Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Is The "Post Parental" Stage of Life
Bereavement when Children Leave Home[i]
Mrs. S.C.'s youngest daughter, and third child, 22 years old, just left home to set up her own apartment, not too far away. With the departure of her two older children, she felt a deepening sense of threat to her feeling of being needed by them. When her third left—not for the socially approved reason of marriage, but to assert her own independence—a pervasive sadness deepened into depression. While overtly, her concern was for her daughter's welfare ("How will she manage?"), actually, she felt a profound sense of rejection at this step. She became overwhelmed by feelings of failure and unworthiness.
The major cognitive components of the depressive affect clustered around irrational beliefs and demands that reflected: self-blame, guilt and unworthiness ("It's all my fault", "I should have done differently"," I failed them", "I'm not a good mother", "I'm a rotten person"); self pity ("If they cared for me, they wouldn't leave me", "Poor me!"); anger and condemnation ("They shouldn't do this to me", "They're selfish"); magical thinking and the need for order and control ("If they had listened to me, everything would be all right", "That's not what I wanted for them", "I'm helpless, therefore I'm no good"); perfectionism ("Nothing seems to work out right any more"); low frustration tolerance (It's not fair", "I can't stand it!").
[i] PSYCHOTHERAPY: THEORY, RESEARCH AND PRACTICE VOLUME 14, #1, SPRING, 1977
THE "EMPTY NEST SYNDROME" AS A FOCUS OF DEPRESSION: A COGNITIVE TREATMENT MODEL, BASED ON RATIONAL EMOTIVE THERAPY*