Harry and Liz Joe's last
child will graduate from college this year. Over the last 10
years, they have dealt with their emptying nest and have found
happiness in their child-free home.
AND HARRY (’70) JOE READ the 1988 book Letting Go to help them through
the transition of sending their children off to college.
it was going to be a terribly difficult thing to do, and it was
at times,” Liz says of having to cope with the onset of empty-nest
syndrome. “The book helped us remember that although our life was
different without our children, it was not as different as their
lives were without us,” she says.
look back on the transition — their youngest child is in her senior
year at college — they say it was a happier experience than they
Jr., a UNT Regents Professor of psychology, says the reaction is
typical. “The empty nest is often worse in anticipation than in
day-to-day practice,” he says.
more often than not, the children who leave do not completely cut
off contact with their parents, nor are they gone forever.
empty-nest syndrome is more a series of life events than a sudden
change, Hayslip says. And that makes it easier to deal with.
to say there aren’t tough moments.
syndrome affects every family and every person differently, making
it hard to generalize about,” Hayslip says. “But there is a common
element of loss and sadness.”
that empty feeling strikes when she least expects it.
me in the grocery store when I realize I don’t have to buy graham
crackers because there’s no one at home who eats them,” she says.
says those moments are normal, and healthy. “What makes loss difficult
is the idea that what we’ve lost is irreplaceable,” he says.
empty-nest syndrome, parents typically are dealing with the loss
of the parenting role, not with having really lost their child,”
Hayslip says. “They’re just having to find a new way to relate to
usually comes naturally as time progresses. “As with many things,
the passage of time heals the pain of loss,” he says.
Chambers (’80), time can’t move fast enough. She brought her daughter,
Monique, to UNT last fall for her freshman year.
Chambers started her sophomore year at UNT this fall.
it was one of the hardest
things she has ever done.
go pick her up when she wants to come home,” Jackie says. “But I’ve
yet to take her back. It was too hard the first time, and I don’t
want to cry like that again.”
was also hard for Monique, who missed being involved with her extended
close, and it was hard for me to get used to not always knowing
what my mom and my aunts and my grandmother were doing,” Monique
she did find her place on campus, and she got used to being away
from home while still being part of the family.
year was excellent,” she says. “I made a lot of friends, and I found
my professors were all nice and caring. Plus, it helped that I could
go home for weekends and talk to my family on the phone every day.”
says it is important for students to find a place to fit in and
feel comfortable on campus so that they can learn how to be their
own person while still being part of their family.
it is important for the children to adjust, parents must get used
to the new shape of the family by dealing with the silence in the
house that follows the child’s departure.
says some couples find they no longer have anything in common once
the children are gone. “The empty nest can cause bigger problems
to surface if a couple hasn’t tended their marriage while raising
not so for the Joes, who say filling that silence has been bittersweet.
our children, but we were also glad to have more time together,”
Harry says. “It’s a lot like when we were first married, but now
we have money, so we’re doing things we weren’t able to do before.”
traveled more — even just on short weekend jaunts. They’ve taken
a class together to brush up on their computer skills, and they
intend to take more classes — just for fun.
what Deanne and state Rep. Joe Driver (’71) say they are looking
forward to when their youngest child leaves next fall.
and state Rep. Joe Driver's daughter Lynsey started her senior
year of high school this fall. Their oldest child left last
year, so they feel more prepared to watch their youngest go.
been able to go to Austin with Joe when the Legislature was in session
because I’ve always had to stay with the kids,” Deanne says. “When
the next session starts, I’ll be able to go, and we’re both looking
forward to that.”
they’re not as worried about their youngest child leaving because
their oldest left last year, and none of their fears came true.
him about every other week, and we talk to him regularly,” he says.
“We know he still needs us.”
mean it was easy.
walked out the door with all his stuff, I just cried and cried,”
tears eventually stopped and now she has a better relationship with
her son than ever before.
she’s looking forward to that with her daughter.
Lynsey is really fighting for her independence,” Deanne says. “I
want her to have it so she can grow up and we can be her friends
more than her parents.”