By K. Nepsa

It’s that time of year again: Graduation season!

Each year, a new set of parents experience the inevitable departure of a child after 18 years of pouring countless efforts, tears, joy, sacrifice, etc., into raising them. Something else that seems inevitable is the sadness that persists in your soul to see your beloved child finally leave the nest. It seems a little irrational to feel sad about something you worked so hard to accomplish, doesn’t it?
Your kids may have left the family home for college, marriage, or a new job. You might find yourself with feelings of loss and sadness. You could be finding it hard to focus and work. You may be experiencing empty nest syndrome. Not all parents and caregivers experience empty nest syndrome, but those who do often describe it as “bittersweet.” It combines the melancholy of suddenly living alone, with the intrigue of finally having time for yourself.

According to, ‘empty nest syndrome’ refers to the feelings of sadness, anxiety, and loss of purpose that some parents and caregivers feel when their grown children move out of the family home. Empty nest syndrome isn’t a medical or psychiatric health condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). However, research shows that empty nest syndrome can lead to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, or engaging in behaviors that can have a negative impact such as financial risk-taking or substance use disorders.

What are some symptoms of this phenomenon? Grief, emptiness, fear and worry. Other symptoms may include restlessness, loneliness, irritability, languishing or the need to re-examine roles or relationships in your life. However, symptoms aren’t always negative. Relief and excitement about a new life chapter can also be part of the empty nest experience.

If you find yourself in that sad category, what are some realistic expectations for handling this situation? Most parents adjust to their new roles as empty nesters within about two months. Some parents may experience symptoms for a longer period, even years.

There are a variety of coping methods you might want to consider to help deal with the symptoms of empty nest syndrome:

1) Laughing more. Find ways to laugh with others. Laughter can help lift your spirits, and it has health benefits, too. 2) Discovering your core values. Re-examine what matters to you in life. It also helps to find new outlets that align with your core values. 3) Getting to know your (now adult) kids. 4) Finding new ways to communicate with your kids can be mutually beneficial. Asking them what works can be a good starting point. Texting? Phone calls? 5) Exercising regularly. Exercise can perk up your spirits. 6) Investing in yourself. How would you invest in yourself? Start a new business or hobby? Go on a long-delayed vacation? Spend time with family and friends? Having more time and energy can allow you to invest more in your overall well-being. 7) Practicing self-care. Taking care of yourself is important. This can be the ideal time to do just that. You can eat well. Enjoy yourself. Get massages. Whatever it takes to restore your mind, body, and soul.
In the meantime, remember to breathe. Enjoy the moment for what it is…which is a culmination of all your hard work as your child takes flight to soar on the winds of their own independence. Congratulations 2022 Graduates!!

Amy Morin, LCSW, Updated on April 19, 20215, Signs and Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome, Very Well Family,
Maggie Wooll, January 13, 2022, Empty nest syndrome: How to cope when kids fly the coop, Better Up,

K. Nepsa has a B.S. in Geology and a Master’s in GIS. She has lived in Arizona, HI, CA and Shanghai, China. Her hobbies include enjoying the outdoors via Jeep, Kayak, horse or foot. She has been a Vail resident since 2005.

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