Destroyed Nest Syndrome

on Monday, 06 February 2012. Posted in Psychological

What is Destroyed Nest Syndrome?

by: Roger Revak

To explain Destroyed Nest Syndrome (DNS) let’s begin with a brief description of a term that may be familiar: Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS). Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents or caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. It is considered natural and acceptable for a parent to feel some sadness when children leave home. The classical description of lingering depression, apathy, and loss of identity is typical. Many women and some men experience these feelings of loss and are generally told these feelings are normal and acceptable.

So then what is Destroyed Nest Syndrome? Let’s start out with a story.
Roger Revak, co-founder of Divorced Guys, was divorced when his daughter was seven. He went from seeing his daughter every day to seeing her two days every two weeks because of the custody language in his divorce decree. Failure to keep the family intact and his reduced role as a father, Roger had feelings of failure, loss, helplessness, anger, and embarrassment.

One day, when Roger’s daughter was twelve he was talking to a woman at work about his daughter. The woman said, “Wait until she turns 18 and moves away, that’s really tough.” Roger thought to himself “I already experienced that when she was seven!” At the time, Roger was surprised that nothing had been written or researched about a father’s (or mother’s) feelings from experiencing a sudden and severe unplanned family disruption – AND the reduced role as a parent.

Eighteen years ago Roger was divorced. Surprisingly, there is still very, very little written, researched or publicly said about the emotional turmoil of a reduced parent role experienced by the traditional breadwinner that results of divorce. Until now, it’s called Destroyed Nest Syndrome (DNS).

DNS is the feeling of loss, helplessness, depression, failure, anger and embarrassment when you are the breadwinner and the protector of the family bond but you failed to keep the family intact. And because of divorce, you lose the ability to equally parent your child(ren) causing you to feel like your life will never be as good again.

Although DNS does occur in men and women, DNS mostly occurs in men for a two reasons:

  1. Society drills into men as we are raised to be the fixer, the protector of his family, and the major bread winner. In divorce, when the family unit fails, men feel failure, depression, anger, and embarrassment. Yes, similar feelings do occur for women, but it’s the next reason why men experience DNS most,
  2. In a majority of divorces where joint custody is not agreed, the mother is awarded sole physical custody. The father has to PROVE that he is a fit father, often times by having to be evaluated by an court directed evaluator or psychologist. And surprisingly, a majority of times he is NOT granted joint physical custody.

This experience of powerlessness causes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, depression and anger.

The healing process begins with the acceptance and understanding that these feelings of loss, failure, anger and embarrassment are normal. There is nothing non-manly about it. On the contrary, it takes a very strong man to face the hard facts and take action to work through these feelings to begin the healing process.

Comments (1)

  • Tom S.

    Tom S.

    13 February 2012 at 22:22 |
    So true and so sad. I see my daughters 1 day per week and every other weekend. They are my reason for living and it it truly hard to be apart.

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So true and so sad. I see my daughters 1 day per week and every other weekend. They are my reason for living and it it truly hard to be...