Are you an Empty Nester or perhaps just one chick down? Either way, it’s a time of change in the family dynamics and often not in the way anticipated. Our first chick flew off to Liverpool in September of last year amid great excitement, planning and packing. OK, the accommodation was awful when we arrived but a few posters, a couple of strategically placed lamps and a few treasures from home soon made the barren, cream painted breeze blocked room seem cheerier.
I left daughter to step into her future and drove the 147 miles home. It felt odd and I couldn’t identify what emotions I was feeling. It took a while to realise it was a sense of loss; loss of the daily (sometimes stroppy but never boring) presence. Our home was now an all male bastion; even the cat and dog are male.
But one aspect of the fledging I hadn’t even considered was that animals feel loss too.
As I arrived home that night and opened the door huge brown eyes fleetingly met mine and then stared straight ahead, scanning the space behind me, looking for them, either of them, it really didn’t matter. I’d said my usual cheery greeting upon entering our home but it wasn’t enough to distract from the task of assessing who else may have arrived home in the car. Sadly, from the dog’s perspective, it was only me.
It must be very strange to have one’s life dismantled suddenly, and without warning but for the mini mountains of strange belongings which appeared around the house prior to departure. Having lost his mother months earlier, and one of his cat pals suddenly just weeks before, to lose another constant in life has been enough to cause emotional trauma. A once voracious appetite was gone and long spells were spent in his basket when before the fledging it was just for sleeping or recovering after one of the long walks on the Beacon they used to share. His girl had gone.
The emptiness and lessened playfulness was compounded by the fact his boy was also away for a couple of weeks on a school trip. But he didn’t know it was only a temporary loss. At around 3.45pm each afternoon, he’d jump up expectantly, awaiting the sound of his boy’s car. It didn’t come for days as it hadn’t left the drive in the morning. More loss. And more confusion. Biscuits didn’t seem to help.
I discovered animals feel the loss but without the benefit of knowing fledglings return periodically, refuelling before migrating again. This subject has been engaging me for a while, both prior to daughter’s departure and since and I’m writing a book about it. Would love to hear your experiences, if you’d like to share?