They say our chicks leave the nest at the same pace as entering. For example, if you bring three children into your care in a three-year time span, on the other end of the parenting spectrum, three children will leave your home in approximately three years. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. And for many of us, a child or two may even return to the nest for a time.
Another comment I hear often is how fast those child-raising years pass by. Yes, the days are long, but the years are short! However, in the thick of it all, I could not comprehend that the single parenting years would really zip by, especially with eight children to raise.
But they did just that, the parenting chapter ended, bringing me to a season I didn’t think much about, especially as a widow.
The silence shouted
As the reality of a new season approached, I tried to brush off the feelings that would come when the last one left the home, for good. And then it was here. The door closed and the silence shouted that I. Was. All. Alone…in my empty nest.
The variety of emotions that come with grief all attacked at once: numbness, sorrow, and loneliness. (Is loneliness even an emotion? If not it is definitely an emotion carrier!) The feelings were uncomfortable no matter how I tried to put on my big girl pants! Even though I rejoiced over the happy days ahead for my children, I must admit, that first night the woe-is-me cloud made its descent.
Anticipation of the empty nest years, for the married couple, are filled with dreams and plans beyond kids. Vacations, the pursuit of more education, a new hobby, or rest all gave them something to look forward to. All these new plans can soften the emptiness of their nest. Time and resources allow for opportunities that were impossible earlier in life.
The widow, however, may not look forward to the empty years in the same way. The widow-mom may find pleasure in being relieved of her responsibilities, but is she? Perhaps mothering gave her purpose.
For the older widow, losing her husband and releasing her children all at the same time brings more pain than she feels she can handle. Loneliness is amplified with so much loss. She likely found great joy in serving her family.
A renewed perspective
Fortunately, joy comes in the morning! I awoke on my first full day of empty nesting knowing my perspective would determine the outlook for a season that was unchangeable. This is not to say that I embraced my empty nest overnight, but it did help to focus on what was ahead and not that I had been left behind. God has plans and a purpose for me even now.
The reality is that the empty nest stage is part of life. The widow must look to the Lord for guidance as she navigates these years.
Encouragement for the Empty Nest Widow
- Sense the emotions of change and feel all the feels. This is often necessary before you can move forward.
- Surrender to a chapter of life that looks different than you expected.
- Spend time with God who is with you. This season may afford you more time to pray and study the Bible.
- Savor the gift of a slower start to your day when possible.
- Sit in silence. The sound may be more beautiful than imagined.
- Simplify. Clean out and sort through your stuff.
- Steward your time, resources, and independence as God would have you to.
- Spend your money on others more than yourself.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Try a new adventure, learn a new skill, or fulfill your passion.
- Serve others. Look for opportunities that give renewed purpose. Make a meal, practice hospitality, and volunteer.
- Show up! Help a young mom or come alongside one overwhelmed by caregiving and comfort as comforted.
- Stay active. Be intentional about how you will spend your time. Exercise, get involved in a small group, avoid isolation.
- Strengthen your relationships. Spend time with people seeking ways to bless or press in to settle simmering conflicts.
- Share your life with others. Write a book, mentor young women, invest in children, and tell of God’s faithfulness.
- Smile at the future. Happy days are ahead!
And then secretly you may discover that the empty nest years, even as a widow, are your best yet!