Depression During the Empty Nest Phase of Life

March 4, 2024 Dawn Gressard

As children grow up, they eventually leave the family nest to pursue their dreams and aspirations, and that empty nest can encourage depression. Whether they go to college, explore the world, or start a new job, it may be a challenging and emotional step for parents. Therefore, by preparing for the empty nest chapter of life, parents can be proactive in not letting depression set in for an extended period. For me, the empty nest phase is creeping up quickly, and I am unprepared. 

As the end of March is only weeks away, I will move to the next town, and my 19-year-old son will not be coming with me. So far, I have been in denial that I won't have either of my children living with me for the first time. It will just be me and my pup, Buddha. I have caught myself becoming depressed at the thought of an empty nest while packing up the apartment. When this happens, I move to another room to distract myself or stop packing entirely for the time being. I am aware this is unhealthy. Consequently, knowing myself as I do, I must deal with my upcoming empty nest phase head-on. Otherwise, my depression and emotions will become overwhelming, and I will not be able to function correctly. 

So, how do I plan to prepare for moving? That's a great question. Today, I formed a list of activities (an empty nest wellness toolbox of sorts) that I can initiate when my depression begins to spiral.  

Fighting Depression While Becoming an Empty Nester 

Here are three coping strategies I am prepared to use to fight depression while becoming an empty nester at the end of the month.

  1. I give myself pep talks. I can't envision myself standing in front of a mirror saying things like, "You've got this" and "You can do it." When I say pep talk, I am referring more to reminding myself that I am moving because I need to distance myself from the confines of the town I'm in now. I must also remind myself that I was 20 (my son will be 20 in May) when I moved out independently after taking a year off from college. Thus, it is time for my son to spread his wings like his older sister did. Lastly, I will remind myself that this is a natural part of life as a parent and that he will only be 30 minutes away.
  2. I decorate to my liking. This will be the first time I can decorate my home to my liking. Previously, I would ask the kids or my husband their opinion, and I would take their input on where to place the furniture and what pictures to hang. This time will be different. This time, I get to put furniture, photos, and kitchen items where I want them, and I don't have to ask anyone if they are alright with it. 
  3. I keep busy. It seems simple enough, but once everything is unpacked and put away, there will be times of lull that need to be occupied so depression doesn't set in again. I already know I have a blanket to finish knitting, puzzles to do, blog posts to write, movies to watch, new places to explore, etc. Plus, my son and I still have basketball games to watch together, even if it is virtually. 

Empty Nest Sadness Versus Depression

To be sad about my baby boy flying out of the nest is natural, and I will embrace the emotions that are a result of it. All parents react to being empty nesters in various ways, and all their reactions are perfectly normal. How I cope with the emotions of this life event will either allow me to persevere or not persevere through the grief of having my children move out. 

I know it won't be easy, and I am not looking forward to it. However, I know if I'm proactive and prepare myself and put my coping skills into place, it will be better than it could be as far as my depression in the empty nest phase goes.

I would love to hear how you coped with the empty nest phase.

APA Reference
Gressard, D. (2024, March 4). Depression During the Empty Nest Phase of Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Dawn Gressard

Dawn Gressard is a freelance Veterans Affairs benefits, mental health wellness, and suicide prevention writer and a trainer of a peer-supported suicide prevention and crisis intervention program. Find Dawn on X, Instagram, LinkedIn, and her personal blog.

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