Surviving the Empty Nest

Sherry Shepherd's picture

Okay, I am going to be real for a hot minute. I miss my kids. I am a divorced, single, empty nester whose children live scattered across three states. Whew that was a mouthful.

At times I come home and I feel lonely. Just me and the two dogs. I have a church home, great friends, my parents, sister, nieces and nephews close by. I have a job that has ministry at its very roots. I have purpose, passion and yet… yet… I still feel sad and even fractured at times. I have given this a lot of thought. I have talked to quite a few friends in the same situation about it. And, of course, I have talked to God.

 

I wish I could catch a movie after work with my daughter. Visit and have dinner with my son and daughter-in-law. Hear about how my youngest son’s classes are going over a home cooked meal. I wish I could do daily life with my kids. Be in the same city... so that when something happens, whether it is good or bad, I am present for it.

But they all have lives and careers elsewhere. On good days, I tell myself, “Look how great the kids are doing. I helped them fly the nest, and now they are healthy, happy functioning adults. On bad days, well… on bad days, I feel terribly sorry for myself. Terribly sorry for myself. Did I say how sorry I feel for myself?

I get mad at the stiuation, compare myself to others on facebook, (yep and before you go judging me… I know you do it too or have done it)... and I even question God. I get terribly sad and think, “Why don’t I get to live near my children and potential grandchildren, Lord?”  “Why don’t I get to celebrate birthdays and most holidays with my kids, Lord?” And when I am really feeling sorry for myself, I even blame Him. “If I wasn’t divorced or working full-time.. Or …. A hundred other things, then I wouldn’t feel this way Lord.” Do you ever do that?  

My children and I all have great relationships. When we do get together it is as if no time at all has passed. But, it is still hard when... for most of your life, you have given of yourself to make sure these tiny people have what they need. As they grow, you know they are going to leave. You prepare them for it and yourself for it. But, when they actually leave to go to do what God created them to do, it leaves a hole in your mother’s heart. (Not because you aren’t happy for them, or proud of them, but because you miss them.)

You want them to be successful and happy. You want them to pursue their dreams. But, somewhere in helping them do that, as a woman, you can forget that you are your own person. You have dreams and desires and yet, when the kids leave home and you can pursue those… you have forgotten what they were!   

Instead of embracing your new found freedom and bookoos of free time, you commiserate about how much you miss the kids and miss having them around. The house stays clean, the laundry takes about a fourth of the time to do and so what do you do with all this free time? Miss the kids.Call the kids, check on the kids, think about the kids and talk about the kids. At least that’s what I did. So what is the solution? I honestly don’t have all the answers. I can only tell you what I am learning along the way.

First, as with everything else I write about, my number one go to is prayer. I pray. I think God must shake His head and think, “Does she ever go to sleep?” In all seriousness, I pray and I thank God, even when I don’t feel like it. I thank Him.

Sometimes, when I need more help with my attitude, when I am feeling really sorry for myself, I may need to cry to a girlfriend, who gets me and understands my heart.

Of course I call, text, facebook, snapchat, instagram and facetime with my kids. I think I covered all the social media sources they are on. I don’t do Twitter. I figure if I missed something, with being on all these sites, well then I wasn’t meant to know. I plan trips to see my kids, and plan when they will be here to see me.

Being a divorcee can be a challenge too, because my kids have to split their time between me and their dad. So in addition to them being in other states, I have to share them. But you know what I am learning? I can either be a refuge and a place of rest for my children. Or… I can be a thorn in their side. Let me explain. My oldest and his wife, both come from divorced families. So they literally have four families to divide their time between. Neither of them chose that. Neither of them wanted to be from divorced families. So why should they  have grief over anything else? They had absolutely zero to do with the choices their parents made to divorce. (Now I am venturing off course a little bit. But, even when one spouse might be the “catalyst or cause of a divorce” … most children still want a relationship with both parents.) They still love and need them both. So, I can either be thankful for the time I get. Be it a day or two or a week. Or I can be selfish and complain and stress where there is already enough stress.

When we love our children, we want to be with them. But we should also want their best. They need time with both their parents. Yes it’s like a bitter pill going down to say that because I gave birth to my children. I raised my children. I sacrificed for my children. But, without my ex-husband, I wouldn’t have them. Despite whatever happened between us to cause me to be a single divorcee empty nester …. Is not my chilren’s fault. And it’s not their fault they grew up and are living their lives. So fellow empty nesters.. What do we do?

As I discussed earlier, pray and stay in the Word. Second, reach out to others in the same situation as you. Call up your friends and develop a support system for each other.  

Recently, I reached out to 10 other women in my situation and asked them if they would be interested in getting together and being a support to one another. Most of them were.  In addition, I rejoined the gym. (Now I just have to start going). But, I am trying to find the things I was once interested in that gave me fulfillment and joy.

Last of all, remember what makes you excited about life and start doing that sport or hobby again. If you are married, ask your spouse to go with you to try a new sport or class. Rekindle your passion for each other and life together.  

Last of all,  rely on the Lord. I know that nothing in my life is present that hasn’t been sifted through His hands. The struggle comes when I don’t like my circumstances. And I’ll be honest, right now I don’t. I miss my kids. At times I long for those days when I was married and a stay at home mom. But God in his provision has me in a season of growing and trusting in Him, even when I don’t understand it all. He hasn’t forgotten me. He knows my heart and my desires. And he knows yours.

So, today, I trust in Him and His timing. And, I rest in His care and His plan for my life. I hold tight to the Scriptures that tell me I don’t have to understand it all. I just have to trust Him.

Remember Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your understanding.”

And … Isaiah 26:3  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trust in you.”

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