Ask Dr. Christina: Empty Nester

Dear Dr. Christina,
I am writing to you because my daughter is leaving for college and I feel so lost.  You see, she was my best friend and I feel so sad and alone.  I am not sure what to do, for I am a single mom and she was my life.  Even though I know that she has to grow up, and I am so proud of her, I really do not know what to do with my time.  We went everywhere together—to the malls, to her volleyball tournaments, to her friend’s house. I was her chauffer to all of her events. I am so scared about her safety while she’s away at college, and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to protect her anymore. I mean, I know that school is good for her, but it is so hard for me to let her go.  I can remember the first time when she went to kindergarten and how hard it was to let her go into that school for those eight hours. I could remember her crying and not wanting to leave me. It took all my strength to let her go.  Can you please help me with some advice as to how to cope with this loss?


Dear Lisa,

I can certainly empathize with you and the feelings you have towards your daughter.  It is extremely difficult to allow your only child to leave your home. You know how much she loves you, and remember, you have given her all the tools that she needs in order to survive school.

You have taught her the belief that she can continue to grow and educate herself, to allow for her own self-discovery.  I know that there is nothing that can be said about keeping her totally safe, but that is something all parents cannot guarantee, even in their own homes.  As long as you have discussed various safety guidelines with her, and perhaps even the idea of taking a
self-defense class, know in your heart you have done all you can. Trust her and believe that she will be safe.

You can keep in contact with her by using new technologies (i.e.; texting, iPads and Skype, etc.). It sounds like the relationship you have is one of trust, love and respect.  Keep in mind that she will get to come home for the holidays and during the summertime.

You have given all this time to your child which, I’m sure, has been very fulfilling, but now it is time for you to flourish. It is time for you to regroup, for there is no longer any need to have every moment accounted for. The days of being chauffer, cooking and cleaning the house for your daughter are complete.  Now it is time for you to organize your life and your life’s work to not only include your daughter, but it is time for you to focus on you. Now you have no curfews, no time limits, no PTA meetings…only time to think about you. Ask yourself: What do you want to do?  What gives your life meaning? What would make YOU happy?

You have been given the opportunity now to see what your passion truly is.  It is time to take care of you.  It is also time for you to set goals as to what you want.  Do you want to go back to school?  It is never too late for that.  Do you want to go to work?  What would fulfill your needs?

If you enjoy nature, perhaps there is a body of water near you, whether it is the ocean or a lake, where you can take a quiet walk or sit by it to help nurture and relax you. If you love to read, then maybe you would enjoy going to a bookstore or the library to get caught up on current events, the latest bestsellers, or books from your favorite author.  Perhaps it is learning a new hobby or new sport that would interest you.

How about nurturing yourself by going to a spa and having a massage? For that matter, consider that now that you have all the time in the world for a good, long, luxurious soak in the tub, or maybe you’d love to go for a relaxing swim in a nearby pool.

Now it is all about doing all the things that you never had time to do for yourself.  It’s about having new adventures you can enjoy alone or share with friends and family.

At home, if you feel lonesome, then perhaps you can play music or have the TV on so that there will be noise in the house as opposed to silence. Make a list of things you can do on a daily basis to fill your time and engage your energy.  Perhaps exercising, going for a drive, and shopping will keep your mind busy.

Do your best to have a positive outlook as you enter into this new era of your life.  Your daughter would not want you to suffer, nor would she want you to be unhappy.  For if she knew how unhappy you felt, she would be very sad, just as you would be if you knew your daughter was not enjoying her life.

I know it is difficult, but as time goes on you will hopefully feel the need to nurture yourself.  I would suggest that you be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grieve, but not take it to the point that it will consume your life.  If this is something that you find you cannot let go of, then I would suggest you seek out a good trusting friend, your clergy person, or a counselor who you can speak with about your true fears and needs.

When you remember that time when you left your daughter for the first time in kindergarten, just remember how proud you felt as she conquered her fears of grade school, then junior high, and then high school.  You made it through those times. Now it is time to look at your beautiful daughter fly, as she is able to go on to college to become the woman that she was meant to be.

You have done your job well.  You have shown her true love. You have nurtured her and coached her so that she would be prepared and empowered to leave the nest.  Bask in this knowledge that you have done your job well and acknowledge that your pure love and trust is the greatest gift you could have given her.  You have instilled in her all her basic core values.

Now it is up to her to live her life.  That umbilical cord has to be cut in order for her to survive and thrive. You are her role model. It is important that she sees how you handle this situation in your lives, as she is going to raise her children and face the same situation herself someday.  Focus on making this a positive experience for both of you. It is healthy to be sad and worried for your child, but now it is time for you to continue and value your life, for you have done a magnificent job of raising your daughter. It’s time for you to celebrate that as you see her off on her next steps in her life’s journey.

With much admiration and wishing you and your daughter the best that the world can offer,

Dr. Christina

  • Posted By: doctorc
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