Stuck in Empty Nest Grief? Kids moving out begins a new and sometimes painful phase of parenting. Try these simple crafts to find peace and new purpose.
The rabid look in my eye should have given my husband warning. “I need a break,” I spoke in an even staccato.
Since I’d looked forward to staying home with my kids, I was caught off guard when the job proved more challenging than any I had done before. Several years into the toddler stage, I knew something needed to change-and quick.
First I found a part-time job at a local crafts store. Before I knew it, I was bouncing out of the house, leaving my husband to do bedtime chores while I rang up purchases. I’d always loved crafting. Now I could browse the aisles and get paid to do it.
I quickly formed bonds with customers as I directed a young mom to the “first tooth” stickers for her backlogged scrapbook, or demonstrated how to make a killer bow for the holidays.
Empty Nest Grief
Sooner or later the thought occurred to me- creating feeds our souls. I quickly saw the power of creativity. Now it’s more than just a fun hobby or the latest fad, making things has become a tool to change my thoughts and my mood.
Looking for a Personal Sanctuary? Print out this idea sheet.
Just this morning, I sat next to a mom at church who described her kids leaving with one simple sentence. “The house is very quiet now.”
You see, Empty Nest grief takes many forms-but it’s usually about feeling lost and afraid. Lost without the roles and responsibilities we immersed ourselves in for years. Afraid that the worst will happen and our kids will drift away from us forever.
Creativity takes courage.Henry Matisse
For me, coming to terms with these emotions has been a process. I’m still figuring it out and may be for quite awhile.
Making things helps me stop the cycle of needy grasping for my past role. When I am overwhelmed with Empty Nest grief, my first instinct is to reach out to my kids for assurance. Instead, I plug in my glue gun and start crafting!
Creating something simple with my hands forces me to put space between negative thoughts and emotions, and even transform them into something beautiful. Listen to this story of a nurse who turned unwanted discards into a piece of memorial artwork.
Tame Your Anxious Thoughts
You may be surprised to learn the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Sadly, studies reveal about 80 percent of those thoughts are negative. What’s more, MRI imaging reveals that deluge of negative thinking “stimulate(s) areas of the brain that promote depression and anxiety”.
But the story isn’t all bleak. Neuroplasticity is a relatively new discovery indicating our brain cells can regenerate over time. Dr. Lawrence Katz, author and researcher, found mental decline isn’t caused by the death of brain cells, as previously thought.
Instead, it’s the loss of communication or firing between certain brain pathways that cause cognitive and mood change. He famously coined the word “neurobics”– sensory exercises meant to increase mental fitness.
Craft Your Way Out
Print this idea sheet and get started creating a personal sanctuary.
Creating has been shown to have the following benefits:
- Enhance problem-solving skills
- Help formulate unique solutions
- Boost self esteem
- Increase dopamine production which promotes learning
- Boost motivation, drive, and concentration
- Delay gratification in order to meet goals
- Increase emotional resilience and resistance to stress
What’s more, just looking at art can have similar rewards. “A study of over 10,000 students found that a one-hour trip to an art museum changed the way they thought and felt.”
Recent studies reported improvement in dementia and chronic health conditions, along with their emotional effects, for patients who created art. It makes sense. Unlike the sitcom playing in the background, looking at art requires us to use our imaginations and put aside our Empty Nest grief for a moment.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”Albert Einstein
Before you roll your eyes like a nervy teenager, hear me out. None of these benefits has any relationship to your level of skill or competence. In other words, whether you draw a stick figure or paint a still life, the payoff is the same.
Maybe you have some objections.
What’s Holding You Back?
“I’m not a creative person.”
Don’t limit yourself to arts and crafts. Cooking, gardening, music, dance, and photography may suit you better.
“I don’t have time or money to commit to art.”
You may be surprised just how accessible creativity is when you become open to the idea. I’ve started using my phone to take photos while I walk my dogs. It literally helps me see the world through a different lens.
“I feel awkward and stupid being creative.”
If you’ve been stuck in Empty Nest grief for a long time, you will feel vulnerable at first. Lock the doors and pull the curtains if you need to at first! The rewards are worth it.
10 Easy Craft Projects
Here’s a list of 10 easy projects, sure to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t overthink this, just choose one and get going. Ask friends over for even more fun.
1. Try Art Journaling
This link provides some incredible inspiration to get you started. If you’ve ever been intimidated by writing down your thoughts, art journalling may be your answer!
2. Do some Sculpting
Remember the days of playdough and silly putty? Who says they’re just for kids! The simply act of forming shapes with clay will start the creative process. It’s something you can do while you’re binge-watching Netflix or waiting for a text from your kid.
Ready to create a personal sanctuary in your home? Print out this idea sheet and get started.
3. Design a Mask
Buy a plain mask at a craft or party store, along with gems, beads, and ribbon. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be seen in it! Maybe this mask will symbolize a new ambition or a past role. Maybe it will just be for fun.
4. Identify emotional or physical discomfort by drawing
Start by drawing a stick figure or image representing your body. Then fill in the places you carry stress, anxiety or pain. This simple exercise can help you keep track of places that need attention and give them a voice.
5. Find an art piece that resonates with you
Start with this link of 100 Famous Paintings, if you don’t have time or access to a museum or gallery. Remember, just looking at art can change your thoughts and mood.
6. Design a box to hold memories, prayers or keepsakes
Instead of texting your kid every 30 minutes, why not write them a note and keep it in a special box? Spend some creative energy decorating the box however you choose and present it to them at your next reunion.
7. Make a prayer or meditation bead bracelet or necklace
You probably have enough old jewelry to use what you already have. If not, make a trip to the craft store for supplies.
8. Try Gardening as art
Perhaps you prefer to get your hands dirty. The primal connection to earth and life can do wonders for your creative soul. Invest in gardening tools, seeds, and lovely pottery and get started.
9. Buy a Coloring book
Grown-up coloring is all the rage. If filling in detailed pictures relaxes you, try a mandala pattern. But don’t be scared to get the kid-version if you prefer to start with a simple pattern.
10. Craft seasonal projects for your home or for gifts
Take a look at my Pinterest page for more ideas!
The other day I found my son and his girlfriend looking at one of the scrapbooks I put together when he was little. If not for those creative outlets when I needed them most, my parenting journey would look much different.
My kids are out of the house now, but my crafting addiction is still in full force. Whether it’s the non-stop action of the toddler years or the silence of an empty home, there are many challenging stages of parenting. Thank goodness for craft stores!