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At exam time the thoughts of many students turn towards revision, as students prepare to have their knowledge and skill tested in a formal way in order to obtain the qualifications that they have been working towards for some time.  ‘Study leave’ is often carefully planned, with a timetable in place and motivation mustered.  The end is perhaps in sight, but the hurdles are to be overcome first.


Here in the U.K. many academic examinations are sat in late Spring, with students of all ages gearing up for the final push, the final hurdle.  Indeed, university examinations in the last year are often called ‘finals’, representing as they do the last obstacle in the way of obtaining that valuable degree.  It is an exciting time, with anticipation, determination and dread all present in varying measures.  Often the period immediately after the hard work of the examinations is one which is bitter-sweet, too, for the student themselves and frequently for their loved ones.  The certainty and relative safety of high school education can recede into the background, with everything up in the air as new choices are lived out and futures pursued.  


Perhaps you have heard the term ‘empty nest’ before?  It refers to the family home where the children have grown up and ‘flown away’, leaving parents to adapt to a time when their young ones are young no more, and the dynamics of the household (and the laundry basket), are changed forever.


Seeing children through to maturity, whether they continue their studies up to university level or take a different path which leads them into a career or perhaps a period of travel and self-discovery, is, as any parent will tell you, a rewarding yet demanding endeavour.  In the difficult patches, we may wish time hurried along, yet when they set up on their own, perhaps in a town or city many miles from where they grew up, other, equally difficult feelings can surface.


Learning to let go, and to trust that the fledglings that have spread their wings and taken flight will return to visit when they are ready, can be a daunting challenge.  I sometimes think that it is a challenge made all the more difficult as we may be tempted to feel that tough times should lay behind us now (with testing teenage behaviour or sleepless infant nights, for example).  This new-found freedom is the ‘easy bit’, right?


I believe that it can take time for the nest to be re-shaped, and for value, worth and purpose to be rediscovered when a key focus of our daily life and routine is suddenly absent.  You might no longer be ‘so and so’s mum and dad’, instead becoming ‘Mr and Mrs. X, Y or Z’ in some people’s eyes, which will bring new opportunities yet possibly also a loss of identity.  You may have lost your ‘shopping buddy’ or your chess partner, or perhaps someone to go to the football match with on Saturdays, and frankly, you might not like that.  It might be even harder for you if, for instance, you feel a guilty relief when the family member you love finally does move out.  Lots of feelings and potentially lots of confusion!


I have worked with many clients facing difficult life-stage changes, all which seemed insurmountable at the start of therapy.  It is my experience that with a willingness to change (or, at least, a ‘willingness to be willing to change’), and with a slight shifting of perspective, what seemed like a mountain can be reduced to a gentle slope which is much easier to climb.  Have you a loved one who may soon leap up and take flight?  Would you like to talk to someone about it in confidence, someone who is not connected in any way with the nest in question?  Perhaps sharing your thoughts – both the positive and the not-so-positive – might be the first step towards accepting that different need not always mean worse.


Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy


Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


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The Empty Nest

The Empty Nest | Ashwood Therapy Blog