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A group of empty nesters in Dubai share their experiences and learn from one another. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A group of Dubai residents – all empty nesters – shared a rare bonding as they came together in Dubai on Tuesday to lend and receive support from one another.

The residents, aged between 45 and 60, were drawn by a common circumstance with their grown up children having left or about to leave home, rendering them with a sense of loss, anxiety and sadness.

The idea of coming together was floated by Marina Judd, Russian expat and Founder of The Holistic Academy, on social media.

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Empty Nest Syndrome refers to a sense of loss, anxiety and sadness that some parents feel when their grown children move out of the family home.
According to research, it can lead to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, or engaging in behaviors that can have a negative impact if it is not dealt with in time.

Devastated by separation

She told Gulf News: “I know what it is to be an empty nester. Ten years ago, when my daughter Polina left for Australia to pursue her higher studies, I was devastated. I just couldn’t handle the separation. But I have learnt a lot from my experience and wanted to share it with others in the community so they don’t have to go through what I did.”

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Doting mum Marina Judd with daughter Polina, her only child. Image Credit: Supplied

Judd said Polina is her only child and her separation proved to be “excruciating painful”.

“Soon I realised I had a problem and there was a name to it – Empty Nest Syndrome. I also discovered that I was not alone in such a situation. Even today, there are so many parents out there who struggle with it . Not many talk about their feelings. So I decided to launch a platform where we could be open about it.”

Judd’s call was well-received as empty nesters from different backgrounds, keen to air their concerns, or learn from others, turned up at what could well become a community by itself.

Dubai empty nesters discuss valuable tips to survive separation from their children.

Turkish mum Emire Erdem, who has been in Dubai for 12 years, said she was there to prepare herself for her second daughter Elif’s imminent overseas departure when she finishes school.

“I am very attached to her and I am already feeling anxious. So I felt this meeting would help me and my daughter prepare for the inevitable.”

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Turkish expat Emire Erdem with Elif who is preparing to fly the nest. Image Credit: Supplied

“The experience of some parents was quite revealing. One mum for instance spoke of how the common practice of us mums breaking down every time our children travel doesn’t help matters. She said our children derive strength from us and we have to necessarily be strong for them.”

Rita Lewis, an Indian mum, who is also dreading the day her second daughter will leave home, recalled her miserable experience on her flight back from London after she had dropped off her first daughter at college in 2013.

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A file picture of Rita Lewis with her girls Glenys and Eileen Image Credit: Supplied

“I cried and cried during the entire flight, almost as if I was bereaved. Even after I reached Dubai, which has been home to me for 30 years, I kept calling her, enquiring about the smallest of things.”

Common feelings

Judd said it was common to feel anxious and depressed under the circumstances. “It’s not just the mums who feel this way, even the dads do but they are less expressive. On the one hand, parents feel happy for the progress of their children; on the other, they worry and even begin to feel guilty. The state of confusion can be coupled with anxiety, lack of energy and concentration, loneliness and even depression.”

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She said often, the empty nest syndrome impacts the relationship between the parents. “They become withdrawn and distance themselves from each other. Re-establishing your relationship with the partner requires finding new ways to connect.”

What empty nesters can do to cope

Judd, in fact, has drawn up a whole list of can-dos for the benefit of empty nesters.

Her prescription to deal with the Empty Nest Syndrome begins with the need to acknowledge one’s feelings. “Give a name to what you are feeling - lonely, sad, a sense of loss etc – and accept it. Know that this is normal and is part of the process of dealing with a child leaving home,” she said.

According to her, mums who are always giving to their children, will suddenly feel a loss of purpose. So it is important to consciously turn one’s attention to oneself.

“When you wake up, don’t worry about what your child will be doing. They are adult now and should take care of themselves. Instead, ask yourself what you would like to do that day. Take small steps to make it happen,” she advises.

Judd vouches for the fact that children leaving home provides a golden opportunity for parents to rediscover themselves and their hidden talents. So one needs to seek that out, take new courses and upskill, if necessary. It’s also a time to pamper oneself.

Practice of journaling

Every empty nester must also begin to journal their thoughts and feelings, besides plans of action for the day, she said. “When you express yourself in this manner, you see what your feel or want to do. Rather than being in denial and escaping the situation.”

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The empty nesters with their colour renderings at the Tuesday meet-up. Image Credit: Supplied

She said the journal must be handwritten. “Put down even the smallest positive things you have noticed during the day – like someone smiling at you, someone calling you and something nice you ate. This helps us refocus on the positives, instead of the negatives. Life begins to change.”

As an extension of this advice, Judd provided the meet-up’s participants with some colours and blank sheets of paper. She urged them to pick whatever colours they wanted and draw whatever they wished without fear of being judged. The outcome dis wonders, making for another round of aniumated discussions.

“I love colours and my art said as much,” said Erdem.

“I had used colours since I was a child. It was so much fun,” said another participant.

“It’s amazing how much a picture can say. It can be so therapeautic,” added Judd.