, and the mild depression that can accompany it, can help you develop a new lifestyle that's just as fulfilling as your former one.
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