I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of loneliness, but I imagine if a questionnaire asked, “How often do you get lonely?”
1. Every day, all day long
2. At night
3. On weekends
4. Once in a while
5. What is this thing you call loneliness?
My answer would be “4” because most of the time, even when I am alone, I am not experiencing loneliness. But every so often, I look up and think, “I need to get out more.” So, clearly, I am not someone who needs people around me 24/7. Yet, at the same time, I do feel alone sometimes.
So, what do I do when I suddenly feel a pang of loneliness? Here a 7 things that help:
1. First and foremost, continue to reach out to your friends and family! Don’t be shy. Before my divorce I had many social activities but rarely, if ever, reached out to friends and family for nurturing and support. In fact, I tended to take the supporting role. I am not even sure I acknowledged that I had any problems or needs until the time my divorce was imminent. “Who me? Have a problem? I’m just fine, thank you. Our lives are perfect” (not). For me, the lesson of leaning on others has been difficult but necessary. And now technology makes this so easy! Use Skype, text messaging, Twitter and even Instagram to connect with others
2. Meetup.com. If you haven’t checked meetup.com out, go see what is offered in your area. There is probably at least one group that interests you. If you don’t see one you like, you can easily start your own Meetup group based on what you would like to do.
3. Do what you love! Follow your interests, hobbies and passions. This category is why I am almost never bored. I have a zillion interests and passions and can spend hours on end amusing myself with any number of things. Perhaps this is an exaggeration but if I were in an otherwise empty room with a rubber band and a paper clip, I could entertain myself for longer than most.
If you are temporarily feeling so overwhelmed that a hobby sounds like something people do on a distant planet, then at least keep this possibility open as something that you can move toward as you heal. Explore! To shake yourself out of any ruts, try something offbeat (un-you) like Minecraft (kidding! sort of…), vertical gardening, kyudo, kick boxing (this was what I did upon separation) or, I don’t know, mead making. Finally, just go out and take that class you’ve been wanting to take, whatever it is.
4. Be open to chance and new opportunity. Even though in theory I am sort of a free spirit, in practice I can get very routine oriented and forget to add the NEW.Therefore, it has been very important for me to recognize and embrace surprise invitations and opportunities to expand my social circles and experiences when they arise. There are times that I have felt exhausted or even a bit blue but drop-kicked strongly encouraged myself to just GO. Just DO IT! If you tend to hang back or if you are shy, or if you are simply feeling vulnerable at the moment, a little tough love for oneself may be required to leap thehurdles and just get yourself out there.
5. Spiritual community and practice, organized or not. Some of you will have this in place already, but may feel self-conscious and weird once your separation or divorce is public. Depending on where you are in your journey, you may need to take a few weeks or months off so you can rest and do some extreme self-care in private.When my mom got divorced, she did take a few weeks off from church, but when she was ready she got around some of her self-consciousness by church-hopping!
You know, mix it up a bit. It didn’t matter if she was not a Baptist by practice. When she learned they had good singles parties, she was there (and this is where she met her 2nd husband, another non-Baptist). If you are not someone who likes organized religion then there are other forms of spiritual community like say, for example, meditation groups. My first feeling of “joining” a spiritual-feeling community was joining a yoga class held in a Quaker meeting house.
Now, I have branched out and do even more things that nurture this part of me. This category is important because when we are spiritually starved, we suffer and tend to feel alone even when surrounded by people. Your spirituality, if not more formal, could be walking in nature or taking a philosophy class. My brother gets something he needs when he reads about survivors of the Holocaust. Find whatever works for you and feeds your soul.
6. Volunteer work and philanthropy. This is not only another way of nurturing your spirit but a great way to expand your social networks. You don’t need to overextend yourself (something I have to discipline myself not to do) to try this option. Pick one cause you care about and volunteer your time very conservatively. Do only what you can handle but do express the side of yourself that wants to make a difference. Whether you meet people or not, this kind of activity will fill you up and push away loneliness.
7. Strengthen your relationship with yourself. Unlike the above examples, this activity limits the relationship capacity to one, as in just you and you. I would offer that you could have your dance card filled every second of every day for the rest of your life, but if you have not made an effort to get to know, like and spend time with yourself then you may always feel somewhat lonely or, worse, desperate not to be alone! Staying busy does not equal a lack of loneliness.
Loneliness, as many of you may have found, can exist within a marriage, a family and a thriving social network. “Why is that?” we may ask. I don’t have all the answers but based on an Olympic-style burst of self-help reading, I think it may have a lot to do with any little pockets of self-loathing that remain within us. Which makes sense. If we loathe someone, then she is the last person on earth we want to hang out with.
Divorce is a great time in life to make friends with yourself. Your deepest healing depends on it and, if you do learn to like and love yourself, you will rarely feel that pang of being alone because, in fact, you are not.