Finding wholeness in the empty nest.
by Beth Farley
I was heading to the bookstore to do some writing when indigestion reminded me that I had forgotten my heartburn medicine. I can’t go to the bookstore without drinking a cup of café coffee; I can’t drink coffee without the heartburn medicine, so off to the drugstore I went.
I walked in, looked at the directional signs above, and found the aisle with Antacids over it. As I compared prices, I noticed a familiar song playing. Oh no. This is one of her songs.
I felt the lump build in my throat and my eyes start to water. Hurry, Beth. Get out of here. You can’t be crying in the middle of the drug store!
I gathered my box of antacids, got into my car, and allowed the tears to flow. I sat there and sobbed.
Longing for a daughter
What is wrong with me? I knew the answer. My daughter left for Indiana a couple of months before to live with her older sister, and I missed her. I missed all of my kids, but this is my baby girl.
When she lived at home, she sang around the house all the time: in the shower, in her room, in the kitchen, in her car. So when I heard that song, my heart longed for her presence.
When I reached the bookstore still feeling the sadness and emptiness, I sat and spent time with God. I had been longing for this stage of life to be alone with my husband. I’d been looking forward to no kids at home, no friends of kids at my house, no dirty dishes in the sink. There would always be milk in the fridge. For heaven’s sake, I could eat chocolate for breakfast if I wanted to. I didn’t have to set examples or share my goodies with any of my kids anymore.
So what was this feeling? The Empty Nest Syndrome? My friends had told me I would experience this, but I never did until now, two years after our youngest moved out to go to college.
But the school was only about two hours away, so it didn’t bother me too much back then. Now she was in Indiana, and I in Missouri. I prayed every day for guidance and peace from God. I just wanted Him to take away this empty feeling.
He didn’t, though. Not right away.
Learning this new emotion wasn’t easy. The frustration set in quickly and didn’t go away. I hurt. I felt defeated and wanted to quit. I wanted to walk away and pretend it didn’t matter that all my kids were gone.
But with God by my side, I wouldn’t give up or give in to this empty space. I am not a loser; I am a fighter.
Feeling the emptiness
We all have to lose sometimes before we can win. We have to cry before we can smile, and we have to hurt before we can be strong. No one could tell me how to feel. My family told me to get more involved with things that bring me joy, and my friends told me to “just take this time to accomplish all you want to get done.”
I asked them, “What is the matter with just being me?” Being me means relaxing in the quiet and getting used to it. There will be times of excitement in my life, so I will be a part of it. There will be work to do, so I will begin with it. There will be sorrow, just as there will be times of joy in my life. I had to take the time to really feel this empty feeling and be one with it.
About six months ago, I finally felt whole. I was beginning to make some definite changes in my life. Some will take a little more time, and some will still cause me grief, but I’m ready. Having God on my side, seeing me through both the good and bad times, keeps me afloat.
The best help came through the shoulders of Christian friends to lean on. Just as no one can tell you how to feel about a beautiful sunset, no one can tell you how to live your life with raw feelings. God and I took it day by day, one emotion at a time, and I finally became whole again. I got used to the quiet, the clean house, and the abundance of milk in the refrigerator. I think I even ate a candy bar for breakfast, just because.
A daughter returns
There’s a twist to the story: Six weeks ago, our daughter came home. What! I had just adjusted to the empty home. I actually cleaned out the closet and threw things out. It became a cute guest room — a bed for me to run to when my husband snores.
She’s back. There’s singing in the house again. There are extra shoes by the door, and I have to run to the store more often to get milk. I love it! I just fear that it will crash down on me again. She will leave again.
But guess what? That’s OK. This life is mine to take the power to choose what God has given me to do. God has told me this is temporary. Deep down I hope she moves only five minutes away, but she could go as far as Alaska for all I know.
I do know that God has His hand in all of this. When that time comes, He will remind me that I will make it. It may take time and adjustment and hard work, but He has confidence in me. I have confidence as well. And she will keep on singing.
About the Author
Beth Ann Farley has written for www.bookfun.org and such publications as Toot n’ Town magazine, Landline magazine, Teachers in Focus, Horse & Rider, Mature Years, and Indian Life. Her poetry has been featured in Sweet Freedom, by Jennifer Slattery, and she has been a guest blogger on thewriteconversation.blogspot. com, by Edie Melson, as well as on Poppy Smith’s Inspiring Women to Thrive blog. Beth is a co-host on Living by Grace, a faith-based Facebook community, and lives in Houston, TX.