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Empty nest syndrome: A transitional period in parent’s life that highlights loneliness and loss when children are moved away

Empty nest syndrome


Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness that parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time such as to attend a college or university or to live on their own. Empty nest syndrome typically occurs in parents in their middle age. Although, it is not a clinical condition, it seems to be one of major contributing factors to depression. Dramatic changes substantially lead to stress, sadness, anxiety and depression, resulting in suicidal thought, a life-threatening consequence of empty nest syndrome.


Get to know “empty nest syndrome”

Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis. Instead, empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home. Empty nest syndrome usually happens in female parents aged between 40-50. When their children have to leave home e.g. for continuing their study in the college or university, parents have to stay home alone without routine activities with their children. Although parents might actively encourage their children to become independent, the experience of letting go can be painful. Parents might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need their care. Parents might miss being a part of their children's daily lives as well as the constant companionship. These changes might develop stress, anxiety and depression. It might eventually induce suicidal thought of the parents.


Cause of feeling depressed

With reference to Kübler-Ross, Swiss-American psychiatrist, Grieving Process consists of 5 stages:

  1. Denial and rejection;
  2. Anger and acting against what had happened;
  3. Bargaining for keeping the hopes;
  4. Depression and grief; and
  5. Acceptance of the loss.


Empty Nest Syndrome


How to cope with empty nest syndrome

If parents experience feelings of loss due to empty nest syndrome, advices that might help parents adapt to this major life change include accepting the timing, keeping in touch with children, seeking support if necessary and staying positive.  

If the last child is about to leave home and parents are worried about empty nest syndrome, it is highly recommended to look for new opportunities in personal and professional life. Changing focus from taking care of children in the last 2-30 years, it is more beneficial to look after parent’s own health. Keeping busy or taking on new challenges at work or at home can help ease the sense of loss as well. 


Empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon during a transitional phase of life in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home. However, children must continue their roles in their different stages of life, therefore parents with empty nest syndrome should be able to understand and move on. Due to the advanced technology in communication, it becomes easy and convenient to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats. Since the trends of parents with empty nest syndrome are seemed to rise continuously due to the education development and better job offers in the main cities of the country, parents should be able to cope with this loss and grief appropriately, therefore parent’s life can be continued without empty nest feeling. 



Dr. Paul Thisayakorn

Psychiatrist, Mental Health Center, Bangkok Hospital.

For more information, please contact:

Mental Health Center, Bangkok Hospital.

Tel: +662-310-3027 or +662-310-3751, +662-310-3752