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The Empty Next


Years ago, when my children were quite young, a co-worker lamented to me about her sadness when her youngest son left home. I would walk by this normally highly productive, multi-tasker’s office only to find her staring off into space. Though I listened and sympathized with my friend, I recall wondering how she could be so effected. After all, she was one of the busiest people I knew.

Now, I am 62 and this fall, my youngest left for college in a far away state. Suddenly, our home seems strangely quiet, too big, and yes, cleaner. On facebook, I connect to other parents who are also newly aware of the change in their parent status. One mother made a beautiful typo. Instead of saying: “I now have an empty nest,” she wrote “I now have an empty next.”

As a therapist, I seized on this. Could be a Freudian slip. A person says one thing but unconsciously reveals another truth. Mostly it struck me on an emotional level, as a poetic interpretation of the transition that I find myself in.

What’s next? When you are feeling a loss, it is not always the first thought that you have. But, eventually, you may come around to “What am I going to do now?” And, just like that, the old adage appears. “When one door closes, another door opens.” An open door at 62 is a bit different than an open door at 22. I am an optimist, but I am also a realist. The possibilities are not exactly endless. But, they are real possibilities.

Be sure to check out the stories of Empty Nesters, Adventurous Expats and more in our new book, Choose Your Place: Rethinking Home as You Age

Choose Your Place


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