Divorce loneliness can be overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be crippling.
Your divorce will probably be one of the most intense emotional experiences you’ll ever face. It sure was for me. I had a full spectrum of extraordinarily strong emotions hit one after another in an often confusing and frightening way. Sound familiar?
The world of divorce can feel like a tornado has come through your life and wiped away all that was familiar and safe. I thought of it as being tied up, blind-folded, and stuffed into the front seat of a runaway roller coaster. I never knew when I was going to be slammed to the left or right by a sharp turn, and I dreaded any slow upward movement, because I knew that at some point, I would drop down into depths I couldn’t imagine, be thrown into a loop-de-loop, or even get caught up in a corkscrew.
I’ll be honest with you: There were times back then when I thought I might be going insane.
What I’ve found out since my divorce in 2002 is that the emotions of divorce are intense and change rapidly for most people. These emotions often include everything from denial, fear, hope, anger, loss, guilt, confusion, rejection, and loneliness.
I think the loneliness was the hardest for me, and that’s why I’ve developed some very specific strategies for dealing with the loneliness of divorce. Below are the top two strategies that work best with my clients. I’m hoping you’ll find them helpful too.
I know this is going to sound simple, but sometimes the best solutions are really not complicated. One of the easiest things to do to help yourself when you’re feeling the loneliness of divorce is to give yourself a hug. Yes, I do mean wrapping your arms around your chest and placing your hands just below your shoulder joints. Hold this hug for a bit, and after a while you’ll notice that you’re taking deeper breaths. You’ll want to continue to hug yourself at least until you sigh. We forget how transformative the power of touch truly is.
There’s something especially comforting about hugs. I used to think that the only good kinds of hugs were with others—either human or animal, but I’ve found that hugging body pillows, and especially hugging myself can have fabulously calming and comforting results, too.
The second of my top two strategies for dealing with loneliness after divorce is also simple to express: it’s acceptance.
The only way to get through the loneliness is to accept that it’s a natural part of the healing process of divorce. Your life is changing in a pretty dramatic way, and it’s okay to feel lonely when the spouse with whom you shared your isn’t a daily part of it anymore. Acceptance is one of those things that can usually be helped by talking with people who love you (like your friends and adult family members), people who are also dealing with divorce (like those in a divorce support group) or people who have successfully healed from divorce themselves, like a divorce therapist, a clergy member, or a divorce coach. I’m being very specific about the people who are typically great at helping people who are going through divorce, because I’ve seen the repercussions of the mistakes people make when they try to rely on people other than the ones I’ve listed.
Unfortunately, many people seek another romantic relationship to avoid feeling lonely. This can have tragic results. When you enter into another relationship before allowing yourself to heal completely and become a whole person again, you run the risk of getting into a relationship with someone who’s just like your ex—or someone who’s the exact opposite. Usually this doesn’t work out so well, and I can tell you from personal experience that breaking up with a new honey before you’ve healed from your divorce is especially devastating. (I felt like a double loser when it happened to me.)
Even more detrimental, people deal with the loneliness of their divorce by talking with their kids about it. They’ll tell the kids their fears under the guise of being honest, but the truth is they just need someone to talk to, and the kids are an easy audience. Kids aren’t cut out to be an adult friend to either one of their parents during divorce, and the long-term effects on both the kids and the parent-child relationship are just too costly. Believe me, it’s worth finding someone else to talk with.
Loneliness is a normal part of divorce recovery for most people, and your Functional Divorce Assignment has some specific things you can do right now to help you get through your loneliness quickly.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Give yourself a hug right now. I’m serious. Go ahead and try it right now. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good it feels. Be sure and continue hugging yourself until you sigh—that’s how you’ll know you’re allowing yourself to relax and be comforted. (It’s OK if you start to cry on your way to sighing.)
Are you relying on the right person or people? Think about whom you’ve been relying on to support you through your loneliness and other emotional upheavals you’re experiencing. Based on the suggestions above, are you relying on the appropriate people? Do you need to look for another way to get the support you need?
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.
Loneliness is one of the first most painful emotions to appear when you get divorced. Even if you were lonely in your marriage, it’s just somehow different when you are living alone. (Yes, this is true even if your children are living with you.)
The ways that people express loneliness are unique to each person. You might be like a hermit crab and withdraw into your shell, peering out at the rest of the world with a sad and dejected expression. Or maybe you avoid experiencing loneliness by being with someone, actually anyone either in person, by phone or even via social media, so you don’t have to be alone. Then again, you may experience loneliness by keeping busy – VERY busy – with work, or volunteer efforts, or with your kids and their activities. Or maybe you like the buffet approach and use a little hermit crab and keeping VERY busy with a touch of never allowing yourself to be alone.
What I want you to know is it’s natural to feel lonely when your relationship ends.
At some point you’ll start to realize the pain of loneliness can be an opportunity to rediscover the best of you and heal from the pain of your divorce. And once you reach this point, you’ll be able to move through the worst of the pain of divorce much more quickly and not get stuck in it.
The realization that you’re experiencing the pain of loneliness is usually accompanied with the question “When will I stop hurting so much?“ Every time you ask this question, you’ve got the chance to try some other way of moving past the pain and on to some other emotion. Even if the new emotion is discomfort, I can tell you that it’s LOTS better than being stuck in the pain and misery of loneliness. And every single time you choose to experience a less painful emotion, you’re closer and closer to being able to say “I’ve stopped hurting so much.”
For most of us who have been through divorce, our realization of the cessation of the pain isn’t immediate. It’s a gradual recognition of being able to enjoy things more, a desire to participate more in life again and a genuine willingness to be happy.
I wish I could tell you exactly when your pain of loneliness will stop, but the truth is I can’t and no one else can either. But, I can tell you some of the signs that you’re getting over your loneliness and have started becoming comfortable with alone-ness and being you. Sometimes knowing the indications that the worst is over can be incredibly comforting.
The signs you’re moving forward beyond the painful feelings of loneliness include:
- When you stop hiding out at home
- When you stop trying to find any other relationship to avoid being lonely
- When you stop being connected 24×7 with Facebook, your iPhone, and the virtual realities of computer and online games
- When you are content doing activities by yourself – going to the movies, going out to eat, etc.
- When you stop letting feelings of loneliness control your behavior
- When you start enjoying the new things you’re doing as part of your Functional Divorce
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
The next time you’re hit with the pain of loneliness, take a moment, recognize that the pain will ease with time and know that you have some signs you can be on the lookout for to know that you’re heading past the worst of it.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.