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Loneliness

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

(Mother Teresa)

Losing a relationship, especially a marriage, is one of the most challenging losses a person can go through. You’ve not only lost a life partner, you’ve also lost your dreams, a sense of belonging, and your way of life. Divorce has the ability to make you feel a sense of desolation. And learning how to deal with loneliness is a normal, albeit difficult, part of divorce. Of all the emotions that you’ll go through because of divorce, loneliness is the most universal. You’ll probably experience loneliness both during and after the divorce is final, but you can learn to manage it or embrace it.

TINA’S STORY

When I left my 20-year marriage, I couldn’t wait to live in my own space. But only a few weeks into the separation, I found myself sleeping for up to 12 hours a day and eating a very poor diet. I realized that I was feeling depressed, and got back in touch with my therapist. Talking to her during this transitional time really helped me deal with the loneliness I was feeling. I didn’t expect it to happen, but she reassured me that loneliness was normal initially, even for people like myself who were excited to live alone. It took several months for me to enjoy being alone without feeling lonely, but now I love it. [Tina]

GETTING PRACTICAL

Loneliness is inevitable, especially when you go from sharing a life with your partner to doing things on your own. Such a loss, along with various other negative emotions, can cause you to isolate. To begin overcoming loneliness, consider the following steps.

Reach Out. Loneliness can make you feel ashamed to reach out. Sometimes it causes you to push people away, isolating yourself more. You have to force yourself out of that trap of shame and self-pity. It’s not always easy to tell someone you’re dealing with loneliness, but most people understand and are more than willing to lend an ear or spend some time with you. Even if it’s just calling a family member or reconnecting with friends, make the effort to do it often. If the divorce has caused you to lose your normal support network, join a divorce support group or some other group activity. These regular social interactions are a reminder that there are people who care for you.

Keep In Touch With Your Kids. Being without your children while they are at your ex’s is an adjustment. Having the whole house to yourself can feel quite lonely during the times the children are not with you. When your children are with their other parent, keeping in touch with them can help you feel connected and less lonely.  Perhaps you can Skype or Facetime with the kids each evening and form a routine. 

Volunteer. Volunteer to join certain groups based on your interests. Giving your time for a good cause is a great way to reduce feelings of loneliness, as you’ll be around other people and maybe even make a new friend or two.

Invite friends over. Whether you cook dinner, have tea, or just sit and visit, engaging with friends can help reduce loneliness.  Your friends may not realize that you’re feeling lonely, so they may not reach out.  You must reach out to them and let them know that you’re in need of some support.  They’ll likely understand and give you some valuable time.

Seek Counseling. If you find you can’t pull yourself out of this feeling of loneliness, reach out for help from a professional or support group. While feeling lonely is normal, feeling pathological loneliness that causes severe emotional strain ought to be addressed professionally. Consider attending counseling to help you get through this transition time. A therapist can help you create a strategy for tackling those feelings of loneliness.

BE AWARE

Being alone is not the same thing as being lonely. Loneliness is isolation that results from a lack of connection. It causes you to feel unseen or misunderstood. Everyone needs social connection, but in varying degrees. If you are an introvert, you may be more comfortable being alone and may need less social connection than an extrovert. Whatever your personality, identify how much connection you need to ward off loneliness. Learning to be comfortable being alone after your divorce can also be empowering.

REMEMBER

If you’ve been through a divorce or separation and you’re feeling lonely, know that you’re not alone. Most people go through a period of loneliness after the loss of divorce.

TAKE ACTION

Choose one way to reach out for connection this week, and try the Avail Exchange. Many people out there would like to hear from you.

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