Feeling lost now that your kids have grown up and left home? Learn how to find yourself again with these 10 tips to help you get back to your old self.
Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday when you were pregnant and anxiously awaiting the arrival of your new baby boy or girl? It does for me. And now they’re all grown up and leaving to live their own lives. It’s hard to see your kids grow up and go out into the world, but it’s so incredible to see what an exciting time this is for them.
But what about you? Sometimes we can feel unsettled and lost as our kids leave the nest. That’s completely natural; after all, we’ve spent so much time focused on our children that we sometimes feel we don’t even know ourselves any longer when they’re gone.
So how do you find your way again? How do you rediscover the passions and talents that once made up who you are? Here are some tips and activities to show you how to get to find yourself again, and a free workbook of journaling activities filled with questions designed to get you in touch with who you really are now.
Are You Feeling Lost in Life Right Now?
It’s completely understandable if you’re feeling a little lost right now. There are several reasons you might feel lost as your kids are getting ready to leave home.
You’ve been too busy to think about yourself.
As a mom raising kids, you’re constantly on the go. You’re keeping track of 10 different activities, planning meals, thinking about what your kids need, and where they need to be next.
It’s so easy to let the passions and hobbies you enjoyed before you had kids fall by the wayside. In fact, you may have been too busy to even think about yourself.
When that happens, though, we lose a bit of ourselves. And now that you’re slowing down a bit, you’re finally noticing.
You’re Missing a Purpose in Life
If your purpose in life was raising your kids for all these years, you might feel lost right now because your parenting years are ending. We need to feel we have a purpose in life in order to feel like our life has meaning.
But, don’t worry! Your whole life isn’t over. This is just the end of one phase of life. Now that you’re an empty nester, it’s time to take control of your own life and find your new purpose.
You’re going through a major life transition.
I mean, duh, right? This is a huge transition for everyone in the family. And change is hard. When you go through a big transition like this one, it’s natural to feel lost as you adapt to your new role.
So be gentle with yourself as you go through this transition. Allow yourself time to find yourself and figure things out. And don’t forget, you’re not alone in this! There are plenty of other empty nesters out there who are going through the same thing.
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Why is It Important to Find Yourself?
Look at your kid. If they’re anything like my kids at that age, they’re completely focused on one thing: themselves.
And that’s completely normal. At this age, our kids are still learning their place in the world and what they want to do with it. After all, how can you successfully navigate the world ahead if you don’t know who you are and what you want in life?
The same is true for you. You’ve devoted years of your life to raising your kids and now you’re entering a new phase. It’s time to find out who you are and what you want in life so you, too, can successfully navigate the world ahead of you.
It’s time to, as Dolly Parton says, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
What Does It Mean to Find Yourself Again?
Finding yourself again means looking at your identity before you raised children and figuring out where that fits into the life you have now. It means regaining the confidence you once had because you were so sure of who you were.
It means falling in love with yourself again, just as you fell in love with your kids as you watched them grow. As a parent, you learned what your kids needed to be happy, and you tried to give them what they needed.
It’s time now to learn what makes you happy and what you need to feel happy in your life.
Get Ready to Start Your Hero’s Journey
Are you familiar with the concept of the hero’s journey? It’s the framework of most stories that become legends in myth. A lost soul leaves behind his family and friends to go on a journey in search of a better life. Along the way, our hero encounters adventures, gets lost at least once, faces temptations, and overcomes at least one character-defining crisis. Finally, he becomes his true self – the hero he was always meant to be. When that happens, he returns home, forever changed for the better.
Interestingly, the hero’s journey often begins with our hero feeling the tiniest urge that there’s something in his life that needs to change, but he resists the thought, often citing his current obligations (does that sound familiar?).
Then destiny intervenes, and he finds himself on the journey despite his desire for nothing to change.
If you’re facing an empty nest, you are facing your own hero’s journey. I’m sure over the last years, you’ve occasionally had an inkling that perhaps you’ve lost a bit of your true self back in the past, but maybe you shrugged it off because you were too busy with your family.
Now your child is graduating high school and heading off to college. Guess what? You’re on your journey, whether you want it or not.
That’s actually fantastic news. This is your chance to learn who you are and what makes you happy. You’re ready to find your true calling for the next phase of your life.
How to Find Yourself Again
Are you ready to find out just who you are really are again? As Mary Oliver says, “…what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Here are 10 tips to help you find yourself again when you feel lost.
1. Feel Your Feelings
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s endSemisonic
I don’t know about you, but I can’t even read that Semisonic quote without tearing up. It’s true, though. Even when we’re excited about a life change, it usually means something else in our life must change as well.
It’s completely normal to feel sad about your empty nest, but you may feel you’re the only person who feels that way. Grieving experts call this type of grief “disenfranchised grief” because we are truly sad, but other people may not recognize our sadness or they may diminish it and imply you’re over-reacting.
You might even try to minimize how you feel, but that doesn’t mean your sadness isn’t a valid emotion.
Don’t worry about other people’s opinions about how you should feel. And don’t minimize or ignore how you feel. It’s important to take some time to mourn the losses in our lives, even if you feel like your grief seems insignificant compared to other people’s problems. These feelings won’t go away unless you address them and you’ll end up feeling even worse.
I’m a big fan of using rituals to honor a loss. After each child has left home, I honor the change by going through their room and giving it a good cleaning. I’ll declutter items they left behind (after asking permission), straighten up the belongings still in the room, and organize everything neatly.
As I do this, I’m flooded with memories of our time together. Here’s the sea shell he found on our family vacation that year. Here are all the swimming medals from all those long swim meets. I even find the occasional forgotten toy or book.
It’s a bittersweet experience, but it helps me to feel like I’m honoring their childhood and my connection to them. And when my kids returned home for winter break, they were grateful to have a welcoming, organized room to return to.
If you’re not sure how to process your feelings, try talking things out with an empathic friend who has already been through their child leaving. Or, consider talking with a therapist who can help you navigate these uncharted waters.
2. Reconnect with the Old You
Did you have something you loved to do before you had kids? Maybe you loved to read, take walks, or go out dancing.
Whatever it was, why not take some time to reconnect with that old you?
Getting back into an old hobby is a wonderful way to find yourself again. See if you can lose yourself for hours working on a painting. Or spend some time baking a delicious dessert, without worrying about whether anyone will like it.
Take some time for you, without judgment. You’re allowed to enjoy things just for the sake of enjoyment.
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3. Try Something New
A few years ago, I impulsively signed up to go zip-lining with some friends. Unfortunately, I’m afraid of heights. Also, unfortunately, I only remembered my fear when I got to the top of the very tall and very narrow pole that we’d be launching off from.
I was terrified. I almost climbed back down the pole to the welcoming ground below, but that seemed almost as scary – and not as safe – as zip-lining off the platform. So I did it. And I loved it.
Even better was how I felt afterwards. I truly felt like I could take on any challenge after facing my fear of heights.
There’s no better way to rebuild your confidence than getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. You might even find a side of yourself that you never knew about. Maybe your true self is a stand-up comic!
You don’t need to jump off a tall pole to get the benefits of trying something new. You can still learn more about who you are and what you like to do simply by trying a few new hobbies or visiting some new places.
4. Plan a Short Vacation
Speaking of visiting new places, there’s nothing like spending time in an unknown city to gain a new perspective. And I can’t think of a better way to experience the bright side of the empty nest than taking a spontaneous vacation. For once, you can focus solely on enjoying yourself, rather than making sure that everyone else is having a good time.
Think of a place you’ve always wanted to visit and go! If possible, try to leave all the details up to chance so that you’re free to explore with no obligations.
5. Examine Your Daily Routine
As a mother, your children’s schedules dictated so much of your daily routine. My daughter was a figure skater growing up, and I spent many early mornings reading on an uncomfortable bench bundled up against the cold.
Now that you’re free of your obligations to your children’s schedules, you have a rare chance to create a daily routine that you enjoy.
Start by actually looking at how you spend your time each day. Don’t just go about your daily routine on autopilot. Instead, pull back throughout your day and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this bringing value to my life?
- If yes, is there a way I can do more of this?
- If no, does it really need to be done?
I like to audit how I spend my time now and then. I’ll track what I’m doing for a few days and then see of how I’m spending my time aligns with my goals for my life. I’ve got a Time-Tracking Template in the 10 Days to Rediscover Yourself workbook you can download if you would like to try tracking how you spend your time.
As you track your time, note how many positive interactions you have and how many negative interactions you encounter. We are happiest in our daily life when we report at least five positive interactions for each negative one. What’s your positive to negative ratio?
6. Reconnect with Old Friends or Make Some New Ones
How long has it been since you had time to meet a friend for lunch or after-work drinks? If you’re anything like me, those fun outings went by the wayside once you had kids.
Now’s your chance to call up an old friend and get together to laugh, reminisce about old time, and catch up. It’ll be good for both of you and may lead to more regular get together.
Bear in mind, though, that you’re not the same person you were before you had kids. You may find that you and your old friends no longer share the same interests. If so, now is the perfect time to hang out with some new people and see if you click.
It can be harder to make new friends over 50, but I’ve got some tips to help you get started making new friends.
The great thing about making friends as an adult is that you can be a little more choosy about who you spend your time with. Don’t feel bad if it takes a while for you to find people you click with – just keep trying until you do.
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7. Take Yourself Out on a Solo Date
If you want to get to know yourself better, why not take yourself out on a date? Visit a museum or check out a movie you’ve been wanting to see. By experiencing new things by yourself, you’ll learn more about what you like and how to have fun on your own.
Here are some ideas for your date with yourself:
- Go for a walk in the park
- Have dinner at a new restaurant
- Take yourself for a coffee
- Get a massage
- Take a class that interests you
8. Get Moving
Exercise has so many benefits for our mental health. It can help reduce stress, improve our mood, and even make us smarter.
It’s also an excellent way to find yourself when you feel lost. When you’re working your body, you’re completely in touch with your emotions. You can’t hide how you’re feeling when you’re sweating and panting.
Getting healthier and stronger also increases your self-esteem. When you’re in good shape, you have the strength to handle anything life can throw you.
If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, now is the time to start one. You don’t need to join a gym or sign up for a marathon. Start with something simple that you know you’ll be able to stick with, like taking a walk each day or doing some light yoga at home.
Yes, I’m obsessed with decluttering. I have a good reason, though; I truly believe that clearing out the clutter that surrounds you can change your life. It’s also the perfect activity for finding yourself again. If those pants hanging in your closet no longer reflect your taste, toss them and replace them with something you feel good wearing.
You’ll get to know your true self as you go through your items and ask yourself, “Does This Spark Joy?”
If you’re feeling exhausted just thinking about going through the lifetime of clutter your family has accumulated, check out my tips on how to get started decluttering when you’re overwhelmed.
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10. Don’t Forget Self-Care
Any time of transition, whether it’s happy or sad, can be stressful. There are so many unknowns when your kids leave home: Will they be happy? Will they make good choices? What’s next for me now? It’s normal and understandable to feel overwhelmed now and then.
If overwhelm strikes, take a moment for yourself and relax with some self-care. I like to engage in some cozy, hygge activities like lighting a scented candle and taking a long bath. I’ve even got a self-care kit that I reach for when life is too much. Recognizing when you need a break is one of the most important things you can learn about yourself.
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Now, It’s Your Turn!
So there you have it, ten tips for how to find yourself again after your kids are grown. I hope these tips help you reconnect with the person you were before kids came along and changed everything. Don’t forget that it’s okay if this process takes some time. After all, you were a mom for a long time.
Do you have any wisdom to share? Is there something that helped you find yourself again when you felt lost? Share your tip in the comments now!
Get to Know Yourself Again with a Free E-book of Journaling Activities
I created an ebook with 10 days of journaling activities that helped me reconnect with my authentic self while I was trying to figure out what my next phase of life should look like. Some days have exercises designed to get to your deepest self while other days have fun quizzes to help you learn more about what makes you tick.
At the end of the 10 days, you’ll have a deeper understanding of who you are and what makes you happy.
You can download it for free!