Today I would like to bring up a subject that a lot of people just do not understand, Empty Nest Syndrome. I touched on this briefly in a recent post but I would like to go a little farther with this one. While some people seem to cope with their children leaving home quite easily, others feel overwhelming loneliness, grief, and depression. These feelings should not be ignored.
First, let me say very clearly, I am not medically qualified to treat or diagnose this condition. My main goal in this post is to let you know that you are not alone and to help you recognize these feelings within yourself. When feelings like these become overwhelming and you feel that you can not cope on your own please talk to someone about them.
Feeling depressed or lonely when your life changes so drastically is not uncommon but the severity differs person to person. Some people are able to go on with their lives with very little interruption while others seem to spiral further down as time goes on. Depression is not hard to recognize in other people but you may not be able to see it in yourself.
Signs of Depression / Empty Nest Syndrome
Some of the signs and symptoms of depression, according to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, include the following:
- Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
- Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
- Pessimism, indifference
- Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is in your best interest to talk to someone about them. If you are not comfortable with going to an actual psychologist then find someone you are comfortable talking to. When you think about it, there are several people you can share your feelings with. You have your spouse, your clergy, your family, your best friend or even your physician. You are not alone. Listen to their advice and if they feel you need further help then it may be time to find a professional.
When to Seek Professional Help
It’s normal to feel sadness, grief or loneliness after a child leaves home; it’s not normal for those emotions to interfere with your daily life. If you’ve noticed negative changes in your mood or you are unable to simply go about your daily routine then it is time to seek the help of a mental health professional. There is nothing wrong with needing help.
In today’s world, it is very common to need help coping at some point in time. There is no shame in admitting that you need someone to talk to. When you add the emotional turmoil you feel when your children leave home to the stresses of any normal life it is completely understandable if you are not able to cope with it all.
If you don’t know where to start when it comes to finding a professional then make an appointment with your general physician. They are the best qualified to recommend a good counselor in your area. If you have a good relationship with your doctor he or she will also know someone that will be a good fit for you.
It is important to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Empty Nest Syndrome is real. Remember, you are the only one who truly knows how you feel so don’t ignore yourself. Take some time to get used to your new life but if time is not helping then get the help you need.