You’ve all heard about the Empty Nest Syndrome, when children go off to college to embark on their exciting adventure away from you. The empty, dismal feeling of having to fill your days with things other than daily parenting could be depressing and lonely, for some. But the weekly phone calls mean the world to you, knowing that the kids are doing well and are happy. However, what happens when your grown children are living their lives and you’re not part of it? For whatever reason (an argument, geographic distance, in-law difficulties, etc), you are now left out of their lives, and feeling a huge void and/or loss. I call this the Empty-Ness Syndrome.
If you fall into this category, there are six things you can do that may help transcend this feeling or even remedy the situation.
1. Don’t give up on trying to reestablish the relationship. If you stop trying, the result will always be the same – what you have now. So, make the phone call, write the letter, send the package and do it with sincerity and determination that this is something you really want to do. And continue making gestures to indicate you want to open communication and perhaps make amends.
2. Take 100% responsibility for your PART in the problem. If there was an argument that left you estranged, you and they are both responsible for what happened. Even if you think the other person was totally wrong, consider this – Is it better to be right or be happy and how willing are you to take the first step?
3. You may need to factor in forgiveness. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not others. It doesn’t mean you forget. Rather, it means you settle your inner turmoil by letting go of the destructive thoughts that harbor inside and cause you distress and discomfort. To forgive means you take back control of your life and dissolve the dismal cloud that follows you wherever you go. Forgiveness means you want to live your life again with peace of mind and freedom from concern.
4. If drugs, alcohol or mental illness is the problem, the best thing to do is educate yourself so you understand the dynamics of the illness. Knowledge is an essential tool for dealing with their irrational behavior and your guilt and helps you think more clearly about strategies to empower you.
5. If you are alienated from your children because you feel your ex “wronged you”, be proactive in trying to change attitudes. Appeal to your child’s intelligence and critical thinking to make them aware of the unfairness you have experienced. Hopefully, this will open the door to further communication.
6. Nobody really wants to be without their family, so chances are your initial gestures will open up dialogue. If it doesn’t, remember to stay flexible and creative, utilizing whatever means you can to make headway and reverse the negativity that has occurred.
Each gesture is like a drop of water in an empty bucket. The more drops you put in, the more it gets filled with water. Keep filling your family bucket so that, one day, it will be filled again with healthy, open and respectful relationships.