What Do Caregiving and an Empty Nest Have in Common?
Getting married and becoming a spouse.
Giving birth and becoming a parent.
Watching your adult children move away and becoming an empty nester.
Seeing your parents age and becoming a family caregiver. (Then doing it again possibly for your spouse.)
These are all major life transitions that schools don’t give classes in! Most of us never have the opportunity to learn the basic how-to’s about these long-lasting roles and responsibilities we take on during our lives.
I’ve been dealing with Empty Nest Syndrome
I haven’t written a new post here in what felt like a few weeks, but I see it’s already been six weeks! I apologize for my absence, but I’ve been wrapped up in my own family situation. I needed time away from TLeC to deal with and process this life transition. However, I’m back again to help and support all of you family caregivers and dedicated readers of my blog.
To further explain . . . .
Our son graduated from college in the middle of May and came home shortly thereafter for a few weeks of vacation before moving out-of-state to start his first “real” job. My world changed very rapidly and deeply. And while I knew intellectually it was all normal and good, I crumbled inside. I thought I had already come to terms completely with having an empty nest when he went off to college. NOT!! I was a weeping wreck of a mom for over a month!
How does becoming an Empty Nest-er relate to caregiving?
The transitions of becoming an empty nest-er and becoming a caregiver share many similarities. I hope the things I learned the past few weeks help you in your life transitions, too.
1. Being caught off guard by, and overwhelmed in, our new roles. Just as I was perfectly aware our son would graduate college and set off into the real world, we see our parents aging, but we don’t really prepare ourselves for the transition to being their caregiver. It’s not just happening to them, it impacts our lives tremendously as well. As family caregivers, our parents will rely more and more on us. As an empty nest-ers, the reverse is true — our children need their parents less and less. Both are the natural order of life.
2. Ideas vs. feelings during transitions. Sure, we all talk a good game about how we’re dealing with our parents aging process in practical terms, but aren’t we hurting inside? Doesn’t it make your heart ache to see your parents, whom you always thought of as strong individuals, showing signs of physical and/or cognitive decline? Isn’t it scary for you to watch them becoming more frail, and worry about what’s ahead for them? Isn’t it upsetting to think about their ultimate deaths? Even if you’re pro-active and have care plans in place before they’re needed, I don’t think you can stop these underlying difficult feelings — not if you’re human.
3. The importance of self-care. First off, acknowledge you’re in a funk and give yourself permission to be in one. It’s OK to feel sad and blue for a few days or even a few weeks during life transitions, but don’t fall into a huge depression you can’t pull yourself out of. What are you doing to get yourself out of the doldrums and back to normal? Are you talking with others you know who have already gone through this transition? Are you doing things to increase your positive thinking and outlook, such as reading books or blogs, journaling or writing positive affirmations to repeat each day, meditating, doing yoga, or getting some exercise? Are you talking with either a spiritual leader or a medical professional if they offer you comfort, advice and more? Are you finding activities (either volunteer or paid) to get yourself out of the house and busy again? What are you doing to pamper yourself and pat yourself on the back for doing a good job as a family caregiver?
4. Keep looking forward. Be aware of what future life transitions lie ahead for you. Read this post again and try to prepare for what’s coming emotionally so you’re not taken by surprise as I was when the Empty Nest syndrome hit me like a ton of bricks. If you’re currently a family caregiver, what will you do when your parent(s) pass away? Think about it. Yes, it’s OK to grieve, but after that, what will fill up your time . . . and your heart?
Life transitions aren’t easy but we manage to get through them somehow. We all need to lean on each other more, and ask for help when we feel we need it — from loved ones, friends, and/or medical professionals. We are all in this life and world together!
Have you been through a life transition recently? How did you cope?
And flip that question around — Is there someone in your world who is going through a hard transition time and would appreciate your help and support? Reach out to them today.
Please share your experience in the Comments section below.