Dear Divorce Coach: It’s been several months since my divorce finalized and at first, I was so busy, but as things have settled down, I’m finding I’m increasingly lonely. My house seems empty and my friends and family are busy with their own lives. Will this feeling ever pass?
– One is a Lonely Number
Dear One is a Lonely Number:
Loneliness, as most of us know, comes from a sense that we are missing something or that we are disconnected. In separation and divorce, or even when trying to repair a broken relationship, this feeling might arise. However, if we keep digging, we might discover that loneliness is what we are feeling most of the time and only discover it when others aren’t around to distract us from it. Another person didn’t actually cause the loneliness or even fix it, but rather simply distracted us from it for some period of time. What, then, is loneliness, really?
Often, loneliness is a disconnection from your authentic self. In order to feel connection to another person, you first need to feel a connection with who you are. This will allow you to connect in a healthy way with someone else.
So, what should we all do when loneliness strikes, whether we are in a relationship or not? Ask yourself some questions:
- When did I first feel lonely?
- What triggers my feelings of loneliness?
- How do I respond to my feelings of loneliness?
- What works for me to curb the loneliness? What doesn’t work?
- What am I craving from connection with another person?
- Am I seeking connection to avoid feelings within myself? Have I examined what those might be?
- If my loneliness has more to do with me, what action can I take, right now, to feel more connected with my wants and needs?
Exploring these questions isn’t an easy exercise. It can take time and some real soul searching to figure out your own answers. Take one step each day to see if you can ease some of your feelings of loneliness on your own rather than in connection to another.
Try to Meet Your Own Needs
It sounds simple but may not be easy, especially if you’ve never taken time to explore what you want or need. Don’t expect to solve feelings of loneliness quickly. Rather, if you can take the time to explore what is making you lonely, that is, what disconnect you may have from your own needs, you are more likely to assuage feelings of loneliness when you do connect to others. Separation and divorce, or even repair of broken relationships can certainly bring on feelings of loneliness. Before you decide to reach out to someone else to make yourself whole, reach within instead.
Evaluate Your Mental and Emotional Health
It is important to assess your mental health at this time too. Are you anxious or depressed? There is a good tool to determine if you are. If you are exhibiting signs of mental health distress, it’s a great idea to seek therapeutic support. There is also data suggesting that exercise and meditation can help too.
Change Up Your Routine and Explore Your Local Community
Summer is a great time to try new activities too; it’s a season rooted in growth. Get outdoors and try hiking, yoga in the park, or other wellness activities. There are often groups you can join, but you can also use this time to reflect and continue to explore how to best meet your needs. Spend a Saturday afternoon with a picnic and a book in a local park or attend an outdoor concert or movie night and invite a few people too.
It’s true too that giving what we can to others through meaningful service, helps us find meaning in our lives as well which can help us feel less alone. Whether you decide to volunteer to help people or animals, you may find that the connection you seek is right at your fingertips. As you figure out what you want to do, explore options for need and see what speaks to you as that may have changed as you have grown and matured too.
Make Self-Care a Top Priority
If self-care isn’t a regular part of your routine, add it immediately. It may feel selfish or uncomfortable if you’ve never taken the time, but it is critical to find strategies to take care of you. I’ve offered some examples like adding exercise, meditation, and carving out time for meeting your own needs. Pampering yourself often makes us realize what we like, about ourselves and the world around us, and can feel like an immediate connection to ourselves too which is what we most need to overcome loneliness.
In sum, it’s important to recognize that being alone doesn’t necessarily lead to loneliness. If we find meaningful connection to ourselves, through activities and engagement we enjoy, feelings of loneliness often dissipate. It’s a great first step to another relationship too as we are more likely to attract someone when we find passion and fulfillment in our lives. In addition, the ones we find are more likely aligned with the activities we’ve chosen which are meaningful to us.