Children come and go. But I loved so much raising my four children. When they grew and left, I had a choice to stay in the feeling of void and emptiness or create a paradigm shift for the next chapter of my life. I found out that going through the grieving process as an empty nester is a real aspect of life that I really wasn’t prepared for. When my children were little, I remember my husband saying, “I’ll be so glad when the kids are grown and gone.” We talked about the possibility that when we got to that point in life, we would feel as if we were having a second honeymoon. But the reality, now that we are here, is that empty nesting is real, very hard and not what I would call a second honeymoon.

What we didn’t realize in our younger years is that life lived creates transformed people. We are not the same. Time creates older bodies and minds. We were young and had so much hope and life in us we couldn’t imagine life any other way. Empty nesting with the kids gone and the house quiet; we are sitting next to each other, older and more tired. Our energy level is definitely different.

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Now that we have arrived at this time, I have had to acknowledge that the reality of empty nesting is not what I thought it would be. I have had to feel the feels. I gave myself permission to grieve with the hope I wouldn’t get stuck there and I didn’t. I found out that the process of transforming from a focus on my children to a focus on me, gave me permission to create balance and healthiness by learning how to be with myself. I have the most freedom now over my own life than I have ever had before. I now have choices I can make.

You’ve probably heard the saying we were created to be human beings not human doings. Empty nesting made me test what this saying really means; to be comfortable in my own skin, my own existence and realize I am enough.

What has empty nesting taught me? First, I need to be comfortable with myself; having a willingness to be okay going out to eat or to a movie by myself. I’ve even bought myself flowers and found ways to treat myself. I have had to sit with my own thoughts; spending my time in ways that teach me to just be. A new avenue that has taught me a lot about this concept is meditation that teaches me to celebrate the I am.

Another reality of this chapter in my life is that I have to learn how to be without my children. I knew who I was when I was raising my kids. I was a doer. With four, I was doing 24/7. Now, life is quiet and I have to face the facts. Who am I without my children? It is one thing to ask this question when your children are young and it is another to ask the question later in life.

Sometimes, being with our children less means we will be with our spouses more and that can feel challenging. I think it is natural to say, “I love you, but I don’t like being around you all the time.” This is where I feel a balance has helped. Individual time is the partner of together time. Just because my husband and I are home we are not always together. We have found comfort in learning how to just be together. We don’t always have to talk or do; our being together is enough.

Having to face my feelings is one of the hardest parts of being an empty nester. I needed to give myself time to go through the grieving process of the mother child relationship changing and acknowledge that now my relationship would be adult to adult. There is no “How To” book for me to figure out how to do that. I made mistakes and I am still learning, but I find that concentrating on me being my best self, my healthy self and my true self helps them.

What decisions have I made for life after children? To be creative, be adventurous, be emotional and find places to be truly me. There is joy after children. I have found the nest to be not so empty.

Kat Helms writes from Taneytown. The content of this article is sourced from her video, “Being not Doing.”

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