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The empty nest can present a fresh start for you. Initially, it hurts. It shuffles the family dynamics and gnaws at the title of mom. When the day arrives, you realize you aren’t as prepared as you thought. No one leaves open cereal boxes or half-used cans of soda scattered around the house any more. What used to irritate you, you now wish you had back.

After my husband and I dropped our youngest off at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, my husband and I took off a few days. We toured Indianapolis, stayed at a fancy hotel, and dined at yummy restaurants. When we arrived home, my husband went about his job. Our oldest daughter lived with us while looking for a job after college graduation, so the nest still had one left.

But weeks later, I watched her pull out of the driveway in her compact car filled with her dog and meager belongings. I gulped and maybe flicked away a few tears as she drove off to New York to start her new job.

To distract me, I visited my mom in Wisconsin, who needed hip replacement surgery. I stayed a week, as she had grown weaker. I thought the hip pain was the problem, but a month later, my sister rushed her to the hospital. She died three days later from lung cancer. 

Not only were my kids in three different states, none of which were Tennessee, but now both parents were gone. I had envisioned filling my empty nest days with visits to my mom. But those were not God’s plans.

I grieved not only the loss of my mom but also the loss of being a hands-on mom to my kids. I wrestled with God and called and texted my kids (maybe too frequently). 

But as time ticked, I thought maybe God had plans for me, too, not just my kids. My husband and I visited our three kids and discovered new coffee shops and restaurants. We attended the Theater for Performing Arts broadway shows and Predator hockey games. I took my writing from a hobby to a career. We enjoyed our time together and our separate careers. 

My thinking shifted. What if this was the beginning of a new season, not just the end? After taking time to grieve the empty nest, what if we approached this season as a fresh start for us? Yes, treasure family together times and create memorable moments. But spread your wings, date your husband again, discover new places, meet up with new and old friends, and follow your dream or passion.

God is not yet finished with you. He has plans for you, too.

Sally Cressman and her husband enjoy an easy rhythm in their empty nest. She’d love to connect with you on Instagram at @sacressman, Facebook, or her blog at

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