When one\’s life is in transition, questions arise about wanting a
gigantic change, an alteration or a variation of what is already there.
Below are some questions to consider.• What are the “normal” thoughts
and feelings during this cycle? How long does the “grieving” last?
• Whether you are a parent who
chose a career or not, you are a parent who is going through this major
transition. A cycle of your life is ending. What are your dreams now?
• How do you build a new community now that school days with your child are over?
• How do you continue the
communication with your child and be respectful of his/her growth?
• How do you develop coping
skills when your child comes back home and some of your freedom is lost?

Asking questions to discover and uncover your desires to help redirect
your life is a good start, but keep in mind there are no specific rules
or formulas for making life changes, overcoming depression, or
discovering new meaning and purpose. What works for some people, may
not work for others, and you may need to try a variety of different
activities to find what is right for you.

Circle of life exercise

An Empty Nest mother, Linda, called me explaining that she could barely
handle the pain she was going through, as her last child had recently
left for college. She worked part time as a librarian and was married,
but said she felt anxious and sad. She felt lost and wanted to
experience more joy and enthusiasm, but she didn\’t know how. I felt
that Linda could benefit from something I called the “circle of life.”
I\’ve presented this concept to many clients who liked the idea of using
a visual tool. It\’s helpful because it can provide you with a clearer
picture of what you are devoting your time and energy to.

I suggested she draw a circle and divide it into equal sections, labeling each section or piece of the “pie” with the following:
• Creativity
• Relationships
• Career
• Intellect (seeking knowledge)
• Spirituality
• Health and fitness
• Community involvement
• Wild woman (out-of-my-box),
stepping out of what you would consider average, normal behavior for
you. For example, if you have thought about going to a dance club and
cutting loose on the dance floor but are afraid to do that, then
actually going out and dancing at the club would be giving in to your
wild woman side.

I asked Linda to think about how much time she gave to each of those
activities during one week and write in the minutes/hours. Linda was
surprised to find that most of her focus was on relationships. She paid
no attention to spirituality and wild woman! Linda said she\’d like to
try to develop the wild woman in her. She wondered: How could I look
better, become more attractive? What could I do to look more stylish,
exciting? I suggested that she begin with something easy and simple.
She started to wear bright lipstick, cut her hair shorter, and bought
flattering fitted jeans to show off her trim figure. Just these few
improvements helped to lift her spirits.

Linda was inspired with her “circle of life.” It quickly showed her
something about herself. She had a new beginning now. She had choices;
she had hope.

You don\’t have to make sweeping changes in each section or area of your
life. Start with baby steps and go from there. After one month, Linda
felt like a new person and her whole life changed. Her feelings about
situations changed too. Just recently, she said, “I had no idea my life
without my kids could be so fun and satisfying.

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.