Phenomenological Study of Existential Crisis in Elderly People During the Empty Nest Period

Document Type : Original Article


1 Allameh Tabataba'i University

2 Allameh Tabataba’i University


The aim of the present research was to investigate the phenomenological study of elderly individuals' lived experiences of the empty nest phenomenon and its coping components. Purposeful sampling was employed until data saturation was achieved, resulting in the selection of 17 participants, including 11 females and 6 males. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and analyzed using Colaizzi's method. The research findings in the domain of lived experiences consisted of four main themes: "Existential Crisis," "Emotional Turmoil," "Interpersonal Disruption," and "Positive Experiences." Additionally, coping components with the empty nest phenomenon included "Awareness and Willingness for Adaptation," "Purposeful Growth Experience," "Escape and Empathy," and "Strengthening Connection with Existential Source." In the domain of lived experiences, the theme of "Existential Crisis" encompassed four subthemes: "Sense of Void," "Fear of Death," "Confronting Existential Anxiety," and "Confronting Loneliness." The theme of "Emotional Turmoil" comprised four subthemes: "Experience of Contradictory Emotions," "Reactive Depressive Experience," and "Diminished Pleasure in Life." The theme of "Interpersonal Disruption" included three subthemes: "Lack of Mutual Understanding in Marriage," "Experience of Marital Conflicts," and "Social Withdrawal." The theme of "Positive Experiences" covered the subthemes: "Increased Leisure Time and Autonomy" and "Improved Relationship with Spouse." Moreover, in the coping components domain, the theme of "Awareness and Willingness for Adaptation" included "Self-Reflection and Self-Reliance," the theme of "Purposeful Growth Experience" encompassed "Engagement in Intellectual and Occupational Activities," "Recontextualization," and "Increased Resilience and Endurance." The theme of "Escape and Empathy" included "Focusing on Offspring's Happiness and Satisfaction," "Assisting Similar Individuals," and "Grandparenting." The theme of "Strengthening Connection with Existential Source" comprised "Gratitude and Trust," "Enhancing Spiritual Connection," and "Engagement in Religious Activities." Psychological experiences of facing the empty nest revealed contradictory emotions and reactions. Elderly individuals experience both positive and negative aspects during this phase, utilizing both intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions for coping with the empty nest. Therefore, it is suggested that the findings of this research be utilized in planning, preventive actions, and interventions for elderly individuals experiencing the empty nest syndrome.


Main Subjects

Articles in Press, Corrected Proof
Available Online from 11 October 2023
  • Receive Date: 11 March 2023
  • Revise Date: 21 August 2023
  • Accept Date: 11 October 2023