DR AJAY RISAL
“…..Doctor! My home was full till two years ago. I was blessed with three sons, two daughters and half a dozen grandchildren making my family complete and happy. But now! I feel lost in my own house. Though my
husband is always with me, I am with no one to speak to, no laughter, no cries….my home has turned into a graveyard with a terrifying silence…Oh God! Why is the life so miserable???”
This is the sad voice of a 67 year old lady whom I have been treating for ‘Depression’ for the last six months. She started feeling lonely and depressed since her youngest son left his family home along with his family to the US (getting DV). Her eldest son is with his family in a district in terai as a Government Officer and comes home only during Dashain or some festivals. The second son has migrated to Canada with his family two years ago. Both her daughters are married and are abroad with their respective families. She is with her 75 year-old husband, who is suffering from Stroke with the left half paralyzed. A girl is taking care of the old couple and the house.
This is a prime example of the so-called “Empty Nest Syndrome” which is prevalent in so many Nepali homes nowadays, village or town; with different presentations but the same story: weeping parents whose children are here and there, all over the world…but not in their home. This syndrome actually takes its name from an avian metaphor; the young birds fly out of their nests once they are old enough to fly, leaving their parents behind. It has an evolutionary significance.
“Empty Nest Syndrome”, though not present in any medical textbook, is a psychological condition in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home.
Our Nepalese society has more common “Boomerang Generation”, i.e., individuals who stay with their parents in their family home even in their adulthood. But,
nowadays, with the emergence of the concept of nuclear family, overseas education and employment opportunities and upsurge in the population of youth aiming for DV, PR etc, the situation is changing.
We psychiatrists often see people above 60 years of age, coming with lots of mood symptoms, pain complaints and concerns regarding their vegetative functions (sleep, appetite, sex, body weight etc). On detailed interview, when probed about their family, they start being tearful
and with choking voice mention that they are all alone in their family home with only the husband or wife taking care of each other. These parents are still worried about their children who have already left their family nest.
The situation may be worse if the working parents are already retired and staying at home or when they are medically ill suffering from some chronic medical illnesses. It may further worsen if one of the parents has already died leaving the other one alone. Females may come with more severe depressive symptoms as they have hormonal disequilibrium (Estrogen deficiency) after menopause. Apart from depression, they may develop worry, stress and anxiety over welfare of their children associated with feelings of rejection and loss of purpose.
Recent researches in the Western Society have shown that the so-called “Empty Nest Syndrome” does not exist in the real world setting. They argue with examples that the couple would get more time and space once their children leave their parental home. They may use the time to pursue their activities which they might have longed to do in the past; i.e., going for long trips, joining clubs, involving in full-time jobs, writing books etc. They can rediscover their love life or increase the circle of friends. The budget used for caring children can be utilized in some other purposes like business or charity.
Results of these researches cannot be generalized all over the world. Particularly in our country, the situation is entirely different. The decade-long insurgency and lack of peace and stability has compelled many educated youth to seek opportunity in foreign lands. Our culture pre-supposes the son to take care of their parents when they are old, inactive and ill. The children need to maintain the family lineage through marriage, bearing grandchildren for their parents. In this way, the family tree is presumed to blossom and flourish. They are responsible for carrying out all the final rites and rituals of their parents for almost a year.
So, these elderly couple, in their retirement years, if they find themselves alone with no shoulder to lean on, surely become anxious, depressed, tearful and neglected with feelings of rejection and loss of purpose in life.
Taking into account all the above-mentioned
facts, I can say most of the elderly population in our present Nepalese society is suffering from “Empty Nest Syndrome”.
The newer generation should keep in mind that if they maintain dignity
and respect of the elderly updating about their prosperity, progress and gain, they get more blessings
and best wishes to carry
on with their future career. Just a single call, some words to share, few minutes to spare and one or two snaps will be more than enough to make parents cry with happy tears.
Dr Risal is Psychiatrist at Dhulikhel Hospital