Five Things No One Tells You About the Empty Nest

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell

empty nest articles, empty nest blog, empty nest advice, empty nest help, empty nest syndrome, empty nest depression, empty nest adjustment, red short sleeve sweater, lands end sweater, empty nest, empty nester, secrets of the empty nest, things to know about the empty nest, adjusting to the empty nest, struggling empty nest, empty nestersWithout a doubt, the transition to life as an empty nester is challenging. After all, when you’ve spent 18 or more years with child-rearing as your primary focus, it only makes sense that the empty nest adjustment would be significant. Oh, you expect the sadness and uncertainty about the future. But there are some things that nobody warns you about. Today I’m sharing five secrets about the empty nest that no one ever tells you. We’re getting real, y’all. It may not be pretty, but it will be honest.

1. It may take longer to get over than you think.

There is no “normal” time frame for adjusting to the empty nest, and everyone’s adjustment period is different. Transitioning to the empty nest involves a very specific type of grief, and grief is personal. There is no timetable for it. Some people struggle significantly for years. If you feel stuck in your grief, please consider reaching out for help. Many people do.

2. It can disclose other issues that you need to address.

From a struggling marriage or not taking care of your health, to falling behind on home maintenance projects or the latest technology, the time spent focusing on raising your children may mean you need to play catch up in some areas of life. I found that I had been using my kids as an excuse to set aside many things that I shouldn’t have. Once my little “excuses” moved out, I was forced to confront several issues that I needed to address.

3. Your heart will break a little bit every time they leave again.

A friend once told me that if you like the person your kids have turned into, it means you did a good job raising them. Maybe that’s why I feel sad every single time they leave after a visit home! Oh, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did when they left the first time, but it does hurt.

4. You may be jealous of your kids.

They’re young, they’re gorgeous, and it seems like they have their whole lives in front of them. You may be feeling old, tired, and discouraged. If you feel a little envious of your kids, it’s okay. No one talks about it, because no one wants to admit that they feel this way, but it’s actually fairly common.

5. You will have to learn a new style of parenting.

As a parent of an adult child, you will need to learn to close your mouth and open your ears. Mostly you’ll smile and nod a lot, and say phrases such as “That’s so interesting,” “Huh!”, and of course, the old standby, “Well okay then, there you go!” I found the best way to handle things was to be very positive and encouraging with my adult kids, and, if something questionable occurred, I would say something like “Tell me about that.” or “Help me understand that.” If you want to give advice, you need to wait to be invited. If you’re not invited, but you really think they need to know your thoughts, try asking, “Would you like to know what I think?” Follow it with, “You can say ‘no.’” Then respect their wishes. Parenting adult children requires a lot of self-control.

The adjustment to life as an empty nester can be significant. Give yourself ample time to get used to this new stage. Focus on gratitude for the things about the empty nest that you enjoy. Force yourself to look ahead, set goals, and make plans. Chances are, you’ve got many years ahead of you! It’s time to move forward.

What’s surprised you about the empty nest adjustment? Were there things you didn’t see coming? I’d love it if you’d get real with me in the comments below.





Photo by Megan Weaver.
Makeup by Bebe Tran.

P. S. If you’re struggling with the transition to the empty nest, please consider subscribing to my email list. If you do, you’ll receive my free guide, “Adjusting to the Empty Nest.” Know that I have lots of resources that can help you. Look under the tab entitled, “The Empty Nest” in the menu at the top of my website for other articles and posts I’ve written. Also, check out the drop-down menu under the “Resources” tab to find links to resources that I found helpful. Finally, my friend, Steph (from JOY Creative Shop), and I designed a gratitude journal just for my readers. It can help keep you focused on the blessings of the empty nest, and it makes a great gift for anyone who is struggling.


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  1. Another great article. Thanks for helping me realize my feelings are common and I am not CRAZY!

    1. Cindy,
      Thanks for your sweet comment! You are not crazy. I’m right there with you. xoxo Suzy

  2. Hi Suzy, even though I don’t always comment, I LOVE your articles. You have helped me so much even though I’m not an empty nester yet. I think my daughter (2nd born) going to college in 2 weeks is going to be harder than when my son (1st born) went last year. I’m so thankful they will both be together at Liberty! I have #3 home for 5 more years plus a new job to keep me busy and help with tuition payments. Thank you! Love you bunches!

    1. Laura Beth, thank you so much for your kind words! So glad to hear your kids will be together. Yes, I will tell you that I love my boys so much, but when my daughter left, it was different. That mother/daughter bond is unique. So thrilled you have a great new job and your youngest is still at home for awhile. Hugs to you and love right back atcha! xoxo Suzy

  3. Thank you so much for writing about this subject. It’s very encouraging to know that I’m not crazy and not the only one going through this. My biggest struggle right now is navigating a relationship with my two daughters in law (whom I love dearly and they happen to be sisters! Lol), especially since grand babies are now in the picture. I never knew this would be so difficult.

    1. Jana,
      Thank you so much for your comment. Wow! That is a lot on your plate, girl. I think parenting adult kids is a really refining process, don’t you? In some ways, it’s way more exhausting than when they were young. (Especially if you are bossy and like to give advice like me! LOL.) I thought I had pretty good self-control, but self-control over my tongue is just so challenging! Keeping silent is the hardest!! I am sure with grand babies in the picture its even more tricky because EVERYONE is super sensitive about their kids. This will keep you learning and growing in the empty nest, for sure! xoxo Suzy

      1. It’s definitely a refining process! I recently tried your advice in #5. My son was asking about a health issue he’s been having and about making a doctors appointment. What I started saying was “you need to do this, that and the other” and then I caught myself. I said “would you like to know what I would suggest or what I think, it’s ok if you don’t” and he quickly responded “SURE!” I was so happy that he wanted to know my thoughts! LOL! Now, I know he won’t always respond that way but it was still encouraging that I stopped myself and gave him the space to decide whether he wanted my advice or not. It wasn’t easy though because I’m a lil’ bossy as well!! 🙂

        1. Jana, your comment made me laugh! Actually, in all the times I’ve asked that, I’ve never had a child say that they did NOT want to hear my thoughts! I think they’re too scared to do that! LOL!!! So glad it worked for you, and so glad you shared it with me. xoxo Suzy

    1. NYLSE,
      Thanks so much for your honesty! Yep! Number five is the hardest for me, but I’ll be honest, number four took me by surprise. It was hard for me to admit, so I am grateful for your candor in letting me know that you feel it too. I appreciate your comment so much. xoxo Suzy

  4. I found once we became empty nesters, we needed to reconnect with each other as a couple. I honestly can say our love for each other has strengthened. ❤️

    1. Dawn,
      Thank you for your comment and your candor. A LOT of couples find the same thing! It’s almost as if you can’t see how far apart you’ve grown because you were both focused on the same goal of raising kids. I am so glad you and your husband have reconnected and rekindled your love for one another An empty house can do wonders for romance, right? xoxo Suzy

  5. Since I\\\’m on the other end of empty nesting, with our three married and gone, I can say honestly your #5 may be the most challenging of all! With three children, God graciously lets us get used to them leaving after the first goes off to college. (In our experience the first was the hardest separation). Learning to do exactly what you said in #5 is hard bc it\\\’s the opposite of parenting little ones! Plus, we have experiences we badly want them to benefit from, but often it doesn\\\’t work like that. And, sorry to say this, but when they MOVE out of state after college, there is once again a sadness which is compounded by the eventual arrival of precious Grandchildren far from us! Repeat, repeat. But we adjust!

    1. Martha, Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with those who are just a step behind you. (BTW, you would probably love the book I am reading right now – its on the sidebar of my website.) I agree that #5 is a huge challenge. With my eldest in law school, my middle graduated from college and married, and my youngest in college, I feel like I am merely “practicing” for the days to come. Self- control is a fruit of the Spirit and I am so glad not to have to manufacture it on my own. Big hugs to you and thank you again for your candor. xoxo Suzy

  6. I can tell the simple wisdom in this post comes from your heart and your experience. Our 5 children were spread over 10 years, so we had children at home for 28 years – it was a huge adjustment to finally have the nest completely empty. I went through all the things you’ve mentioned, and although my husband and I absolutely love our empty nest lives, we still long for times they come home and feel sad and a little empty when they leave. Thank you for sharing these thoughts that are so real to me.

    1. Melody,
      Thanks for your sweet affirmation. With five kids, you really had a big adjustment! Like you, we’ve found that the empty nest season of life has blessings and challenges just like any other phase of life. I wrote this post because I think people expect it to be all frivolity and fun. As you said, that’s a part of it, but there’s a lot more to it, for sure! That parent/child bond is always there – no matter their age, stage, or even location. I’m grateful for your comment and wisdom! xoxo Suzy

  7. My son has officially been out of the house for 5 years and lives 10 hours away. He just spent three weeks with us because he can now work from home. It was so nice to have him here but when he left I had that sick feeling as if he left for college all over again. It took me a few days to get over the slump but all is good!!! Thanks for all your posts and a fun outlook on life.

    1. Aw, Janice, thank you so much. I know exactly what you mean! When our son got married and left for his honeymoon, I had to come back to our house alone because my husband had a work commitment, my older son had to be back at law school, and my youngest daughter had to be back at college – all immediately after the wedding! I was shocked at how hard it was! I walked into each child’s room and all over the house just sobbing. When my poor husband called to say that he’d arrived at his destination safely, he did not find me in a good way! Grief can be like that – so unpredictable. Like you, I’ve learned just to let it wash over me and kinda just “sit” with it a little while. There’s no rushing it, for sure. Thanks so much for reading and for your sweet comment. xoxo Suzy

  8. Suzy,
    I’m a mom of 3 girls the youngest of which just started her senior year so I am anticipating the empty nest I joke about how I’ll manage! Thankyou for your insight! It’s almost a relief to know that the anxiety I am feeling about the what’s next is really a “thing”! Knowing I’m not alone is sadly comforting! I’m struggling with being excited for her but sad for me. Sounds like I’m normal! Xoxo,

    1. Ryan,
      Thanks so much for your comment! You are totally normal! It is a huge life transition for parents. Those mixed feelings of excitement for your kids but sadness for yourself is very typical. It’s a little bit of a roller coaster. You are smart to try to prepare yourself. This recent post of mine might help: All the best to you, and thanks for reaching out. Suzy

  9. Such a great article! Thank you for sharing it. Going to pass it along to some friends who I know will find it helpful.

  10. Our only child leaves for college in four days. I’m feeling it all right now. The tears are flowing way too easy. Your list of five things was comforting to me, especially the one on grief. I hadn’t thought about how the grief would last or even calling the emotion grief. But that is exactly what it is. And the suggestion on focusing on gratitude was the most peaceful for me. I can see now that gratitude will help to get me through. Thank you.

    1. Sweet Kathleen,
      Your comment brought me to tears. I am so sorry for your struggle right now. I’ve been there. You are wise to just sit with your feelings and let them wash over you. There’s no way to rush through this time of grief any more than you can rush through any other type of grief. If I may give you one little piece of advice right now…be careful about letting your child see too much of your sadness. He or she (sorry, not sure which you have!) is dealing with significant emotions right now too. In the long run, you’ll be glad if you finish strong as a parent and are really “there” for your child to support him/her emotionally right to the end. You can deal with yourself after that. Finish strong!!!! You can do it! I hope you keep coming back here for support and encouragement. Hugs and prayers headed your way. xoxo Suzy

  11. I am grateful about discovering your blog and web site. I can relate to all of this and quite frankly for me it’s been a delayed effect. At first, when my younger daughter left to live with her dad, I focused on my own life and it was sad but I was ok with it. However over time, I kept feeling sad and I didn’t really know if it was normal at the time.
    It’s been 4 years of empty nesting and I am lucky both my daughters live close and we see each other regularly. As a single parent raising two daughters, it was the most rewarding experience of my life. I sometimes feel a little sad but it’s ok and it’s part of the grieving process.
    I have a full life and lots of people around however this is a very personal thing.
    I am very happy to have found this place so I can relate to other moms.
    I am still working on the meaning of the next phase of my life and I believe It takes form through little steps and being present in our lives.
    Thank you !

    1. Hi Genny, Welcome to Empty Nest Blessed! I’m so glad you are here. In my experience, single moms are without a doubt the ones who have the most challenging time adjusting to the empty nest. It sounds like you were a great mom to your girls, and I know you have a lot still to give. I’m so glad you are still working on discovering the meaning of the next phase in your life. You are correct in the fact that this is a very personal experience and everyone’s adjustment takes on a different form and timeframe. I write about a lot of topics on Empty Nest Blessed, as I’m sure you’ve noticed! As midlife women, we are interested in everything from fashion and beauty to travel and fitness – and of course, parenting our adult kids. I hope this is a place of inspiration and fun for you! Thanks so much for leaving me a comment. Big hugs to you, sweet Genny! xoxo Suzy

  12. Hello, my name is Feleicia I am 45 and i am a mother of two. I have been a at home wife/mom for the bigger part of the last twenty-one years. My daughter graduated the same day she turned 18 in May 2017. She left for bootcamp in July. My son is in the Army. Stationed in NY as of Nov 2016 along with my granddaughter. MY daughter is in the Navy and is in the middle east for the next 3 years. Oh and my husband is also in the middle east as a contractor. My struggle is beyond real. Most of my few friends don’t understand what I am going through. I am blessed to have my sister and her two little kids living with me right now. However it doesn’t take away the pain, the loneliness, and sadness I feel. Which most think it should make it easier. I experienced bouts of anxiety leading up to my daughter’s graduation. This has been an emotional rollercoaster ride. Sorry to give you my life story. I just liked your article. And sending a child off to college is not the same as them leaving for the military. There’s no weekend visits, daily phone calls, etc. I am thankful for post/blogs like yours. I am.just trying to find where I fit in. Where to begin.

    1. Sweet Feleicia,
      Oh my word, your precious comment brought me to tears. I can just hear the pain in your voice and I’m so very sorry. You’ve really got it tough. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve thought a lot about how different it must be to send a child off to the military as opposed to college. WOW. I don’t know how much I can help you, but I do want to encourage you to visit your GYN to talk about your situation. Age 45 is not too young to begin experiencing the challenging emotional aspects that can sometimes accompany menopause. You may need a little medicine along with counseling to help you get over this initial hurdle. (LOTS of people do! It’s nothing to be ashamed of or worried about. If you could see my emails, you would know I am telling the truth.) I hope you will look at some of my posts about adjusting to the empty nest to see if anything there could be helpful. (Here the link: Also, please check out the resources section of my website. I have sections for Not-Yet Empty Nesters, New Empty Nesters, and even Long-Time Empty Nesters. I think you might find some of the resources in the New Empty Nester section helpful to you. (Here’s the link: Finally, are you a part of a faith community where you live? If not, I hope you might consider it. Please stay in touch and let me know how you are doing. I wish I could give you a big hug in person right now. Love and prayers. xoxo Suzy

  13. Wow. Thank you so much for this spot on article.i I have 5 children. I have had a much harder time than I expected with them leaving. I still have our 5th at home, our late in life surprise. So that helps. This past year our daughter got married and our 4th child went to college. Thank you for permission to grieve and that it can take longsr for some.

    1. Audrey,
      Thanks so much for your sweet comment. I’m so glad you found this post helpful! It seems like all of us are either surprised that it is harder than we thought OR we were dreading it so much, and we actually did okay. I hear both! Either way, it’s different for everyone and I think it is so important to give yourself permission to take the time you need and allow yourself to feel the way you feel – without telling yourself you “ought” to feel differently! Thanks so much for your honesty and for sharing your story. You ARE dealing with A LOT! Hang in there, and give yourself permission to grieve, adjust, and move forward. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. xoxo Suzy

  14. The concept of empty nest took me completely by surprise. I have 9 kids, so my oldest left home over a decade ago. Having a child or two leave home every few years has become commonplace, so it never occurred to me that it would be any different towards the end. Surprise! I have two leaving for college in the next month and a half and one left in high school. In the last six months, it has become more and more common for my husband and I to spend evenings at home alone, or even entire days on weekends. After high school graduation several weeks ago, my whirlwind days suddenly became calm and empty-feeling. It’s not that I don’t have a lot to do, but the compelling urgency of my days is no longer there. I’m not sure how to adjust. I was delighted to find your site and “meet” a fellow Texan. Thanks for all the encouraging info! It’s enough to keep me reading for quite awhile.

    1. Sandra,
      Wow! You are a unique empty nester, that’s for sure! You are going through a lot right now, and you expressed your feelings so beautifully in your comment. I am so glad you somehow found your way here. After raising 9 kiddos, you are going to take some significant time to adjust, for sure. I hope you allow yourself to feel all of those feelings, focus on your marriage, and take the time to think about what you like and enjoy. (When we have kids at home, there is no time to think about that!) In those early days, I spent time trying to do what I was already doing “better” and it gave me some time before I made any big decisions about how I wanted to spend my time. I made better meals for my husband, I cleaned out the house, I exercised harder, made some Dr. appts. I’d been putting off, and did an “empty nest refresh” on our house. (After the kids moved out, we needed to repair the scuffs and scrapes and worn spots.) We repainted, updated our decor and electronics and took the time to make our home a better reflection of just the two of us. By the time I worked through those types of practical things, I had taken the time to think, explore, and especially pray about what I wanted to do with my new life. That’s how Empty Nest Blessed was born. Thanks so much for your comment! Please keep reading and let me know if there is anything you’d specifically like me to write about that would be helpful to you. Be sure you check the “Resources” section of my website for helpful resources! Here’s the direct link:
      Hugs to you! xoxo Suzy

      1. Suzy,

        What great advice! I have naturally been drawn to do exactly what you describe so well (spend time concentrating on doing better at what I already do)–cooking better, exercising better, paying more attention to health, repairing the house (!), focusing on marriage…but I was afraid it was just treading water when I was supposed to be swimming forward. Your advice was so refreshing, and helps me feel that I can not only give myself permission to do that, but that it’s a great transition strategy too.

        Thank you! One question: how long did you take for this time of transition? I know it is likely to vary from person to person–I get that–but just hearing somebody else’s experience can help put it all in perspective.

        1. Sandra,
          Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comment! I am so grateful that you found this post helpful!!! You are correct in that it is different for everyone. It mostly seems to vary based on how “behind” a woman feels she is in a certain area. (For example, she has a long way to go in the health and fitness department and that is really all she’s able to focus on at the moment.) For others, it seems like it works to tweak a little here or there – that was me! I would say that I am still a work in progress for sure, and it’s sometimes hard to keep all of my balls up in the air as I juggle! LOL! That said, I think you’ll know when you need to move on to more because you’ll realize that this isn’t enough. I just felt like the Lord had more for me – and that’s when I knew it was time to focus more outward than inward. (That’s when I started Empty Nest Blessed!) I hope that answers your question. You sound like you are right where you need to be right now. Don’t listen to that voice that tells you all the “shoulds,” okay? Like moves fast and things can change in an instant. The advantage of being right where you are and doing right what you’re doing is that you have the ability to be flexible. That’s so awesome. I’ll give you an example. My friend’s husband was appointed to the Board of Trustees at the University they both attended. She found that as a Trustee wife, she had more functions to attend, more support to give, etc. She wasn’t expecting that, but it’s become wonderfully fulfilling to her! I hope that helps, sweet Sandra! Big hugs to you! I think you’re doing AWESOME! xoxo Suzy

  15. I’m one day into being an empty nest mom! I am also a military wife that hasn’t worked outside the home and we just moved out of state last month. So much new at once! We might move again in one year so I’m not sure about going to work. I am interested in reading your articles to find out how I can transition into my new lifestyle successfully!

    1. Mary,
      Congratulations and welcome! I’m so glad you reached out to me. How are you doing? Give yourself grace and take your time to adjust! I think you’ll find a lot on my site to help and encourage you as you think about moving forward. Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with, okay? Big hugs from me, Mama! xoxo Suzy

  16. Thanks so much, Suzy. I’m about to become an EN when my last child starts at Baylor. Funny that I’ve prepared for this our whole life as Mom-son, but so many mixed emotions hit me unexpectedly. You provide great tips for self-care and well being. I am grateful for you.

    1. Hi sweet Missy,
      It can be so challenging, and, much like any other form of grief, it ebbs and flows. One of the most common mistakes I see is parents who put their feelings into their kids – who have enough to deal with right now on their own! Hang in there. You can do it! Thank you for your kind words! So glad you’re here! xoxo Suzy

  17. You don’t how much I needed to find someone else who understood what I was going through. I thought if talked to anyone about it they’d think I was weird or downright stupid. My son’s been out on his own for 5 yrs now-I thought that was hard. Nothing could’ve prepared me for my baby,my daughter,leaving our home.After your post,I feel like I can breath easier,face the issues,… I know it was no accident I found your site and that you love God also. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself to help others because it truly has helped me.

  18. Kimberly,

    Well, you are just the sweetest, and your comment made my day! I’m so happy you found me and that you found my post helpful, precious girl. I’m so sorry you’re struggling! Here at Empty Nest Blessed, we are focused on feeling those (absolutely normal) feelings of grief that come with becoming empty nesters, but also about moving forward, rediscovering who we are as women apart from motherhood, and living with purpose.

    I do hope you’ll join us on the journey! You might find some of my other empty nest posts to be helpful! You can access them in the navigation bar at the top of the website. You might also enjoy some of my posts about parenting adult children. Feel free to use the search bar at the top of the site to search for key words on topics that might help you.

    Blessings and hugs to you! You’re not alone, weird, or stupid, and I understand!


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