“This book will bring hope and comfort to parents searching for meaning in the second half of life.”

—Emily Esfahani Smith, author of “The Power of Meaning”

“This book will bring hope and comfort to parents searching for meaning in the second half of life.”

—Emily Esfahani Smith, author of “The Power of Meaning”

The transition to the empty nest creates a void that can catapult you into existential crisis. Your zeal for climbing the career ladder, striving for social status, and collecting material things starts to subside, as is common in middle age. Friends and relatives may suffer from illness or pass away, bringing jarring reminders of mortality that trigger a need to make sense of it all.

HappiNest helps you traverse this passage with grace by distilling the latest social science research and drawing from hundreds of interviews with those who have gone before you. Whether you’re seeking a renaissance in your romantic relationship, dealing with a boomerang child at home, or figuring out how to support aging parents, this book is for you.

HappiNest explores a variety of challenges that arise when the house is suddenly empty or emptying, and Judy Holland provides tips and tools for managing the emotions and realities of this new life stage. From dealing with friends, career transitions, rekindling love or leaving a marriage, to reconnecting with genuine interests and passions, this road map will help guide you. There are hills, valleys, thickets, briar patches, and ditches ahead, as well as waterfalls that resolve into pristine ponds. With mindfulness, hard work, and knowledge of experiences, research, and wisdom from seasoned empty nesters, you can create the best phase of your life.

Excerpts from the foreword

by Linda Wertheimer, co-founder of All Things Considered for NPR

“Judy suggests that the wrenching experience of seeing your last child depart the family home could, with some effort on your part, trigger spiritual awakening… Judy suggests, by anecdote and example, that if effort is required to repair the relationship overshadowed by children, it is often well worth the probably painful effort to try. And she has some amusing and sometimes surprising ways to do that. One of them appears at first glance to come out of Good Housekeeping or perhaps some version of Cosmo for the Older Gal: take dance lessons. But again, Judy surprised me by offering research that suggests a sweet and sexy graduation from a course in ballroom dancing.”

“With age comes loss of friends and family members and a need to find a way to survive that experience. Transcendence is what Judy suggests; pursue a course of action that will inspire and be good for other people, something that will add meaning to your life. It would be a good idea, she says, to get started early on this mission, maybe right after the kids leave home. After all, you will have leisure time for the first time in forever. And Judy, who never stops moving, would not want us to waste that precious time.”


  • Journalist Holland provides advice for empty nesters, pulling from over 300 interviews with a diverse group of parents, in her instructive debut. This shrewd guide will be useful to any empty nester concerned about next steps.

    Publishers Weekly
  • Life has many seasons, each rich in opportunities to learn, grow and, ultimately, to thrive amid its challenges. HappiNest will help you navigate this next season – to forge richer relationships, cultivate new passions, and to embrace its many possibilities with a newfound sense of courage, clarity and adventure.

    Margie Warrell
    Bestselling author of "Train The Brave" and "Make Your Mark"
  • A thoughtful meditation on living as an empty-nester, this book is chock full ideas inspired by philosophy, social science, and hundreds of real-life experiences. Judy Holland has written a rich and compassionate work that will surely help the many who will read it not only avoid despair and isolation but, more importantly, lead increasingly meaningful and fulfilled lives. An inspiring and sorely needed work.

    Mario L. Small
    Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
  • I don’t say this lightly: this book could save your life. With middle-aged adults, particularly women, dying younger than previous generations from ‘diseases of despair,’ finding a renewed sense of purpose and zest during the empty nest period is a recipe for happiness and meaning. Judy Holland has brilliantly woven together stories, research and checklists that will appeal to anyone who wants to find out how to fill the empty nest in important ways.

    Caroline Adams Miller
    Best-selling author of "Creating Your Best Life" and "Getting Grit"
  • When the children finally leave the nest, women and men can find themselves challenged by a new stage in their lives. Judy Holland’s book tells these parents not to despair! There are many roads to happiness, and Holland provides them with insightful tools and tips for self-fulfillment as they take this exciting new journey.

    Jocelyn Elise Crowley
    PhD, author of “Gray Divorce: What We Lose and Gain from Mid-life Splits”
  • This thought-provoking and evidence-based book presents valuable insights and practical advice such as how to set ground rules if your child “boomerangs” back into the household, how to prune and cultivate friendships for more soul per square inch, and how to add spark, novelty and joy to your empty nest marriage.

    David J. Pollay, MAPP
    Best-selling author of "The Law of the Garbage Truck"
  • Beautifully written, interesting, and compelling, Judy Holland teaches us about the challenges faced by empty nesters, and, ultimately, about life itself. Highly recommended!

    Annette Lareau
    University of Pennsylvania sociology professor and author of “Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life”
  • Judy Holland’s book draws on fascinating psychology research and tells the stories many empty nesters to show how people can redefine their purpose and identity after the kids leave home.

    Emily Esfahani Smith
    Author of "The Power of Meaning"