Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” … Winston Churchill

How can I be an empty nester? I am young, vibrant, and a mother of adorable children who look up at me to tie their shoes, sit them on the counter to stir the pancake batter, let them pick out their Halloween costume, sit in the auditorium with my video, as they perform in school plays, man the school fair booth, take them to the mall to get a new outfit for the party, cheer at the games, and go to parent conferences.

Ok, so that has now become my past. Present moment…packing for college is spread inside out of our home, stuffed with hidden Kleenex in my bathroom waste basket. Mixed feelings of pride, excitement, and anxiety, all because the role I loved is quaking. What is next for me? Will she be happy at this college she chose? Have I taught her enough to be safe and resilient? Will she have a new best friend as she travels three thousand miles from home?

That is an entry I found in my old journal. My daughter graduated college and has been working in the world for a year now.

Journal – Buy a book at a stationary store that feels comforting to you and a new pen.
Dive deep into your feelings and thoughts. This will help keep you sane during the change. You still need a friend to hug you, but you and your journal are available everyday.

Some of my pages are doodles and coffee stains. One year, I actually used the doodle on a flier for workshops.

I know change and transitions are lonely, feelings of immobility, and a sense of deep loss, pop up. It is a call for new parts of you to get attention and nurturing. Change always happens. Now is an opportunity to build inner resources that consist of compassion, curiosity, asking for help, exploring, changing your mind, and simply being.

Trust that your children will reach out if they need you and that they do love you even if they aren\’t calling or emailing. They are adjusting to their new life. Remember to lower your expectations of them and of yourself. You can practice present moment and breathing, or at least, counting to five before you react. Plan something just for you after the hug goodbye:
THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Videos
  • Massage
  • Comforting meal that you freeze ahead
  • Date with a friend who will come over and be with you just as you are, tearful and excited.
  • Flowers and candles
  • Lists of what you admire about yourself
  • Lists of wonderful things people have said about you over the years
  • Lists of wants and needs
  • Packages of seeds to plant in your garden
  • Music
  • Meditations to turn on as you drop inside for peace and comfort.
  • New outfit to wear that makes you feel good in this new beginning

RITUALS
1. Choose one thing you want to stand in, example, courage.
2. Cut out pictures from magazines, find objects, words, etc. that shows courage to you.
3. Candle to light as you say to yourself
4. “Help me feel the courage, begin my new role, and find new parts of myself. Thank you.”
5. Put these objects and pictures on a pretty napkin, fabric.
6. Each day pause to be present with your intention of courage.
7. Write a love letter telling your child all that you appreciate, admire, respect about them, as well as, what you wish for them, example, courage, forgiveness, new friendships, passion for learning, fun, focus, laughter, common sense, a date, to do your laundry weekly, call home. The letter can be serious, sentimental, and funny. Just start writing it and then ask your child if they want to read it now or when they are in their dorm. Do they want you to mail it to them?
8. Write yourself a letter talking about what you loved all these years in being his/her parent. Notice what memories, thoughts, and feelings emerge on the paper. Go ahead and brag. This is just for you. Read it out loud. Yes out loud. Hear yourself admiring yourself and appreciating stepping up to the challenges and joys of parenting.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF

Children will continue to come and go from your life. Now is the time to focus on you, and be as loving with yourself as you have been with your children.

  • Would you have lived your life without being a parent if you had to do it over again?
  • Can you get through this unknown path propelled by appreciating who you were to your children and now who you will be to you?
  • Will you trust that you aren\’t alone and are able to build inner resources to navigate the challenges?
  • Is there one thing you always wanted to do, but just didn\’t have time, energy, or a start plan?
  • Do you have a photo of yourself that reminds you of very happy times?
  • Who do you admire? Write them a note.

Changes…don\’t go through it alone.

Take care,
Natalie
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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.