Tammy looked miserable. 'I feel old and worn out!' she wailed. 'I don't even know who I am anymore - let alone what I want!'
Tammy had been consulting me for years - ever since she and her husband came for marriage counseling ten years ago. Things were (more or less) OK in that department, but Tammy's youngest child had left home three months ago and she was left with a huge gaping hole in her life that she did not know how to fill. She felt restless, moody and generally out of sorts. To make things worse, Tammy had put on weight and was having really embarrassing hot flashes - at the most inconvenient times!
Empty Nest Syndrome is common and is characterized by feelings of loss and sadness which arises when children leave home. While it isn't a clinical diagnosis, it is very well recognized and sometimes is severe enough to warrant a clinical diagnosis such as Adjustment Disorder or even Clinical Depression. Although both men and women can struggle with Empty Nest Syndrome, it is more common in women than in men. The reason for this is because women typically carry more responsibility for children in the home and also because they are often very attached to their social role of 'Mother', which often defines them as a person to a greater extent than men.
Tammy was a very intelligent person, but she hadn't seen it coming!
'I had a long list of things I wanted to do' she said. 'I've tried, but I just can't seem to find the inclination or the energy to do any of them! I really need some help!'
'OK - let's take one step at a time' I said.
The first thing we did was to plan a 3 week vacation. I wanted Tammy and her husband to take a break - just the two of them. They had done a great job bringing up their kids and deserved to reward themselves and to celebrate - yes CELEBRATE - their new found freedom!
'I don't FEEL like celebrating!' said Tammy. 'I just wish I could have those years back again!'
'Then fake it till you make it' I replied (something that Tammy and I had worked on before). 'You know that worked for you before - and a vacation is something to look forward to!'
Tammy agreed that she would speak to mark, her husband and began to cheer up a little.
'Secondly' I said. 'You need to start some regular exercise. It will help your mood and also your health. When you hit menopause, your metabolism also starts to slow down and exercise can make the world of difference!'
Not being a 'gym person', Tammy said that she had been thinking of re-starting the dance classes she had left off a few years ago. I got her to commit to signing up again before our next session.
I then explained to Tammy that we needed to work together to help her understand that the 'Empty Nest Syndrome' could either leave her feeling empty and sad - or it could be an opportunity to fly! The difference depended on her and how she handled things. There was a whole new world in front of her. Her relationships with her adult children would change and grow. She would have more time on her hands to explore new things - and best of all, she could re-acquaint herself with the person she was before she had children and get to know that person better!
We decided that she was going to find one new thing every month to do differently and give herself time to grow. This month it would be the vacation and beginning the dance classes. Tammy already knew what she was going to do the next month...
'I think I need to start catching up with old friends,' she said
Tammy's eyes had started to twinkle again! There was a path opening up in front of her and she thought that - just maybe - she would enjoy exploring it.
We made an appointment for the following month and I also recommended the following natural remedies to help Tammy:
MellowPause - a herbal remedy for hot flashes in the menopause
MindSoothe - a natural anti-depressant and herbal remedy for mood balance and well-being.
I was looking forward to seeing what came next in Tammy's life. I had been through this journey with many women before and although the Empty Nest Syndrome did not always start well, it usually ended brilliantly!