Empty Nest

There was a time when I thought the term, empty nest, referred to a one-time occurrence, typically when children left the security of their parents’ home to move to a college dormitory.

I have learned this is not so; the sense of loss can be felt many times by loving parents.

I realize now that I first experienced it when my children moved from our constant companionship to go to preschool. Although I welcomed a few hours to myself, I couldn’t get them out of my mind, wondering if they were making friends and having a good time, worrying that they missed me. I eagerly picked them up each day, ready to resume our familiar routines, happy that they were gone only three hours each day.

I felt the loss again when they started kindergarten. There was something about seeing them with backpacks and lunch boxes that foretold a future of growing bigger and becoming less dependent on Mommy.

And then they started driving, taking them further from the nest. They could come and go on their own, without having to be mindful of Mom’s schedule, no longer needing to say, “Mom, can you take me…?”

I think I was more prepared for the college leave-taking; after all, that was my previous definition of empty nest. We usually talked on the phone once a week, but could go for months without seeing each other. I thought I handled it fairly well, a mature mother releasing mature young adults into the world. I started working full-time to fill my time and my mind, and learned to pray more and worry less.

Both of my children are now inching towards thirty years of age and are married with children of their own, so I’m surprised to be experiencing the emptiness once again. Within two months time, my son, who lived locally, completed his doctoral studies and moved out-of-state to accept a university professorship. My daughter, who I only saw a couple times a year since she lived on the other side of the country, is poised to move halfway around the world for her husband’s graduate research.

My heart is aching, an aching that is multiplied because not only are my children leaving, but their spouses and children (my grandbabies), as well. That’s a whole lot of family.

I looked up the definition of empty nest syndrome and this is what I found: It’s a feeling of grief and loneliness parents have when their children leave home for the first time.

My children have been leaving home most of their lives, growing, stretching, and spreading their wings. I have encouraged them to leave, trusting they will fly, trusting they are in God’s hands. I have rejoiced in their adventuresome spirits, their courage, and their dependence on God, but I still grieve every step they take away from me.

Because of love, we push them from the nest.

Because of love, we grieve their going.

We entrust them to our heavenly Father.

And it is good.


  1. Betty Halpern
    Aug 12, 2015

    I know your pain, Karen. Nicely stated.

    • Karen Curran
      Aug 13, 2015

      Thanks, Betty:)

  2. Debbie Smith
    Sep 19, 2015

    It is painful to have our babies leave. Even though that is how it is supposed to be, it is difficult letting go. Great post!

    • Karen Curran
      Sep 20, 2015

      Thanks, dear sister!

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