These words repeated themselves over and over again in my head that first Valentine’s Day after my divorce. It was a horrible feeling to think that I had nobody in the world to turn to as I tried to make sense of my divorce, my new identity, and my new reality.
It took me a couple of years to overcome those feelings and to actually enjoy being alone. And when I became a divorce coach helping others navigate the same, I found that loneliness—as so many emotions we deal with during divorce—would pass.
There are mindful strategies that we can use to help us feel better, even when we feel like we cannot be consoled.
>> Being alone does not mean being lonely.
When we are by ourselves after divorce, we make a false correlation in our minds. We think that being alone is negative and bad for us. We can’t stand the silence, we feel weird sleeping in a bed alone, and we are uneasy saying “I” instead of “we.‘’
But why is being alone a bad thing?
Being by ourselves means we can now breathe and look out for a change. We are now given the opportunity to heal and start over on our terms—things that would be impossible to do if we were still with someone who wasn’t giving us the love and respect we deserve.
And what we seem to forget is that even when we are with someone in an unhealthy relationship, we can still be lonely. Do we remember all the times we felt the sadness and silence when we were living in the same house with someone who was no longer healthy for us?
As counterintuitive as it sounds, being in a house with a partner in a marriage that is no longer healthy and still feeling alone is more damaging than being by ourselves in a house and having the space to heal on our own terms.
>> Loneliness is just independence and liberation waiting for a spark of hope.
Many of us tend to view loneliness as a solitary confinement that we can’t break free from. But we don’t have time for that.
Yes, we may feel like there is nobody to call or to be intimate with. And as we try to heal, we may sometimes feel self-conscious reaching out to friends and family members because we don’t want to appear like a burden. Feeling like we can’t reach out although we feel awful only doubles that feeling.
>> What if, instead, we turned that sense of being by ourselves into something new?
We do not have people around us. But it gives us the opportunity to start doing things that we never thought we could do before. Instead of staying at home, we now have an opportunity to channel that energy into attending that sculpture class, joining that book club, or planning that trip in the mountains. There is nobody to stop us or judge us, and we are now given the opportunity to do the things we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We should take advantage of it.
Exercise: kicking loneliness to the curb and embracing the Love Mindset.
The next time that wave of loneliness hits you, instead of bracing for that inevitable despair that you do not think you can bounce back from, you should think instead that you have the opportunity to employ the following get better strategies. If you are unsure where to start, I have included some of my own examples that I used to help keep the loneliness monster at bay. You will see that whenever you show yourself kindness and are proactive about taking back your life, you are embracing the Love Mindset.
Ask yourself, “When do I feel lonely? Are there certain events that trigger this emotion for me?”
Do not spend too much time on this part of the exercise, however. The point is to merely acknowledge your triggers so then you can move on to the Love Mindset.
Ugh, I get triggered whenever friends post photos of their engagement rings on Facebook. It just reminds me that now I have no one.
I feel lonely whenever I see a little old couple holding hands walking in the park. I feel like that won’t be me.
Now comes the fun part…
Ask yourself, “Who am I when I am the happiest? When am I at my best?”
The Love Mindset:
I feel really happy when I am around my dogs. There is a soft spot in my heart for rescue dogs and I have always wanted to volunteer there.
I feel that the true me comes out when I am traveling and exploring new things. I become a curious, happier person when I am exploring a museum with nobody there to distract me, or wandering through a new shop in a new neighborhood in a new city, where anything is possible.
All my worries seem to disappear when I am working hard in yoga class. I love how it makes me feel and how it forces me to focus on breathing and listening to my body. At the end of the class, I always feel relieved and ready to take on the world.
Discovering what brings out the best in you and what makes you happy doesn’t have to cost money. It does, however, mean that you will have to be introspective and honest with yourself. It can be hard to dig deep, but I promise you that it is worth it because feeling better and being happy is worth it.
Okay, so now that you know what triggers your loneliness, and also know what makes you feel happy and what brings out the best version of yourself, you need to bridge that gap with the final step.
Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to summon that amazing part of me? That part that will help me get through those periods of loneliness?”
The Love Mindset:
The next time I see another Facebook picture of an engagement ring, I am going to look up volunteering opportunities at the local animal shelter instead. My time and energy are better served helping those in need, and who on earth can feel lonely while they are taking care of pups and kitties who need a good home?
The house feels so empty and I am starting to feel alone. But I remember there’s that new museum exhibit I’ve been wanting to see. Why don’t I check the hours and go tomorrow?
See how that exercise works:
Recognize that you deserve to be happy and understand that spending quality time by yourself and in a life which is rich with ideas and hobbies and things that excite and inspire you—and has absolutely nothing to do with having a partner—can heal you. Being open to all the wonderful things this world can offer—and fully acknowledging that you are in this world to explore them—is the antidote to loneliness.
When you begin the love story with yourself, you always have someone at your side.
Author: Martha Bodyfelt
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy & Social editor: Nicole Cameron