The Empty Nest Syndrome as a Rite of Passage

The Empty Nest Syndrome is a common experience shared by parents, particularly mothers, whose young adult has moved out of the house as they start college, move, or get married. This transition can result in depression or grief by many mothers whose primary purpose or role has been to raise their child or children. With the ending of this role, a transition takes place where the parent starts to go through their own identity shift. It is a common experience, but nevertheless, a difficult transition for many.

If you are experiencing the Empty Nest Syndrome it can be helpful to seek the guidance of a professional who can help you navigate the change in identity, roles, family dynamics and sense of self.

In a Huffington Post column titled, “4 Things They Never Tell You About Empty Nest Syndrome” Shelley Emling describes the process of her son going to college as confusing. She was uncertain how often to communicate with her son and she says, “Do I text my son every day… once a week… or not at all?”  Additionally, she talks about how the change shifts the entire family dynamic.  Her unsettling experiences are common; yet, many people in this culture never talk about the confusion, upset or how to navigate the sense of loss and grief.

According to Wikihow, research suggest that the transition from being an active mom to an independent woman again takes around 18 months to two years to rebuild and grieve through the loss.

Additionally, this transition seen as a rite of passage, can mark a beginning to a positive change, if addressed in a healthy way.  Many parents have given up hobbies or careers to raise children so many of those interests can now be rekindled.  Here are some tips to help navigate the empty nest and invigorate your sense self and life:

    1. Consider having a ritual marking the transition.  This can be done with a psychotherapist, friend, husband, or even the young adult to mark the change and appreciate the time you have had together.   Allow the grief and loss to carry you to the next part of your life together and acknowledge that this may look very different.
    2. Consider rekindling a new or old hobby.  Get in touch with parts of yourself that have been unattended to.
    3. Explore a new career or invest in the one you currently have.
    4. Invest in your relationship with your partner.  Discover a new kind of intimacy with your partner.  Take a relationship workshop together.  Go to therapy to work out any buried issues.  Be creative and have fun together without the kids.
    5. Learn to Receive.  You have been a giver for many years, now it is time to learn to receive.  Treat yourself to a massage, or other ways to receive nurturance.
    6. Spend time with friends.  Rekindle friendships.
    7. Join a Meetup Group. Meet new friends.
    8. Exercise- Do yoga or a form of exercise that will help move your energy while also nurturing you.
    9. Join a Spiritual Group- Get to know your larger purpose and true SELF beyond roles and identities.


To find out how psychotherapy can help you grieve, navigate and embrace the empty nest as a rite of passage, please contact Stephanie De La Torre at: or 818-623-6625.