Natalie was a featured expert in the AARP article “Do You Have Pandemic Empty-Nest Syndrome?“
Here’s an excerpt:
Natalie Caine, founder of Empty Nest Support Services, says she’s seen a recent “wave” of parents seeking help with the readjustment to post-pandemic family life.
Caine says one key for parents struggling to adjust to an empty nest is working through the deeper feelings their child’s departure may evoke, like a sense of purposelessness or loss of identity. She also notes that it’s not uncommon for empty nesters to have realizations that go beyond the parent-child relationship, like reevaluating their marriage or career.
Addressing challenging feelings through therapy, a support group or with a trusted religious leader can be helpful, she says. And don’t forget the small stuff either: Something as simple as stocking meals in your freezer if you know you won’t feel like cooking after a college drop-off can go a long way toward easing the initial transition.Continue Reading
Today she called asking, “I have no idea what to do that will be worth it.” I too have sat in that empty room wondering now what? She left a career, her husband, and her kids were full adults in the world. She did not feel like knitting nor becoming the expert at what tv shows are worth your time.
She wanted something that got her excited to get out the door. She wanted to do something she never did in her past. She wanted her life to be meaningful. This is what she discovered after writing, walking, being with friends, and solo time.
“I want to volunteer in my neighborhood working with all ages of people. I want to listen and talk with them, walk with them, color together, cook, read out loud, dance, sing along, watch tv and talk about what just happened there.”
She began by telling people she was available. She did not post anything in the beginning. She also told herself she could change her mind and she told them the same.
At this stage of her life, she wanted freedom daily to decide what mattered to her. She was frugal. She was responsible. She had been a leader all her life. Now she was on the hunt for a part of her that she never met, that lay dormant or undiscovered within her.
She knew her unrealistic expectations or her lack of patience might be a blind spot. She took them along, as well as her playfulness and trust in something larger than herself. She is continuing her hunt and has many days that make her laugh.
What do you want to begin today? Who do you want to call? What notes do you want to write to yourself? Where will you go for a walk?
Take good care,
In our parenting group, I suggested they write a LETTER to their child about what they appreciate about them and what they, the parents, learned from them. Of course, I passed around the softest Kleenex as parents wrote their notes to their children. I too had tears, even though my daughter is years beyond that hug goodbye at the dorm.
Then we talked about what does each parent HOPE for themselves and dream to become? This was a challenging write. Hearing each other share how they haven’t focused on themselves and don’t really know what’s next for them, helped everyone not feel alone on this milestone change.
Everyone said this preparing time is so busy with graduation, open houses, to do list for purchases and mailing, that the anxiety and tears mostly fall in the night. They know once they are back home, the emptiness and SILENCE at home will be heartfelt.
Have a list of MOVIES you want to watch, freeze some MEALS for yourself, let one or two FRIENDS know you would like them to come over when back home, PARTNERS plan something for each other and have that be a surprise and maybe consider taking a short TRIP after the college drop off for a fun adventure in that part of the world.
Life gets more FUN beyond the empty nest. Each person travels with their own shoes and stumbles, sits to weep, and to dream. You carry both the new freedom and the missing of the ROLE you had that changes when they leave after high school graduation.
Take good care,
Empty Nest is around the corner. Now is great joy that your child graduated. They are off to seek dreams and ways to give back.
Give back. That may surprise you at this time where you and your family have been through an unimaginable challenging time but giving back comes in a range of choices.
Is it opening doors for others, literally opening that heavy door for another or opening doors in ways that give hope, give listening for their heart aches, or making something happen for them that they aren’t even thinking about? One of my favorite ways of giving is writing a letter of what I learned from them and what I adore.
Graduation. Reflection time may arrive later. Wow, what have I been through, what has been so fun for me, and what are possibilities? Celebrating is now. This might be a time that you are walking with both excitement and uncertainty of what your new adventure will ignite in you. How are you at asking for help? Both students and parents have called me saying,” I have no idea what will come in August or September when we hug goodbye at the dorm, but I know I shut down when frightened or hurt.”
I think all of us shut down at times and other moments we find a way to ask for help. Keep the choice in your back pocket that you can say OUCH, I just got hurt, left out, lonely, regretful, confused and need some help. Remind yourself others have traveled this as well and that you do have one person you know that can hear you and want the best for you. Call that person.
Today is about naming all you are proud of living. Today is about the to do list for the launch and the list of possibilities that will give you a meaningful life and ways to step into open fields.
BIG BIG CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU. GO HAVE FUN. ISN’T IT AMAZING YOU ARE STANDING HERE AND HEADING THERE!
Take good care,
Parents have been calling about their children leaving in August, September or already on their way to college. Yes, they knew this day would arrive. They are proud. They are also unexpectedly crying and feeling alone with a well of emotions.
I remember the to-do list before dropping my child at college. The parties to celebrate and say goodbye as she was going 3,000 miles from home and knew not one person. She made a choice for herself that fortunately worked out fantastic. It was not of course during Covid.
One thing I pass to you in this moment is that you are going through a grieving for what you didn’t have time to make happen, or missed out on for whatever reason, or just wanted more time with them in the role you have had, not the new role.
You prepared them well enough for this major life transition. Now time to prepare and focus on you once they are dropped off and you are back home. You choose the timing to plan for you and explore who you are now. You for sure, are not alone on this road.
Your generosity, even if not mentioned, is one you know you gave and will continue to give, maybe in new ways.
Take very good care,
Hugging those you missed and beginning to make plans for fun is bringing new vitality. What clients have shared with me is they want to feel “normal life” again. They also feel vulnerable and are so sick of the uncertainty.
We all know change in our lives keeps happening. What helps you to step forward a bit and at the same time hold the awareness that each of us chooses what works for them and it may be different than your choices. Couples have shared, that one is ready to step out for adventure and the other is not.
Re-entering asks us to check in with ourselves about what really matters to us now. What preparation can each make to move with uncertainty into the world and be able to change our minds?
Before Covid, you remember those days, you were negotiating with partners and friends. You know how to communicate without backing someone into a corner where they get defensive. Ask questions, for example, what do you want to do that feels ok for you? What do you think I want to do? Is there anything I can do to help you? One woman shared with me that she isn’t afraid of Covid since she got vaccinated, but she is afraid of people who are angry out in the world and that she might get caught in their rage either while walking or driving. Does that come up for you?
I suggest when communicating, begin with your strengths. “I can research who is serving food and what protocols are in place. Oh, well, I can check into what our friends feel safe and not safe about when we meet.”
A caring man called to say he can’t stop thinking about the bargains he missed out on booking when the world was shut down. Then he realized he just wasn’t ready to make the decision. It was enough for him to stay safe, feel hopeful, and not sit with cheese and crackers every night in front of the tv.
Change. It happens over and over. Look back at times you handled it well and times you might have done better. Look with gentle eyes, not the frowned critic.
Take good care.
Natalie (818) 621-4116
Parents are on the countdown to their children leaving for college. Covid has added a new layer of vulnerability to hugging your child goodbye for college. Even though you have known they are leaving sometime, the closer it gets the more anxious some parents feel. Who wouldn’t when you love them and just don’t know how life will be without hearing or seeing them as you did at home. I remember my excitement of her going off to college and then that silence at home until Thanksgiving. Not really a transition, more like instant change. I had the softest Kleenex in every room.
Parents have been sharing with me that vulnerability is showing itself in lack of sleep, overeating, asking their children too many questions, hovering in their bedroom, being repetitive, and that is not how they want to be. Can you relate? They have no idea what they want to do for themselves or how to start exploring who they are now beyond the parenting role that changed. This is a major milestone. Parts of you can handle these changes and other parts have had too handle too much and just can’t stand this much uncertainty and feelings of NOW WHAT and OH I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.
Zoom groups have been great for everyone to feel support of emptying the nest. I much prefer, as do you, to be together face to face and am holding the hope that will happen.
If you are interested in ZOOM for now, please call or email. No one wants to go through this major change alone.
818-621-4116 (PACIFIC TIME)
I do keep the groups small for everyone to have time to share and ask questions.
Call or email with you questions about the groups and your thoughts.
Take good care,
Our world of Covid has shown us how businesses persevere to remain open. It got me thinking in what ways am I open and not open in my personal life. When have I quit too soon or when have I plowed ahead without pausing to see the wildflowers in the fields? When have I assumed why people act like they do rather than asking how did you come to that thought or action?
I used to be easily influenced by other’s opinions. I didn’t have a pause button to drop within and ask and then listen, “What is true for you, Natalie? What do you want to do?”
One of the ways I check to see if I AM OPEN is to ask myself questions and listen to what I sense or feel. For example, “Am I in a place today where I can be vulnerable with that person and say what is on my mind? Can I handle what might come my way today? If not, is there a way to ready myself to be vulnerable?” I think checking in with what I am thinking about, feeling, and what I need, is an integrated tool that really works for me. What helps you to see with fresh eyes and to assess what’s up for you each day? What works for you when it comes to asking someone, did I hear that in a way you meant it? Is there a different way you want me to treat you?
Somedays, I am not even available to myself. I know I am NOT OPEN. I am exhausted or simply wanting to just BE. My whole life, I had an inner pusher. Thank goodness I made friends with my BEING self, with the part of me that doesn’t need to think or feel or know anything. RELIEF. I also know that life happens and I don’t always have a choice of responding or not responding so again, I check in with myself and I keep pausing and noticing what’s around me when I do need to respond. Breathing deep breaths works for me and reminding myself whatever it is that I am engaged with that is uncomfortable, THIS WON’T LAST FOREVER. In other words, I chat with myself. YOU ARE OK, Natalie.
I am inviting you to ask yourself:
WHERE AM I OPEN AND WHERE AM I NOT OPEN in my personal life?
Where do I want to make a course correction with my generosity, my relationships, my solo time, my views of humanity? Where do I want to get a little bit better with my opinions and actions? I have been diving deep for decades in order to grow into a more compassionate, curious, generous person and to keep the wonder of life alive. I have learned to say sorry faster than when I was younger and thought I would be punished by them knowing my weakness.
Compassion has come easily to me. Curiosity and wonder are strong. My BLIND SPOT has been false expectations. I am keeping that awareness in my front mirror. Bottom line today is I hold opposites. I know for example, not his real name, Ted rarely shows up for me in ways I have asked him to so why do I think he would now? At the same time, I am open to that possibility, but I don’t expect it. I don’t keep having conversations about that with him and I don’t make plans around what Ted has shown he is for whatever reason, not able to deliver. Holding opposites is a valuable awareness for me.
Am I open? What comes to mind for you when you say those words to yourself? AM I OPEN TO ANOTHER WAY OF THINKING ABOUT THAT SITUATION OR THAT PERSON? WHERE DO I WANT TO PERSEVERE AND WHERE DO I NEED A PAUSE?
Take good care,
Happy Fall, L’shana Tova, (May it be a good year ahead)
These chrysalis were given to us as a gift. They have been growing in the living room by the window. We chat with them daily, and this morning they emerged. So thankful we weren’t ASLEEP when they arrived.
Hope. Beauty. Transformation. New Life. WELCOME.
We just set them on their journey outside. In that moment of FLIGHT, another butterfly arrived almost as if to say, “Come Along. I have been waiting for you.”
You can imagine the empty nesters and soon to be empty nesters calling, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO about sending my kids to college?”
I believe universities, educators, physicians, are really trying to make it safe. STILL, this is your child’s life. I don’t mean to sound dramatic and you probably already know it. There is no guarantee in this decision.
I believe each family knows their child better than anyone. What is realistic, not fantasy, not denial, when it comes to expectations of young adults living on college campuses? Social distancing, mask, not sharing beer and food, no handholding, no hugging, well, you know all this and so do they.
Another challenge is the nighttime. What will there be to do on campus, and in their dorm, or apartment? Weekends after hours of classes and focusing, what is open and what is possible when dealing with a complex and unexpected Covid? What transportation is safe and available?
You know the images of how college life was and all it’s advantages. You just don’t know nor does anyone really know, life on college campuses today.
Parents are scared their children will take GAP YEAR, but never go to college. They fear their kids won’t get as good a job if no college degree or delays in getting that degree. Some parents are thinking graduate school is a good idea because jobs are limited. Kids couldn’t get internships this summer. They were so bored, lonely, and deeply frustrated. Anxiety and irritability showed up more than before and for good reason. This has been a really, really hard time.
You know all this. You know how to be there for your kids. I am wondering if you are making time to be there for YOU? This is not how you thought parenting would be.
I think it is a little bit helpful to know your kids and you are not alone in this deep uncertainty and financial crisis. During our group discussion, many times you heard,” OH ME TOO. I FEEL LIKE THAT EVERYDAY. I CAN’T GET CLARITY on this decision. I AM SO SO SAD about my kids not having the college life they dreamed of having and they worked so hard to get into these colleges. How can they fall in love in college like they hoped? They won’t be in sports or theater together? How will they really get to know each other if mostly they are isolated? Is it better online, then? I am so mad about this whole virus. It kills people. Gone. “Tears fell and the word, GRIEVING was unanimously said. We are all grieving for what can’t be and what is being lost.
I feel for your kids and you, the parents. When you love someone, you want his or her dreams to be lived. You would do anything. I am sure they know this about you.
I wish you all the best in this decision. I am here to listen and support you during this unexpected and uncertain journey. A reminder, it is ok to change your mind along the road of traveling uncertainty.
Take good care. This will not last forever,
With all the news, losses, and chaos of the unknown every day, we were talking about what is helping us day by day, during Covid.
Cooking, music, gardening, bird songs from the window, night sky, Face Time, reading, painting, hiking, swimming, sharing, webinars, long walks, golf, road trip, are some of the ideas, but what was missing was the NO MATTER WHAT I CAN FIND A PRACTICE TO RE-CENTER.
What practice you do may work one day, but NOT the next. This is natural. We rise and collapse or we just feel flat. We are not use to ORDINARY days for such a long time. We spin trying to plan ahead, and that gets exhausting because of cancelling or still not knowing what Fall and Winter will be. We are learning. We are frustrated. We are sick of it. Still, we are here. Thank goodness!
Bottom line, we need to build an inner world of relaxation, which has been one of my favorite things to do for decades. Even before I was critically ill when my healthy child was 18 months, I was on the journey of practicing a connection within myself, quieting the outer, dropping deeper and building inner sacred space. Thank goodness I did that work with the help of amazing teachers and friends. Still I have days I cannot settle myself, I am continually practicing, and over the years have added a visual place in my home that I change and that reminds me what truly matters or what I need now for support.
I am writing you today to suggest your finding a way to build SAFETY within yourself. You don’t need an hour. You don’t need pure quiet because the mind wonders, distracts, and you will come back to center. Like the ocean, you wave, in and out. Hopefully, you connect with feelings and allow them to communicate with you. Oh, how your mind will try and take you away. Return to center, breathing back to noticing feelings and how your body is doing. Then ask, “What do you want me to see and or what would you like to say to me right now?” You can ask 3 times pausing each time for a sensation, an image, words. Sometimes you will think nothing is happening here. Keep going. Try another time that day. Maybe try music playing. This is an exploration. Who doesn’t have wants? I want to hear something or see something, feel something, now. You can ask for it that way, too. Hopefully your inner critic doesn’t keep you away from building your inner sacred space that is just for you.
Practice. It is actually fun. I keep paper and pencil to doodle or note what I heard or felt. There are many practices from within. I am happy to share with you. This has been fun and frustrating for sure for over 30 years.
We want to belong. We want to have community. We want to have choices of how to get to peace, even for ten minutes. We long for a meaningful life, not just filling time, no matter what is happening in our world. Remember, it is natural that what worked one-day may not work the next. Begin!
Take good care,
She gave me permission during this Covid time to share, changing her name.
I’m always the one in the room who raises my hand to help, to say I’m in. Well, since sheltering at home and living solo, I don’t want to raise my hand. People don’t get how much self-talk of cheerleading I do to make it through day and night and repeat for months, with no footsteps, no voices in the kitchen, no door opening to a hello, I’m home and no one to push me to go out for a walk. How long could they endure this journey being solo? Do they ask themselves that before they want me to count myself IN? Sure, they say they feel badly for me and wow how do I do it day after day. It ends there. No action plan.
I have been through hard times before, many. I never married, but I have had live in partners of love. I don’t have kids. I believe in giving back, opening my heart, rising up, kindness, and participation.
Who hasn’t had hard times, really? I get that. Sometimes getting that people have had it worse than me has put my hand in the air, over and over. This time, this hard, enduring time, this pain, has stopped me from joining IN. That is embarrassing to say out loud. I don’t think I am a selfish person. I’m not. The world needs a ME, a YOU, more than ever now, or that’s how it feels. I know this. I am gratefully well-educated and youthful in energy, but this is my but. I DON’T HAVE IT TO GIVE RIGHT NOW.
It is not because of this, that, or the other because that is limiting in thinking. It is not only a feeling. Feelings aren’t always true. This is a in my body knowing and a consistent knowing even when I have tried to get to a yes I can. Yes, you can count on me. Still. I DON’T HAVE IT TO GIVE RIGHT NOW.
Friends and families are mad at me for my NO. They judge me for sure. I hear it in their words and tone. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying I don’t wear a mask and social distance with conviction. I do 100%. I am talking about participating in causes, right causes that have risen loud during this COVID. I have a heart and it breaks for others. I am talking about ZOOM calls, Face Time that I don’t say YES to. I am talking about not getting in the best shape of my life because I have the time. I am talking about not cleaning out to someday donate. I am talking about not being on a committee right now to get out the vote, to help minorities have equal opportunities, for homeless to have shelter, for enough food for all, for jobs not to be lost, for children to be separated from their families, etc.
So why did I call you today for a session? I just want to say what is up for me. I want to know that I am connecting with someone who I believe will listen and remember what I am saying. BE A WITNESS OF ME.
Take good care,
Natalie Caine, M.A. firstname.lastname@example.org | 10061 Riverside Dr., Suite 1002 Toluca Lake, CA 91602 | 800-446-3310