Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

How Do You Treat Empty-Nest Depression?

empty nest, smaller.jpg
Several mom friends of mine have lately come down with a bad case of “empty-nest depression”–moms who just dropped off their youngest offspring to college, or moms having difficulty keeping busy now that the youngest is in kindergarten all day.


I googled the term “empty-nest depression” to see what I could find on this topic. I was surprised to see the Beyond Blue post I wrote in 2007 at the top of the search results. But, after reading it, I can see why it was so popular. I merely asked a question, and all of you answered it. On the combox of that post are written different kinds of compassionate and insightful responses to my question: How do you treat empty-nest depression? Beyond Blue reader Barbara initiated the discussion with this practical piece of advice:


I am a mother of five children; the oldest 29, the youngest 20 in college. My children all went off on their own around the age of 18. Those in college worked their way through school so only returned home for a weekend occasionally; not for summer vacation. I was involved in all their lives, but I hope, not as a smother mother.

During a long period of their growing years, I was suffering from major depression. My therapist encouraged me to find some work outside the home. He was aware how much emphasis and identity I had tied up in motherhood, and how deeply depressed I was. I totally rebelled because raising my children was my first responsibility. But an opportunity came my way that would allow me to use my musical talent one day a week at a school. For some reason, I agreed to do it. Later it went to two days, then three. I finally decided to return to college and finish my degree while still teaching three days a week. By that time, only my son was still at home. He found he loved karate so my husband and I juggled our schedules so that he would never come home to an empty house.


Gradually, and as my children needed me to step back from hands-on mothering, I found myself gaining a lot of satisfaction in my new life as a teacher. My children were proud of me, and were a very boisterous cheering section at my graduation.

Now my husband is on the road for weeks at a time, so my nest is really empty. I am happy that I started building for the future before the nest started emptying. My vow had been to be a stay at home mom like mine had been. But I now see how important it was to anticipate the changes that were inevitably in my future.


My suggestion to any woman currently suffering separation depression and loss of identity, is to remember that you have years ahead of you that can be quite fulfilling. After menopause, the energy that our bodies put into reproduction each month is over, and we often gain a new burst of it. I went back to college at age 50 and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and the sense of accomplishment that earning my degree gave me. Also remember, that while your children have moved away to develop their own identity, they will eventually move back toward you, albeit in a new relationship. They will live on their own, but have a new appreciation for you, as you will for them.

Look at the skills that you developed and practiced as a mother and pick the brains of your friends for ways to incorporate them into a new life. It seems scary to step outside your comfort zone, but it is something that everyone has to do if they are to grow and find satisfaction in life.


Change is daunting for almost everyone. We like things to be familiar and easy to understand. Sometimes all we need is a bit of reassurance that someone else has been in our shoes, and managed to walk in them.

To read some of the other responses, visit the post by clicking here.


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  • Gen

    Beautiful advice Barbara! Thank you!

  • acai berry

    Thanks for such useful advise.
    Doing yoga on regular basis may help you a lot to decrease the stress and depression level.

  • Janet Mercer

    I went to a shelter and adopted two kittens a week after my daughter left for college. Now they’re my “babies!” That helped a lot at first. Now I’m trying various volunteer jobs to try to see what possible career I might want to move into.

  • Dianne

    My three children are grown and out of the house. Two live withing an hour drive, so I find comfort in knowing they are close. My oldest lives a plane ride away and I miss her terribly. It helps me to have a plan, knowing when I will see her next. That makes the distance a little easier to take.

  • Your Name

    I don’t think my advice is radically different from most here. The basic concept is not just finding something to keep you busy so you dont remember how depressed and alone you feel, it’s important to find something you really enjoy doing to make your life full and purposeful. Women are multi faceted creatures; we have to be when raising children. All of the sudden, those busy days come to a halt, and you find yourself listening to the birds outside in the quietness of an early morning. You think …….. when did those birds start singing. Then you realize, they were always there, you were just too busy running around to notice.
    Now is the time to do whatever it is that you missed doing when you were younger. Take a pottery class, tennis lessons, more volunteer work, go back to school. Instead of thinking how empty you feel, you should think of how many possibilities are available to you now that you have more free time. And if you ever think you are the only woman feeling this way, think of all your sisters around the world that are facing the exact same dilemna. At least, more women are now willing to talk openly about the empty nest syndrome; this makes it easier to fall into the next step of our lives. It can be a wonderful journey.

  • ds

    I am a two week old empty nester. Both live in town an live close by.
    However i m disabled and do not get out and about much. So finding something to do is a bit harder when you physically can not do alot.
    However i found I am not as stressed out as much. I find i can do things in my nest now and stay busy. I guess i was expecting this to hit but so far it is enjoying our space again. My alone time with hubby and the house staying clean…. Simple things . Day after youngest moved out we packed up dogger went on a trip and had a ball. There is freedom without having to rush home to do this that or the other….

  • Cassi Jensen

    I moved halfway across the country from my two daughters, last December. My husband was retired and we sold our house in the NE and moved out here to the Midwest,where the living is cheaper, and also to be closer to my mother, who is developing Alzheimer’s. So not only do I miss my girls, 25 and 28, but my friends, my old home, everything. BUT.. we keep in touch daily or almost daily via phone, email, texting, and even Facebook. (easy to upload pictures taken on your camera or camera phone)So I can SEE my youngest’s new haircut, or the girls can both see videos or pics of my new kitty cat. I’m going to learn how to use the webcam on my new laptop to chat live soon! And we have rewards points on a credit card that will be used for plane trips at holidays, etc. I am caring for my mom part time and also looking for a job here. You just have to nurture the relationship you have with your grown children, and keep the lines of communication open as best you can :)

  • Stacey

    Hello to all. I very depressed right now. I have just broken up with my fience’ after a year and 3 months. It hurts so bad that I keep awake at night. If someone can give me ome advise on how to deal to deal with this situation and how to improve my stress please let me know. I have taking axciety meds and sometime I don’t even take them because I am so stressed out. Please help me??
    Sad and Depressed

  • Your Name

    I raised five kids that are all grown now, doing well and I do
    get a chance to see them frequently because they are only an
    hour’s drive from me. My two youngest girls are still in college.
    It’s so great to see how they get around so well…not like me
    with the spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis and I had a heart
    attack back in July of 2008. God Bless them….

  • ann marie

    Dear Stacy, a bit of advice, you seem young to me, yes, it is very hard when we break up with some one or visa versa, if you were put on anxiety meds take them as perscribed. Thats the first for if you dont you will become worse trust me i know. second you have to rememeber for yourself yes i am hurt very hurt but is this worth your life at best i say no. i may sound harsh but i wish someone was like that with me. Give yourself a time to grieve, but dont give in to the stupidity of him. Show him you can be great on your own. He’s out there having fun while you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. do you want to show him that you cant’survive without him NO. You can and you will. The hurt and pain are there it is rea but HONEY get over yourself you have people,family who love you. Trust me please Let him go he isnt worth it and move on remember no guy or gal for that matter is getting sick over. Start doing something for you. Only U can do this so again please take the meds start moving 1 foot after the other and trust me you will be fine. My prayers are with you. My name is above so, if you wuld like to talk i am willing to help you. i am here for you as well again ann marie to stacy

  • Bella Simpson

    Rather interesting blog you’ve got here. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.
    Bella Simpson
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  • Deborah Stevenson

    I was a empty-nest divorced mom of an only child, which has its own special challenges.
    There’s a lot that goes on emotionally – in the days leading up to my daughter’s high school graduation, I was awash in feelings of loss mixed with anticipation and excitement. It was very strange, and I had no one else to really share and talk about it with. I felt myself revisiting my daughter’s younger years, and included in that were my own feelings of inadequacy, mixed with the sense of accomplishment. It was a potent mix, and poignant.
    The worst thing was dealing with the nights. I would be interested in knowing what folks here have to say about them.

  • Joanne

    I went through a horrible bout of depression this past year. Both of my kids left for college, a very close friendship of twenty years fell apart, I left my church of 17 years, my job changed dramatically, and I took myself off of my meds. My whole life seemed to collapse and it was a rough road. The things I did were the things that I read here (and I RELIGIOUSLY read this blog):
    1. Took my meds as the Dr. prescribed. It took a while to find the right combo.
    2. Exercised daily—didn’t want to eat, but forced myself to eat healthy food
    3. Talked with friends who were positive and helpful
    4. Did I mention I read “Beyond Blue” daily?
    This too, shall pass!

  • Carolyn

    I can related to the last post by Joanne regarding a bout of depression. I also lost a very close friendship that was of 17 years and I am not happy in my job and I’m living single and feeling alone. It’s very hard! What I find hard is reaching out to people. I tend to stay reserved and recluse. I feel I have been hurt so much in my life that it’s safer to stay to myself but yet I’m not happy at all. I’m not living near family and wish so much I could. Right now, it’s hard to find a job out-of-state. Thankfully my job does get me out every day. How do find that special thing for yourself that makes you get out of the comfort zone? Would anyone have advice how to push yourself?

  • Mary

    My only child started college this year and I am planning to divorce a man who is becoming more and more abusive. I have had terrible depression and anxiety since my pregnancy. I am physically disabled. And now I have cancer. I really don’t know where to get the energy to move ahead. I am in my mid-fifties and finished my college degree when I was thirty. It was exhausting then and I can’t picture going back for more. My nest is empty in every way possible, including financial along with everything else. Would someone tell me how to move on?

  • Diana

    Mary don’t panic my advice is go to church and start making new friends there. Don’t get divorce although your husband is abusive instead did you try to get a counselor? if not and financially you can not afford it then, just go to church, you are no alone you have God and you can find a very positive people in there. For your cancer eat the most healthy food that you can like fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish only fresh food. I have an aunt that her cancer disappeared eating only fresh and healthy food. God bless you forever. Don’t be afraid.

  • Shelley

    My husband and I became empty-nesters two weeks ago when our last of six children left for college. It’s been really hard. He was born seven years after our group of 5 children. He went everywhere with me and we had common interests. He was my life line and helper in my depressed times. I’m not naive. I knew this was going to happen. The last few years we have spent less time together as he participated in school activities and work. But I still enjoyed my talks with him. Now he lives five hours away. He has made it clear he wants his independence. That is good. Then we have done our job as parents. But our talks on the phone are not the same as face to face. Even web cam chats are formal and as distant as the miles between us. I have a lot of activities I am involved in and enjoy. Even with the sadness I do count on “This too shall pass.” I have a much closer relationship with some of my other children then I did when they were at home. I decided it was okay to grieve the loss(change) but I must focus on the present and the future and continue to take my meds everyday.



  • scribe_fairy

    On my 44th birthday I realized two things: 1. I had never finished my college education; and 2. My youngest son was going to be starting his senior year in high school.
    I knew that there was a better than even chance that he was going to go far away for college and I had to do something to take up the time that his leaving would give me. I decided on doing one of three things: 1. Going to Italy for two weeks; 2. Buying a motorcycle: 3. Going back to school. I took advantage of the online program of the school I started when I graduated from high school; and decided that a degree would be a good thing.
    I started my doctoral program this week; he’s getting married in October and went back to school himself this fall. It’s turned out well for both of us. :)

  • peggy wegner

    Empty nest symdrome hit me hard. I had three sons, and then at the age of 38 had a girl. We did everything together, were best friends, etc. She and her dad didn’t get along all that well, so she moved out and eventually got married. I am now 66 years old and still having a hard time adjusting.It is difficult for me to make friends, so I can understand this type of depression. Also, my husband is very sickly and bitter, so this is a very hard time in life. Thanks for letting me vent.


    I have adult children. I had a hard time trying to get them to live on there own as adults, to be responsible. I encouragement them to be responsible and go look for a job, go back to school or work for community service. Donate there time to church doing volunteer work. They slowly managed to be independent and at the same time they hold alot of anger within themselves for me by making them go on their own. They got too comfortable and didn’t want to be independent.They didn’t want to move forward in life. I always told them to do something now with their life becuase we don’t know when God is going to take me.
    To those that have empty nests, appreciate your adult children that they are living their own life by being responsible.

  • Rinatasoki

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  • Rinatasoki

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  • clara

    how do you deal with empty nest after raising three children 24/7 very involved and now I have nothing, yes of course I have my wonderful husband but he is at work from 5am to 7pm . I am thinking of getting entry level job but doing what? besides who wants me a 51yr old with no work experiance in 23years.all I have done in last 23 years is take care of family home elderly run a home financies . no one values that in the business world any more I don’t think? I don’t have friends, no I am not weird or anything it’s just that everyone has gone their own ways and their lives have taken differant avenues and we dedicated our lives to raising our children and taking care of our parents until they pasted.I find that people don’t want to invest in friendships only superficial aquantance hi,bye kind of thing everyone is in a rush, I understand. but my question is how do you find like minded people serching for the same thing at this stage in life.I am curisous to see how others feel about this sometimes I wonder am I alone in this?

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