Empty Nest Syndrome

This last week my husband and I dropped our only daughter off at University. It has always been part of the plan. I am delighted for the opportunities she has, I am proud at how she is settling in, but I also feel sad.

The day we took her I had a lot of anxiety on the way down and my heart felt very tender and sore. We had a lovely lunch in one of our favourite restaurants and her best friend (since they were 4 years old) joined us and stayed with her for a few nights after we left. All went smoothly. Picking up keys, unloading her possessions and saying good bye. I shed a few tears in the car on the way home.

I spoke to my mum on the way home and have been remembering the day she left me at London Victoria tube station. I was heading home to halls of residence in Tooting and she was heading to Kings Cross for the train back to York. I remember her crying as she walked away with my step dad. She remembers me turning and walking away. I was so looking forward to living in London and learning about physics and the universe – I didn’t look back.

It still amazes me to this day that I managed to leave my home in a village outside of York, to go and live in the big London. I don’t remember being anxious at all, just excited. I was probably inspired by Bilbo’s journey to the retrieve the dwarves’ treasure! I was the first in my family to go to university, the first to move away and it seemed a puzzle to my family, to go and live in a dump in London, with very little money (a full grant in those days with London weighting), rather than staying home and getting a well paid job.

It is different with Jen. Both me and my husband went to University and both of us have a strong belief in the ability of a good education to free the mind from cultural limitations and to enable a choice of how to live and work in the world. Also, she has had a gap year and has been away for some of that and so we are used to her not being here. Then, one of the main reasons for our move to Scotland was to make a good life together – just the two of us – in the knowledge that our daughter would be leaving soon.

Still I feel sad. It is a mini grieving. Knowing that if all goes well our home will never again be the primary place where she lives. The sadness feels sore in my heart, when I remember. I feel a bit down, like the feeling of a heavy sight and my energy is low. It is completely natural to feel this way – nothing is wrong!

My training in mindfulness calls me to feel these feelings of sadness, without getting caught up in stories – stories about getting old, redundant, in a final phase of my life – which stories I know are not wholly true. My training in compassion calls me to look after myself and also my husband who is feeling the same way. He and I spent the weekend together harvesting and processing crops from our garden. Sad is OK, I am familiarising myself with it, while also practicing joy. Focussing in a more disciplined way than usual on my gratitude journal and focussing on rejoicing in my daughter’s joys.

I have set up an instagram account so as to keep her in touch with what we are doing – especially the dogs, who she has grown up with and who she misses. I am regularly in Manchester for our MAHQ meetings and so (her timetable permitting – fingers crossed) we can meet up a couple of times a month for dinner and a quick visit to the supermarket to stock up on fruit and veg! We are all three of us very close and she is happy to stay in touch, which is wonderful.

So my plan is to keep feeling the feelings, keep practicing the joy, staying open and curious about the next stage of this amazing life of mine. There are some exciting projects in the pipeline. I know myself. I am more future focussed and less inclined to look back – just as when I left home. Already, I feel a bit lighter.

If you are feeling sad, or indeed any other emotion, try the RAIN practice on our completely free MBLC app. It is a good way to come to terms with things as they are, to allow and to understand – to create the conditions for insight and perhaps a little wisdom to emerge. A bit more freedom.

Kind Wishes

Heather

Click here for the RAIN practice.

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