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Not long ago I suggested to a friend, who is divorced and over 50, that she might try changing the conversation in her head from empty nest to my nest. Like many women who’ve lived a big part of their life for their family, now that she’s single and her children have left home, she’s feeling alone. Well girlfriend… I think you’re well on your way to figuring this alone thing out.

Would you believe my friend went to Morocco for a month by herself?

I’ve faced being alone more than once. My first husband died after a long illness. That and because the later years of our marriage had been full of serious problems, it wasn’t long before I was ready to start living again. That wasn’t the case when my second husband died. Losing him was the most painful thing that’s happened to me, but I made it through to the other side. On some level I think I was afraid of becoming like my mother.

After my father died, mother was adrift on a mental and emotional sea. She made no attempt to find land or drop anchor, and her only lifeboat was a prescription for valium and a dark room with the shades pulled. After mother’s second husband died, she only went out to the grocery store and the beauty shop. The longer she stayed home, alone, the harder and scarier it became to even think about going anywhere alone.

Living alone requires a mindset, an understanding that life goes on, with or without those we love. It also requires that we give ourselves permission to make changes to a nest we once shared with them. It’s not being disloyal if we get rid of a well-worn recliner in favor of a pair of newer style chairs we saw in a magazine, or we turn the kid’s room into an art room or a guest room for them and their spouse, or we move to another place.

Perhaps the biggest part of our solo mindset is getting comfortable doing things on our own.

When I tell my girlfriend, Gayle, I went with my university alumni association to an annual San Antonio Fiesta celebration, or I went to the movies, to a restaurant or to California, her first question is always “Did you go alone?” More often than not my answer is “yes,” followed by “I had a great time!”

I had the best seat at San Antonio’s Fiesta River Parade with dinner, drinks; I didn’t have to drive and fight the crowds, and I met some great people!

Let’s not make this next phase of our lives be focused on being alone. If we do, before we’ve even gotten out of the starting blocks, we’ve penalized ourselves with negative thinking. “I can’t do this because I don’t have a partner. I don’t want to go because I don’t have a spouse or anyone to go with me.” I’m reminded of a woman I know who was panic-stricken at the thought of being alone, so she settled for the first man who came along… It didn’t end well… which makes me think of my online dating experience. LOL!!!

Regardless of whether we’re divorced, widowed, without a partner, never married or our children have left home, life goes on and we must go with it. To do anything else is marking time until we die, and that isn’t living.

As parents and grandparents we are role models for our children and our grandchildren. Let’s not model for them that life is all about getting them raised and ready to live their own lives. How terrible if just when they’re beginning to fly, they have to worry about mom who’s sitting home, alone.

PS: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about finding our balance as single, over 50 women. Checkout my post, Are You Comfortable Going Places Alone?

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20 thoughts on “FROM EMPTY NEST TO MY NEST”

  1. ‘Life goes on and we must go with it.’ Well said. It’s always the push to continue that trips someone up along the way. It takes an inner happiness with one’s self to move forward. That spirit of “I still deserve a life” , when found, can bring great contentment.

    • Becky, Your statement of “I still deserve a life” stopped me in my tracks. I’m not a mother, but I imagine there are mothers whose energy and self-esteem and self-drive has been sapped from them. They’ve lost sight of the woman they were before children. Their hopes and dreams outside of their children. It takes guts to keep going and get to the place where you’re ready to see what’s inside of you, now, and start over, regardless of what age and stage of life we’re in. It may be easier or less daunting to stay where we are and I think that’s what breeds discontentment with their lives. That there’s something else out there waiting for them. Sometimes it’s not an “inner happiness” but an “inner unhappiness” that moves us forward to create something new for ourselves. Awesome comment, Becky!! Thank you, Brenda

  2. Very wise words. Reframing a situation can make all the difference.
    Fear–of the unknown, of the not-yet-tried–fades away when you actually do things and come out fine on the other side.

    • TOF, There’s nothing like surviving something–be it an illness, loss of a job or someone we love, menopause or being an empty nester–to stoke the fires of self-esteem and realize we’re made of tough stuff! Yes, just reframing our self-talk can be so crucial to moving forward. Unfortunately we’re not always our best advisors so sometimes it’s helpful to have a wise friend or a great therapist to talk with. xoxox, Brenda

  3. Wow Brenda! This is spot on and just what I needed this morning! You know my history and I’ve worked hard to soldier on and enjoy life….but it DOES creep in now and then- this alone thing! I love your encouragement and Joie de Vivre, dear friend! Beautifully stated here…going to share!

    • Hi Joan, Yes, being alone does make its presence known, and it’s not always easy. When that happens I try to focus on the other parts of my life and what’s good and blessed about them. I also realize that all those couples I see? Just because they have a spouse doesn’t mean they’re happy. In many cases you can see it written all over their faces. I’m happy and healthy and for that I am grateful. xoxo, Brenda

  4. Brenda, you are a wonderful role model for women and we should all try to do as you suggest and change our mindset from empty nest to my nest. After all the only relationship that will last a lifetime is the one we have with ourselves, so we should get on with with living it.

    • Brilliant, Pat! You are so right. We are the constant in our lives. We need to be our biggest cheerleader and advocate and take ourselves by the hand and get up and be part of our life, not just sit on the sidelines and watch other lives. Thank you for the sweet compliment. I appreciate it. xoxox, Brenda

  5. Beautiful, Brenda. “Empty nest… to my nest,” takes it from an ending to a new beginning filled with as much opportunity as we are willing to have.
    I intended to be a good example for my child as I raised him – and I strive to continue to do that still. We can create a good life, no matter what happens. Mindset is everything!

    • Oh Donna! I love how you’ve phrased that: “Takes it from an ending to a new beginning filled with as much opportunity as we are willing to have.” That reminds us that every road leads back to ourself, even if we hit a dead end. We need to take what we’ve learned and apply it again and again and for most of us we reach more dead ends than four-lane highways. Love, Brenda

  6. I really like to create personalized rituals for life transitions. I created one for a friend in fear of her approaching empty nest. Her children were growing up and leaving and she was divorcing her longtime husband. I suggested she make find or purchase a literal nest and put it on her altar. The instruction was to fill it with things that represented the next phase of her life or what she wanted to manifest then to sit and meditate with it every day. She found it very sweet and helpful and indeed her life blossomed and she even happily remarried.

    • Penelope I haven’t heard it phrased like that but I like it, a lot. Placing a physical symbol, in a visible spot, of where we want to see ourselves going or doing in the future is a powerful reminder that we need to keep pushing forward. How wise of you! I just love this idea! Brava!!! And I’m so delighted your friend took your advice and her life opened up for her. xoxo, Brenda

  7. I’m reading this as my youngest is at Prom and I’m feeling melancholy. Soon he’ll be on his own and I wonder, as a mostly stay at home mom, how I’m going to take it! My husband and I are not “helicopter” parents, probably because we “raised him right” so to speak, having his future independence in mind (boundaries, responsibility, consequences, bonding, relationship, honesty, spirituality, etc. were the focus) and probably because he’s a son and I think if we had a daughter we might be more “attached” (friends have their daughter on tracking software). But I will just miss having him around, seeing his face, talking to him (even if it’s just a “grunt” that says “yes” to my question) and I don’t know how I’ll get over it. Kids are so special and the bonding that a parent has with them is unlike any other bond in life.

    • Cat, Interesting timing… this blog post. If I knew nothing else about you other than what you wrote here, I would say you are wise parents, preparing your son for life on his own… out of the nest. Yes, it’s going to be painful and lonely when he leaves. Isn’t it sad that we prepare them for this day but not ourselves? Your son is still going to need you and your advice. As parents you will be his Northstar, his role models. For that reason, alone, you must figure out what’s next for you. Your job isn’t finished. You need to model what it looks like to keep growing and learning and seeking new things. Finding those things will be the hard part. I don’t mean to make it sound easy, because it’s not, but you don’t cross the finish line until you die. What if you start by working on the conversation you have with yourself? What if you rephrase “how I’m going to take it!” and “I don’t know how I’ll get over it” to… “It won’t be easy but as a parent and a role model who has decades of living to do, I will find ways to get through this! I will make my son proud of me.” For your consideration… xoxox, Brenda

  8. Such a wonderful perspective. I think I am fortunate that I have always had terrific experiences when I have traveled alone, and I have traveled alone for most of my life starting when I was a teenager. Because I was older when I married, I had also traveled alone a good deal for both work and pleasure until I was in my 30s. All of this, I think, prepared me for empty nest in some ways. I’m also glad I did as much traveling as I did when I was much younger. It makes my more “home-based” life now more acceptable. I don’t feel as if I missed opportunities to wander the world and have adventures.

    • DA, From what I know about you, you’ve travelled a lot and widely and put yourself out there in a way most of us never get the opportunity to do, but you must remember… Regardless of any restrictions you have now, your adventures aren’t over. Your life, your mental health and your wellbeing depends on your determination to find new experiences that challenge and delight you. xoxox, Brenda

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