Recently I returned from Virginia to visit my newly married son and his wife. I was riding high with good feels from seeing the kids thriving in their new surroundings. For two days I had dinner around their table, visited their workplaces and church, and explored with them the places they enjoy on the weekends. It was tough, but I tried to not be clingy at the airport as I said goodbye.
It’s not unusual to have post trip blues but couple that with returning to an empty nest, the heaviness caught me off guard. Typically when I come home, my dog greets me. My dog wasn’t there though because she was still at the kennel, and because it was so late, I didn’t feel comfortable picking up the phone to call or text someone because everyone I knew was asleep.
So when I came through the doors, I dropped my bags in the middle of my living room and sat on the floor and had a good cry. I cried for how quickly my kids had grown up and how walking into a quiet, empty house seems to be my new norm.
It’s not something I have ever talked about with my friends really–how they navigate re-entry into an empty house? It’s just something we do, but when I told a single friend recently about it she quickly quipped, “Yep, it sucks but you get used to it…sort of.”
So meanwhile as this becomes my new norm, I’ve come up with a plan that might work.
- Airport Friends. I have a friend who recently told me that when trying to narrow down her wedding guest list, her fiancé asked her, “Is this an acquaintance or the kind of friend who would pick you up at the airport regardless of time?” She cut her list in half. Who do you have in your life who is that kind of friend? Let them know when you will be returning home from a trip. Ask them if they’d mind picking you up at the airport. If their schedule doesn’t allow, tell them you’d like to call when you return home to just check in–even if it’s after midnight. Making a connection with someone softens the loneliness of re-entry.
- Check Your Thoughts. Have a good cry if needed, but negative self talk can weigh us down. When I returned home from my trip and walked into my empty house, my first thoughts were negative: I’m all alone. This is what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life. That’s depressing talk. The truth is: I got in late. My house was empty. I missed my dog and my kids. That’s it. Life wasn’t over. But my thoughts took me to a place that made me begin to feel dreary. Fact is, the next morning the sun was shining, I had a text from both kids, work was good, and I had dinner plans with a friend.
- Pet Pick Up. If you will be returning too late to pick up your pet, arrange for a friend to pick up your furry friend and either deliver to your home or keep at her house until you return home. That way, you have an eager pet to greet you when you return home or you get to visit with a friend when swing by to pick up your pet.
- Leave Your House Cozy. I love my home; it’s my nest. I always feel better if before I leave I put clean sheets on my bed, fold the last load of laundry and tidy up the kitchen counter tops. Also, set out your comfy jammies, have a favorite dessert in the freezer, and schedule “record” for all of the binge-worthy television shows you want to watch when you get home.
- Souvenirs. While on a trip, pick up something for a close friend or neighbor (and yourself). It doesn’t have to be expensive–it could be a refrigerator magnet. Try to get the gift to the friend the day you return or shortly thereafter. Sharing with someone a special item from your trip allows for connection and reflection on what you liked about your trip.
Simple strategies to help welcome yourself home.