Health and Wellness

Life in an Empty Nest

Every afternoon the school bus lumbers to a stop in front of my house. Throngs of children spill off to meet their waiting parents, their lively chatter music to my ears. Through my office window, I can see them scampering down the street, some skipping and dashing ahead, still others holding back, clinging to their mom or dad’s hand.

I wonder if their parents realize just how quickly these halcyon days slip by. It seems like only yesterday I was the one skipping down the street when my youngest daughter finally went to school full-time.  

A few weeks ago, that same daughter packed her bags and headed off to university. I can now add empty nester to my list of monikers. Empty nester, widow, survivor (for administrative purposes, and my personal favourite). As none of them are particularly uplifting, I’ve decided I’ll just stick with Monica.

I won’t lie and say it was easy coming home alone to an empty house. It seems so much bigger now; so empty, so quiet.

For months, the prospect of becoming an empty nester has lurked just over the horizon, like an ominous red sky in the morning. I have anticipated it with a peculiar mixture of pride and trepidation. Pride that my baby is ready to go off on her own; fear I would experience yet another cosmic identity crisis after she left.

Empty nest syndrome, loss of identity and/or purpose, depression, grief, loneliness, is experienced by many parents after their children leave home. As if I haven’t had already had enough grief to last me a lifetime.

Dan Bobbit with the children.

For twenty-two years, I was a stay-at-home mom, the last four an only parent. My children and I have always been close, but tragedy strengthened our bond.

When their father died, my primary focus was the three of them and making sure their lives were not derailed by his death. They were my reason to pick up the pieces and keep on living. I couldn’t let their Dad’s death take me away from them as well. 

Only parenting is, by far, the most difficult gig I’ve ever had. And the loneliest.  Sometimes I’ve gotten it right; other times not so much. Despite the mistakes and missteps, the challenges and frustrations, I like to think I’ve done an okay job of helping my children navigate the quagmire of grief that loss brings. Perhaps even better than okay, as they were all independent enough to leave home, even though it meant leaving me alone.

I’ve known this day was coming for twenty-two years, but I never thought it would come so quickly. Or that I would be a widow when it came. But here I am.

I won’t lie and say it was easy coming home alone to an empty house. It seems so much bigger now; so empty, so quiet.  

Acceptance catapults us forward. It allows us to concurrently honour and miss what was, while embracing what is yet to be.

I miss having my kids around. I even occasionally miss the chaos and confusion, and the noise. But I’m not sad they are gone. Nor am I experiencing the much-dreaded empty nest identity crisis (widowhood already forced me to get that out of the way). 

Rather, I have once again felt the bittersweet melancholy of letting go. I have sat with it in the stillness of the night and walked with it through the morning dew. And I have even watched it skipping down my street in the afternoon. I’ve acknowledged it, welcomed it for the gift it is. Acceptance.

Acceptance catapults us forward. It allows us to concurrently honour and miss what was, while embracing what is yet to be. 

And what is yet to be, well, that is entirely up to me. I have turned the page on a new chapter of my life. The story is mine to write. 

Tags
Show More

Monica Bobbit

Monica was a military spouse for almost 21 years, until her husband was tragically killed in a LAV rollover during Ex Maple Resolve at CFB Wainwright in May 2014. Monica writes about her experiences as a military wife and widow in her blog, A Goat Rodeo, where she openly and honestly discusses what it's really like to be widowed and shares the wisdom she has learned as she continues to move forward with her life. She also shares her story with military members and their families at speaking events across the country.

Leave a Reply

Close