It’s that time of year.

Schools and colleges will be opening their doors. Children will be sharpening pencils and wondering who will sit next to them at lunch.

Parents will be looking at the reality of their older kids moving away, whether it’s for college or other endeavors. This can bring with it a roller coaster of emotions — what I decided back in 2012 to call NestAche, as I swam through its complicated waters for the first time. The term Empty Nest Syndrome seemed so much more permanent to me. If I called it an “ache” like a headache, maybe I could better help manage it.

Why did I make up a word for what I was experiencing?

The words you use to describe things are extremely powerful in how you experience it. Words construct your reality, shape your emotions and guide your thoughts. Think about saying to yourself, “This is unbearable,” versus “This is painful, but I’ll find a way to tolerate it.”

Big difference. One is self-defeating, the other, empowering.

I’d much rather try to feel empowered.

So what is NestAche?

NestAche is a temporary wave of painful emotion felt by a parent, triggered by a teenager’s or young adult child’s departure from home. The triggers are many and everywhere. Passing puddles in the road where you used to gleefully steer the car at the behest of said child, “Mommy, go through the puddle!” Putting away a bunch of  leftovers because you bought way too much food, forgetting that the extra enormous appetite that used to sit next to you is now scavenging for good eats elsewhere. Walking by an empty bedroom and realizing, now without wanting to, what the room actually looks like with the bed made.

Not everyone grieves the same way. And NestAche is definitely that. Grief. Sometimes you have to use a front-end loader to haul the feelings out and get them moving; sometimes it only takes a little persuasive coaxing. You may cry, you may catch your breath and stifle a sob or two, or simply blow your nose and get on with it.

My son left five years ago. I’ve grown much more accustomed to the quiet.

Over the next two weeks, let’s discuss NestAche, and how to deal with the upcoming separation. If your children are younger, I’ll have advice on things you can do in the intervening years to prepare yourself, and your children, for that eventual transition.

Letting go of your kids can be hard. But it’s vital to find your peace, and give that child permission to discover their own path.


You can hear more about empty nest by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly posts as well as her podcasts, plus Dr. Margaret’s eBook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”

Click here for “Marriage Is Not For Chickens,” the new gift book by Dr. Margaret! It’s perfect for engagements, anniversaries, weddings, or for the person you love!