If you’re only “coping” with loneliness, then you’re not really coping at all.
Loneliness is universal. We all know what it feels like, that empty ache in the chest. And loneliness is probably the most common emotion people experience before, during and after divorce. I know I did. Even during my marriage, I was lonely. And that loneliness, that ache, was a signal that something was wrong. I don’t think anyone expects to be lonely ever again after getting married, but it happens. So, what’s worse? Staying in a marriage where you feel alone or truly being alone after a divorce? For me, the choice was clear. I’d rather wrestle with loneliness out in the daylight rather than in the shadows of a broken relationship. Now that I’m here though, I realize that loneliness can’t be about struggle and loss. I can’t hide from it or try to push it down, down, down into my stomach. It’s about really being in it – fully experiencing it – until it has been transformed into acceptance, love and hope. I know it sounds easier said than done.
So, here are my suggestions to help you shift your perspective.
Separate the Feeling of Loneliness from your Loneliness Saboteur
Too often, the feeling of loneliness is tangled up with an inner voice, a saboteur, who incessantly whispers fear in your ear – “You will always be alone. No one is going to love you ever again. You made a terrible mistake.” Fear always gives you the worst possible scenario and never chooses the right path. It creates a feeling of loss that just doesn’t align with reality. It creates anxiety, worry and doubt from your past and into your future. But you have no control over the past or future. So, recognize and acknowledge the saboteur voice for what it is – the voice of fear. And don’t let it choose your future for you. Choosing divorce does NOT mean you choose to be alone. YOU get to choose where you want to go from here. If your saboteur voice is all about the past and future, then the feeling of loneliness is about where you are right now. The feeling of loneliness is just that – a feeling that needs to experienced. You can choose to experience it as your adversary or you can invite it to sit next to you at the table as a friend. Ultimately, you just need to BE with it. No expectation, no judgment. It just is. Accept it.
Ask How Loneliness Serves You
Loneliness is an intense, bright light that is focused just on you, to the exclusion of everything else. It strips everything away and exposes you … to you. And it is most uncomfortable when there are things you don’t want to face. There is no hiding here though. If you don’t look at these things, your saboteurs will use them to fuel your fear. So, try to BE in the loneliness without self-judgment. Once you can look past your saboteurs, you might find that there are gifts for you here too. My loneliness reminded me to slow down and focus on myself during my divorce. It encouraged me to re-group and figure out what I want. Being with loneliness helped me dream again. It’s given me hope for an exciting future. Hopes and dreams are always stronger than saboteurs. And it’s given me clarity. I needed to acknowledge that I am not the person I was. After all this change, I needed to get to know the person I am in the here and now. So now, I interpret that hollow ache in my chest as a signal that I am meant to learn something in this space. So, ask yourself – what is there to learn here? How will it serve me? Take this feeling as a sign to slow down. Be present in the here and now. Face it. Learn from it.
I cherish my time alone. It is so very rare to have time for ourselves in today’s busy world. Take it for yourself. And when you feel lonely, look for the gifts it has for you. Now, loneliness reminds me of everything I’ve accomplished in my life to get where I am today. It reminds me of how strong I am. It reminds me of how I changed the course of my life all by myself. It reminds me of who I really am and who I want to be. In some ways, loneliness has become my champion showing me how to accept and love myself. How amazing is that? Who knew that loneliness could be a positive energy for growth and change? There is huge creative energy in this space of loneliness as well. Find it. Embrace it. Use that energy to create the life you want. Use it as a springboard to get you there.
In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes “When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life.” Loneliness is universal. We all know what it feels like, that empty ache in our chest. So, don’t just sit there. Indulge in it. Embrace it. Make it yours. Make it uniquely your own. And lastly, make it work for you. You are the only one who can. And maybe, that is the most important lesson loneliness is trying to teach us.