Blog / Mental Health

Experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome. Literally. My Birds Flew Away.

Or Thoughts on Grief and Loneliness When Children Leave Home, from someone who doesn’t have any actual children


A painting of my beloved stove vent (left) as seen from my window. Painted by Prisma.

Last week I wrote about wanting to be a mother in various ways… and liking olives for the first time in my life.

But more importantly, I wrote about the baby birds that have been keeping me company for the past month:

There’s a baby bird nest in my stove vent. They’re quiet at night and rambunctious first thing in the morning when I make my coffee. When I sneak into the kitchen at night for a piece of chocolate I half expect them to wake up and chirp at me for doing so but it stays quiet. I tiptoe just in case.

I’m sitting here panicking and on the verge of tears because my morning has been so quiet, I’m not sure what to do with myself. I made a coffee in silence and I forgot to drink it I was so distraught. It was so quiet I could hear myself think; it threw me off. There wasn’t a literal peep emerging from my stove vent. Not one!

Okay, I’m exaggerating. I’m drinking my coffee, now, and enjoying it, but I’m not lying about the peepless-ness of my kitchen. What I’m actually doing is sitting here missing the little chirps and coos and flaps that I’ve been gratefully listening to every morning for a month. I think my baby birds have left the nest.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it generally takes two weeks to incubate baby birds and two weeks before they fly away. Yes, I looked it up, and we’re right on the money time-wise. I looked it up because I wanted to make sure my babies weren’t murdered by that one-eyed, rough, city raccoon that limps past our house on garbage day or eaten by a stealth outdoor alley cat. I’m worried about my little baby birds!

andreawrobel-peeringoutsideMoments before I sat down here to share my thoughts I spent 3.5 minutes staring out the window looking for signs of movement in the vent and on the ground. It’s my duty to make sure I rescue any fallen birds. But I didn’t see any signs of moment. Yes, I told myself, they’re gone. They’ve flown off into the wide, wide world, and I never even got to see what they looked like.

In my accompanying grief and loneliness thereafter, I brainstormed ways of coping with this literal empty nest syndrome.

I thought of re-watching Nashville but postpartum depression is not the same as what I’ve got (Note: I learned today it’s ‘partum’ not ‘pardon’).

I looked up birds nest crafts on Pinterest thinking I could somehow get the real nest and make a centerpiece out of it, in memoriam, or something. I texted my landlord to see if they had a ladder, but they said they didn’t have one high enough.

I took to the internet to search for ways of treating my emotional loss. I followed the steps:

1. Talk to someone

IMG_9143 IMG_9151

2. Focus on your hobbies, or find a new one


3. Adjust to your new role


4. Keep in touch


5. Stay positive


6. Watch the scene in The Hannah Montana Movie where Miley sings with her dad about being a butterfly and leaving the cocoon and apply it to your situation.

I think I can finally begin my day. Thank you internet. Thank you Miley.

And baby birds: take those dreams and make them all come true.

Both empty nest syndrome and postpartum depression are real experiences and they can affect your mental health and well-being in serious ways. But there are people who can help. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, talk to a health care professional, visit sites like the Canadian Mental Health Association or the American Psychological Association for more information, or call your local TeleHealth number (Ontario’s TeleHealth number is 1-866-797-0000).


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