This blog is about unlocking the power of psychology and understanding the impact of life transitions. I interviewed Dr. Deborah Heiser, who is a highly regarded coach, author, and psychologist specializing in midlife and beyond. We spoke about navigating the transition into the empty nest, how it can be similar to retirement, and how to manage it all without losing your mind.
Don’t assume there is something wrong with you!
Do people feel they're suffering from a mental health issue when going through a life transition?
Life transitions bring about huge mental changes.
Transitioning into a new life phase naturally comes with feelings of unease, as it’s uncharted territory.
But a lot of people think well, that must mean I'm depressed, or I'm suffering from anxiety. And really, that's often not the case.
It's usually that the person is just unsure of how to navigate, and they don't have a word for that. They don't have anything they've read. They haven't seen anything about it. So, they think there must be something wrong with them.
And similarly, family members will think there's something wrong with their loved one. Look through any period of time in your life where there's been a transition. You often hear about brides becoming “Bridezillas” before the wedding, you hear about the stress before buying a new home, or having a baby, or starting a new job.
Becoming an Empty Nester is no different and we need to look at that transition as normal, and the stressors that go along with it as something that we need to develop coping skills for. We need to understand that it isn't necessarily a diagnosable mental illness.
Are feelings of an Empty Nest similar to Retirement?
Yes, very much. The empty nest and retirement are the same sort of transition.
If you identify as a parent, that identity changes when children either leave for college, get married, or leave the home.
Many of the feelings associated with an empty nest are quite similar to what we experience in retirement. It's a natural part of life. Your children have moved on, just as you've left your office behind. This is a normal response to the changes that come with both life stages. While people may expect that you'll have all this free time to spend doing things that you love, we don't always experience it that way.
The day-to-day adjustments you face in an empty nest resemble some of the changes in retirement. I've noticed that people employ similar coping mechanisms for both transitions, so it's essential to examine these mechanisms closely.
How to manage an Empty Nest and/or Retirement:
Emotionally, I mean. Obviously, there are financial things that we can do to prepare for an empty nest. We may look at it and say, “Wow, I can't believe what a good job I've done as a parent. I've launched my children into the world. They're where I wanted them to be all along.”
At the same time saying, “What do I want for me now? Where can I put myself now?”
Where do you put that energy?
Where can you add to your identity?
A lot of people have things that are waiting in the wings, things they haven't had the time to do.
- I'm going to have time alone with my spouse or myself.
- I can take up painting.
- I can travel.
- I can do some of the activities that I've never had the time for.
- I can start a company.
- I can do something business-wise that I was unable to do before.
Some people go back to college, get an advanced degree. They'll do all kinds of things that they were never able to do or think about before.
The empty nest and retirement can be rewarding if you approach them as opportunities for growth.
Getting Support for the Empty Nest, Retirement & Beyond!
If you're looking for support in managing the financial changes that accompany these transitions, please don't hesitate to contact me. As a financial advisor specializing in the needs of Empty Nesters, I'm here to listen to your concerns and help you navigate this journey.
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Susan Alefi is a Registered Representative with LPL Financial. Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC.