How Do You Survive an Empty Nest?
—Grace & Truth Linkup

My Nest Felt Full

My nest felt so full back then.

When my daughters were little, were underneath my feet all day, asking for goldfish crackers or fighting for their turn at games on our single desktop computer, it seemed this stage of life would last forever.

It was bittersweet as they aged out of it. First, my oldest, Morgan, moved out and left for college. I was sad. Her empty room mirrored my empty heart.

In no time, the baby, Jenna, also graduated from school. And from home.

It was only Jeff and I left.

how-do-you-survive-an-empty-nest

Empty Nest Syndrome

How did we arrive at this station so soon?

Wasn’t it supposed to take eons before we had an empty nest?

Studies say that almost 25% of empty nesters develop Empty Nest Syndrome. It’s a season of mourning the loss of no children in the house, of changing roles from parent to…whatever comes next.

Nine years have passed since my nest emptied out. Another blink of an eye. While I was fortunate not to suffer long from Empty Nest Syndrome, I know many who have. It can be a difficult transition.

What are we to do with ourselves when the kids are gone, when our nest gets empty?

Leaving Home

What we did next wasn’t what I expected . . .

When our kids left home, Jeff and I left home, too.

We hit the road.

  • We drove back and forth to visit our daughters (although we tried not doing it TOO much, for their sake).
  • I traveled with Jeff on his business trips.
  • I took short trips with girlfriends.

Yet we always returned home. Happily.

Even though the nest contained less people in it, it was still our nest. Still our homebase. Still our refuge.

Is “Empty” the Right Word?

Much, much, much has happened between the beginning days of our empty nest and now. Some hard, but mostly good.

I’ve discovered “empty nest” may be a misnomer.

Yes, most of the time it is just Jeff and I in it.

But in actuality, just because less people live here full time doesn’t mean the nest is empty.

Even an empty nest can be full.

It’s full of memories, yes. And still full of love.

But occasionally, it’s even full of people. Even more people than in the past. A weekend ago every bed was taken, including the toddler bed and the crib.

Because our daughters flew the coop years ago, they fly back in now with company. They bring husbands with them. They bring children. They bring friends.

We’ve survived the empty nest by taking on new roles of mother-in-law and father-in-law, of Granna and Gramps.

We’ve moved into new ministries, traveled to new spaces, explored new aspects of our own relationship with each other, with ourselves, and with God.

Nests Evolve

Has it been easy transitions? Definitely not. Change is hard for me, even when it’s a good change. And harder when it’s a bad change.

There are still days when I look back and wonder: Where has that young mother gone? How did I turn into this middle-aged woman living with a middle-aged man, just two of us in this house?

But no nest is meant to last forever, unchanged, whether full or empty.

New nests are built, fill up, then empty out.

And life with its purpose moves on.

I want to stay flexible to move with it, empty of regrets but full of hope, for wherever God takes me next.

Featured Post

Our featured post this week is by Michele Morin. She is a new empty nester. Read her wise post to see how she is holding on and letting go in this season.

Michele writes,

“While the steps are unfamiliar to me at this point, I’m discovering a certain excitement as I look around me at this empty-ing nest and see the wide open spaces of God’s good plans for the future.”

Read all of Michele’s post here, then link up your own blog posts below.

Holding On, Letting Go, and Doing the Work of Loving Your Empty Nest


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Do you have an empty nest? How does it feel? Share your thoughts in the comments.

23 thoughts on “How Do You Survive an Empty Nest?
—Grace & Truth Linkup

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’d rather forego the trips to have all our family close by, so consider yourself blessed, Barbara! 🙂 Granted, I still can’t complain because the furthest away is only 3 hours. So many have much greater distance so I’m thankful we’re only a short car ride away.

  1. blankLaurie

    I can appreciate very well your post on an empty nest. In fact, I am thinking about writing a little bit about it too for my next WOTY post, since my word is empty. It DID seem like we would have children living under our roof forever, didn’t it? I like the freedom and privacy of having just Bill and me at home, but it took a little while to get used to. I loved Michele’s post. It’s good to know we are not on this journey alone. 🙂

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I actually thought about you, Laurie, as I was writing this because of your word ’empty.’ 🙂 There’s such an upside down characteristic of empty; sometimes it’s a hard thing but other times it’s the best. Yes, it’s so nice not to be alone on this journey! It helps me to have others along the way who are also walking it out.

  2. blankNancy Ruegg

    We’ve been empty-nesters for 17 years, retired for seven. Each chapter of life offers pros and cons; I for one am glad for the variety (although the transition period between them can be challenging). I don’t think God likes ruts!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You must be a pro at empty-nesting now, Nancy. 🙂 I can’t believe how fast time has flown in this stage myself. It’s already been 9 years for us. Yes, I agree with you about the pros and cons of each chapter of life. I’m thankful that God goes with us in each chapter to guide us through the transitions and into the new phase!

  3. blankBettieG

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and Michelle’s post too, Lisa. We’ve been at this empty nest phase for over 10 years, and like you, have adjusted to the many comings and goings, and life expansions. But the next phase is on our horizon very soon, as our kids want to take care of us now. It seems these changes take us by surprise, but God is not surprised. Your post was just the encouragement I needed tonight. Blessings to you.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Entering the next phase is always a challenge for me, but I pray that your entry into the next phase will be a smooth one, Bettie. It’s a blessing that your kids want to take care of you. It speaks highly of them AND of you that they have the desire!

  4. blankAnita+Ojeda

    Our nest has been ‘empty’ for nine years, too! We moved from MT to AZ, though when our nest emptied, so it made it a little easier. Although I did some mourning ;). Our home hasn’t been empty—one daughter lived with us for a year, a few students have lived with us, and we have a lot of visitors. It’s a different nest, but still has plenty of room for everyone.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Your nest still sounds quite plump, Anita. 🙂 I guess the difference is that our visitors now don’t stay for 18 or so years at a time. It is a different season for sure, but definitely still a good one!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Theresa. It’s a season of life that got here all too quickly! But I have enjoyed it. Although it has its trials too, I didn’t know it could be this much fun.

  5. blankSusan+Shipe

    Our nest has been minus the birds since 1996. But we live a very full life. The first year was the hardest for me. After having kids in the house for 27 years – it felt very odd not to hear the bouncing of footsteps on the second floor!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      The first year was the hardest for me, too, Susan. And actually I think it was the very hardest when the first child left, even though I still had my baby at home. The first one to leave woke me up that this was really happening. But it also brought many good things along with it too. And now that there are grands in the picture, it’s really been fun. 🙂

  6. blankCraftAtticResources

    The people I know that seem to have gone through it the best are people who embraced the chance to do something they hadn’t had the time, resources, or opportunities to do before rather than trying to continue to live life with the same patterns that emphasize the missing people and thus the “empty” nest.

    For some that meant travel, others relocated, but for others the changes were simple in trying out things locally they’d never had time or even awareness that these activities were available for adults because their time and money were tied up with kids.

    Those I know that seem to suffer the most are those who are living the very same lives they lived when their children were at home. If you had a full life when your kids were at home and you expand those opportunities once the kids are gone you likely are less impacted. However, if your life was primarily the kids then the loss is going to leave a hole if you don’t fill it with something that is a positive alternative.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Such a great comment! I appreciate you sharing these insights here about empty nests. Yes, embracing the chance to do things not previously available is a great way to experience the empty nest season. It’s been an interesting time for us to get to travel (well, prior to the past 12 months!) and stay out late at night getting doughnuts if we want to. 🙂 And once we handed off the family dog to our daughter, we really felt free to wander with no constraints other than work and money. lol.

  7. blankWendy @ One Exceptional Life

    The empty nest…as a mom who clings to her children, as part of her identity, it amazed me that I didn’t crumble when everyone left. The fact that they moved so far away is the hardest part. The military and college took our kids to crazy locations. But yes, the opportunity for travel is there. The 1st trip opened our eyes to the wide open road and that’s exciting. And then without an empty nest, we wouldn’t have grandbabies. So excited with our 1st coming. So many new firsts with the empty nest. Great post.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Oh, my heart hurts for those mamas whose kids live in distant places. It reminds me to complain less that my grandbabies are only 3 hours away; I know that’s nothing compared to a lot of people. I’m glad you discovered excitement in the wide open road! Congratulations on your first grandbaby coming soon!!! We have two granddaughters (age 3 and 1) and it’s been the best new adventure we could have.

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