Feelings of loss and grief can occur during any major life transition but we can under-estimate the effect of children leaving home. Whilst not a clinical diagnosis, Empty Nest Syndrome is a very real issue that many parents and caregivers experience when their children leave home. It is not uncommon for feelings of depression, sadness or grief to be experienced for several months, particularly when there has been daily contact with a child.
Recently, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay commented openly about how his son Jack leaving home to go to University had left him feeling ‘gutted’ and how much he missed him being around the house. It is refreshing to hear a man’s perspective on this issue because it can be assumed that it is only something that is experienced by women, which of course isn’t the case. It is the ultimate irony of being a parent – we bring them up with one ambition, which is to let them go. In effect we make ourselves redundant from the most important, life-affirming job we will ever do, which is to raise the next generation of human beings.
It is a good thing that Gordon Ramsay is busting the myth that it is only stay at home mums who feel the pain when their children move out, but of course, many women who have dedicated their whole lives to bringing up their children feel they have lost their purpose and don’t know who they are without that identity of being a mother. It is suggested that preparing for their move whilst they are still living at home can be the best way for a parent to work through that transition, by taking up a hobby, educational or leisure activity. But women with that natural desire to nurture who aren’t able to express this can experience mental health issues such as depression.
Women over 50 in Cheshire are being offered the opportunity to use their mothering skills and experience to support younger women who do not have a supportive role model to help them on their motherhood journey, through an inter-generational mentoring programme. Brightstars matches women over 50 to younger mums who might benefit from their experience as a mentor because they have experienced mental health issues and/or family breakdown. The mentoring relationship is designed to be long-term, over a couple of years, so that trust is built up and a deep relationship forms, which can be life-changing for both women.
Mentors are matched based on their experience and personality, they receive coaching training and safeguarding guidance which enables them to know how to handle some of the challenges that they might be presented with. It is often joked that children don’t come with a handbook and, if they don’t have anyone close to them that they can ask questions of, it can be a very lonely journey. They can feel overwhelmed and just having someone with experience that they can call upon can be incredibly empowering, helping them to gain renewed confidence.
Brightstars is funded by Brightlife, a National Lottery funded partnership led by Age UK Cheshire, which supports projects designed to combat loneliness and isolation in the over 50’s and is run by Motherwell Cheshire. Motherwell is actively seeking new mentors and any women over 50 looking to get involved as a mentor.
Kate Blakemore is the Founder, Director and Counsellor at Motherwell CIC, a service provided for women by women, promoting positive health and wellbeing, offering a range of educational services, holistic therapies and mental health support.
Kate is also a presenter on Redshift radio, presenting the Mums' Hour Show.
If you would like more information about accessing Motherwell Cheshire’s services please email