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Journaling Through the Empty Nest Transition

We all know the day is coming, whether that day is the beginning of empty nest or the day our adult children are home for a visit and then leave.

Is there prevention for sorrow? I believe from all the experiences I have with change and tears that the answer is to practice being with what is.

Sorrow is a part of life. Change will happen. Spring will bloom. Winter will chill. As the plum blossoms in my neighborhood are fully bursting on top of trees next to the clusters of white jasmine plants, I realize how well they handle change. They bloom, cause me to stop to take in their sudden fragrant beauty, turn brown, and drop until their next season. Now, that is an image of change and letting go that works for me.

Never give up
No matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country
Is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart
Be compassionate
Not just to your friends
but to everyone
Be compassionate
Work for peace
in your heart and in the world
Work for peace
and I say again
Never give up
No matter what is happening
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up

H.H. the XIV Dalai

Dealing with changes and transitions:

Hiding in bed won’t change the fact that you can’t talk with your children at breakfast or dinner today.

Try journaling your feelings and thoughts. A journal is safe and available daily:

  • Starter … today I wish I could … but I can’t, so I will …
  • Get outside.
  • Make a plan during the week to do something with a friend even if you are always the one initiating the plans. If you are new in town and don’t really have a good friend, go to a bookstore or art store or even the market and say hello to people you meet. Be available for an hour with the intention of meeting someone that might want to get coffee.
  • Write yourself a letter of advice pretending that this is how you would advise one of your closest friends who was in a transition.              

“Dear Kate,

I know how lonely and shocking it is to not be living your most favorite role that you adored for eighteen years. Oh my, you wonder what is next for you. Well, let me tell you, dear friend … ”

  • Rearrange your rooms at home to stir up new creativity and beauty.
  • As trite and annoying as it sounds, we can’t expect others to make us happy, so focus on yourself and what brings you inspiration.
  • Turn off the computer. Go for a walk and talk to your neighbors.
  • Mentor or make friends with someone older or younger than you.
  • Learn a language or how to play an instrument.
  • Tour your own city on a bus.

I know the answer doesn’t simply mean to get going. Actually, for some, stillness is the answer with change. Listening inside ourselves is being with a best friend whom we have forgotten. Ten minutes of inner listening is refreshing and inspiring.

Being able to say and feel, this is how I feel right now and I know it won’t last forever gives you compassion and healing.

Being with what is brings up the challenge of lowering our expectations that might be based on how other people are living. Your life isn’t necessarily how televisions and magazines say it should be or how you were raised. Learning to grieve what hasn’t happened by now in your life and what you lost is painful, so of course you don’ t want to write or talk about those thoughts and feelings. Leap past what others will think of you and the fears of feeling pain and say what is. Bonding with others comes from sharing. Choose a safe person to tell your “secrets” to.

Life isn’t easy, but every day starts and stops, so ask yourself:

  • Where am I today?
  • What do I need?
  • What might be next for me with my free time?
  • What ignites me?
  • What hasn’t had my attention and needs it now?
  • What has added meaning in my life?
  • What do I know is true, but just can’ t step into right now?

Write the paradoxes of life that you are living today. Paradoxes are part of adult life; example … I always wanted free time. Now I have it and don’t know what I want to do with it. I used to love having my children come back home and now it is draining. Who are they and who am I with them? I don’t want to be without a partner but that one causes too much pain. What do we need to course correct or is this as good as it gets?

Change and transitions are surprising. They require new parts of us to emerge.

Compassion and curiosity feed love.

As you enter these changes, my biggest tip is—value the life you have. Honor who you are and what you have given in life. Give value to yourself now. I notice in talking with thousands of people across the country, that we forget an ordinary day is valuable and can be a life purpose. What does an ordinary day mean to you? What do you do in an ordinary day? How do you feel? How do you reflect on your day in a more meaningful way?

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