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How to navigate empty nest syndrome

Experts say some people might experience empty nest syndrome over time. But for others, it hits right away.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Goodbyes are always hard, especially when your kids leave home. Some parents might come down with empty nest syndrome.

"Empty nest syndrome – it’s not a medical diagnosis, it’s just more of when individuals experience sadness or loneliness when their last child goes off to adulthood," said Dr. Jessica Sosso with the Mayo Clinic. "Parents are going through a grief process of trying to find themselves."

Dr. Sosso says some people might experience empty nest syndrome over time. But for others, it hits right away.

The goodbye for Aaron Lange and his wife hit twice as hard.

"It was extremely sad," Lange said "We are a very tight family."

Their twin daughters Piper and Anika left for college at the same time. Piper is at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Anika went to Winona State University.

"When we moved the second one in and when we were driving home alone, it was sad,"  Lange said. "It was a somber drive."

Dr. Sosso says that when parents start a new chapter in their lives, it can be hard. But it's also the perfect opportunity to focus on your partner – if you're married – and yourself.

"Resuming hobbies that they may have given up years ago," Dr. Sosso said. "Or also things like starting volunteering or maybe getting a part-time job."

Aaron and his wife found ways to do just that.

"We both coached our kids, so we are coaching new teams to fill the void," said Lange.

During this new chapter, the Langes were thankful for social media.

"We probably were able through Snapchat to see them physically almost every other day," said Lange. "One of them would call us to check in."

They're thankful they took a trip before the girls left, too, so they had memories to hold on to.

"Eventually, we realize that life goes on, and we figure out how to adjust, and things do get better," said Dr. Sosso.

Piper and Anika are back for the summer now.

"How much energy is at the dinner table that was lacking and missing when they were gone," said Lange. "I really missed that."

Goodbyes are always hard, but in this case, it's luckily not forever.

"They can still reach out no matter where they're at," said Lange.

The Lange family does have a son who's a sophomore in high school, so the nest isn't completely empty yet. But, they think their situation is unique because they said goodbye to two kids at once.  

For more tips on transitioning to an empty nest, click here.

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