A mother told me during a telephone consultation that her daughter is a junior in high school and crying. Crying because her friends are seniors and leaving for college. She doesn\’t know if they will even be friends once they go to college.

Those tears brought questions to the mom. What will I be like when my daughter leaves? I know it isn\’t for two years, but already I am dreading the Empty Nest. I just love her friends coming over and all the school activities my daughter and I share. I don\’t\’ care how messy the kitchen is or how I have to dash here and there. I love that feeling of being needed and it will end.

This week I have talked with mothers who are meeting new in-laws, planning weddings, anticipating the birth of their grand children and preparing for college, grad school details and cheering their children on with first jobs in the world. Some have talked about their sons leaving for the service, again, and even though they know the drill, they can\’t bear the goodbyes.

I have learned over the years that the fear of them leaving is larger than the actual adjustment to them not being home. Don\’t get me wrong…tears still flood unexpectedly even after the children leave and there are days you would do anything to have them be in the kitchen or sitting next to you in the car.

Research has shown that for some change takes six weeks to form new habits. Parenting is not a habit. We are always parents, but we are called upon to change our roles. Time to be a mentor not a manager … Time to look at what really matters at this stage of our life … Time to accept what we never did receive and thought we would by now … Time to evaluate our health, our relationships, our longevity, our spirituality, our community, our creativity, our finances, our dreams.

I notice some parents leap and get busy to handle the empty nest. Others take time to be in a floating state, to meander, to test the waters. All have wanted support and nurturing and to simply let the tears fall without being told to get over it and go volunteer, after all your children didn\’t die.

Grieving is different for everyone. Some begin a year before the goodbye and others don\’t feel it until they feel it. There are no rules for grieving. We are awkward with vulnerability and crying is vulnerable. It doesn\’t cause a flood of destruction. Crying heals and is a necessary part of goodbye. After all when you love someone you want to hear their voice and footsteps going across the rooms. You want to share daily stories and fun times.

My hope this summer is that you enjoy the present moment. I hope you find someone to share feelings and thoughts with. Make time to play in the sunshine of summer. Lunch with a friend. Separation and change is inevitable so we need to hold each other\’s hands as we walk these new roles as parents of adult children.

My blog (http://emptynestsupport.com/blog/ has a list of ways to deal with the dreaded empty nest as well as archived newsletters.

An idea today is: make a collage of what brings you joy. Cut out pictures from old magazines and glue them on poster board with music playing and a treat of a favorite food. Let yourself have fun with the choices. When you finish put it somewhere you can see it everyday to remind you what brings you joy. You might be surprised at new meanings that come to you when you stand back and look at your collage. It is fun to do.

Take care,


Natalie Caine is the founder of Empty Nest Support Services. When her daughter was a senior in high school, she realized that as a soon-to-be “empty nester,” she would be undergoing a major life shift. Not wanting to confront this transition alone nor have her many friends face this abyss without strong support, she created a support services group, which quickly grew into a new career and an exciting full-time business.