How to do the holidays when your nest is empty…

We’ve had an empty nest for almost a decade now, though our daughter did move back in a time or two. The last time she moved out, we kept her dog, Jack. At least he’s still with us.

Some of you are grieving that all you have left is the dog {or whatever it is your children may have left}. I have friends who cried inconsolably the day their baby left home {they may still be crying}.

This is hard for parents.

My own transition to an empty nest was probably some easier as it coincided with an especially busy time in my life. I was finishing up grad school, followed by resigning one job and beginning another. Thanks to these changes, I was able to sort of skirt the initial onset of empty nest syndrome.

That is until the holidays rolled around.

I’ve been known to get emotional when our children are spending the actual Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day with their other family, simultaneously. Can you relate?

This in spite of the fact I may have been the one to initiate it, by saying, “Oh, it’s fine. We’ll have our meal the day after Thanksgiving…” or “Let’s do our family celebration on Christian Eve this year…”

When the actual day arrives, my *okay* plan backfires.

It doesn’t happen every year. Some holidays we have our parents or other family with us, which certainly helps. But on those holidays when I wake up with no one to cook for except Mark and me, it’s still hard. There’s no one arriving to watch the holiday parade or football games on television…no children’s voices or babies crawling up on my lap…no family jokes being shared.

Just silence…a house full of silence.

How to deal with it?

If you are an empty nest-r, too, we could share stories over a cup of coffee. It’s good to know we’re not alone in navigating this.

And my heart goes out to those of you who live in another state or across the country from your children?

Living apart and at such a distance complicates this to another degree. This year, take vacation time, spend the money, do whatever is necessary, if at all possible, and spend time with your loved ones this holiday season.

Plan to have a great holiday!

So, if you’re facing a Thanksgiving Day {or Christmas} without your children, I have a few suggestions. Plan to have a great holiday and start right here…

#1 – If you are alone, don’t be.

If you’re single, divorced, widowed…don’t be alone. Make a plan. If you can, travel to gather with family. If that’s not possible, invite a friend or someone from your church who’s also alone to join you for the day.

Or, if someone invites you to come to their house for the holiday, by all means, do not refuse the invitation. Get yourself into the company of others. Do not try to do the day alone.

#2 – Give your adult children *room*.

Accept that your children will have holiday plans that do not include you. Let them know you realize they need time with the other side of the family {or with friends, if they’re single}. You raised them to go their own way – so let them.

Let’s not be that parent who makes things more difficult. It would only make matters worse to insist on a schedule that ensured we see our kids on the actual holiday, every single year.

#3 – Communicate to your kids what you need.

As our children become adults and begin their own families, communicating about holidays is important. I’ve found we often don’t want to run the risk of hurting feelings over holiday plans, so we say as little as possible. Then, we’re disappointed when things don’t go the way we hoped.

It’s never a bad thing to ask, “What are you guys doing this year for Thanksgiving?” We’ve also reached the point where we don’t mind saying to our kids, “Okay, next year we want all of you with us on Christmas Day!”

#4 – Make a plan for when your children are not with you.

The empty nest years can be hard for parents. Holidays make it more difficult. You have to have a plan. Here's how to have a great holiday.When I think back to the first holiday with an empty nest, we hardly knew what to do. A decade later, we’ve learned it helps to make a plan. If it’s Thanksgiving Day and we’re alone, I do not cook. We go out and there’s no clean up!

If we’re alone on Christmas Day, I fix a meal of our favorites. We spend the afternoon at the movies and may not even be in the same theater, because it’s about seeing what we each want to see. Back at home, it’s a lazy evening of watching television – Mark…a football game…me…cheesy Hallmark movies.

We may have a crock pot full of cheese dip or pizza for devouring. And always cookies and pie. We make a plan…to rest, catch up on our shows and movies, or read. And definitely to gorge ourselves with holiday food.

And count the hours until we’ll see the kids and grand kids. Because that’s part of the plan, too!

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Feature image by Aaron Burden and tall image by Cala on Unsplash

6 thoughts on “How to do the holidays when your nest is empty…

  1. My 2 grown up kids live in Utah and Spain so I haven’t been able to celebrate holidays with my kids for years. When my daughter comes home from Spain in the summer, we now celebrate holidays early together which is great but it still doesn’t help much when Christmas comes so this year I’m going to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve! Thanks for your words!

    • That is so tough, Neale. Taking that step to plan and celebrate when your daughter ‘is’ home must make it a special summer treat – but, oh, how difficult when the holidays do come. We do the best we can, right? And God gives us grace!

  2. My son and daughter in law are moving out the end of this month, my son is in the army, so naturally they are going to be living on base in another state. I’m in a panic, lonely state of mind lately. I feel so alone, and not needed anymore. I do have things here at home to do, but I start doing them, and get so depressed about them not living here, that i lose my ambition to finish anything.

    • I am so sorry you are having such a struggle, Tonia, but I do know what it’s like to feel like you are no longer needed. Something that helped me was to remember my children were given to me by God – to raise them up to serve Him, wherever that may be. Now, it is your time to ask God how He wants to use you in this new season. Maybe you can get involved in a ministry through your church…or take a class to learn a new hobby or skill. Whatever you do, friend, do not let the enemy keep you in that lonely state of mind. You are meant for more! Praying for you.

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