by Amy Lawson, MBA, CDFA®
Prior to divorce, we are “together in love.” During divorce we are “apart and at odds.” Post-divorce, the goal is “separate and stable.” However, the path to the latter can seem at times like a long and winding road.
The feeling of separateness can be difficult to maintain, especially when the tie that binds is the eternal bond of children. Not to mention how arduous it is to feel stable when your emotions still resemble a roller coaster ride. Too bad we can’t parlay those emotions into a theme park ride. “No height requirement. One ride should be enough, but many of you will ride more than once.”
Life has touched us all in one form or another and the really remarkable thing is, in my opinion, that life has touched us all in so many of the same ways.
My domain is divorce and so many of us who have been divorced or who are going through it describe our experiences with exactly the same words: chaotic, devastating, horrible, overwhelming, sad, scary, unworthy, lonely.
Loneliness. It grips most of us from time to time, divorced or not. So, let’s look at some practical ways of combating it.
Below Are 9 Ways to Combat Loneliness
Be Kind To Yourself
What would you say to a dear friend who is going through a divorce? Look in the mirror and say those things to yourself. Also, look in the mirror and say, “I love you.” It sounds easy, but it can be incredibly difficult to do when you are going through an incredibly difficult time. We believe we should be perfect and if we’re not perfectly navigating life, we’re not loveable – but we are. YOU are.
Make Wise Choices
Eat nutritious food, drink plenty of water, move your body at least 30 minutes a day. If you don’t like traditional exercise, get up and dance in front of the TV as you watch the latest episode of Grace & Frankie. Can’t dance? Jog in place! You can still seriously laugh while jogging in place. Drink alcohol in moderation, or, avoid it all together if it makes you melancholy or you find yourself doing stupid things while under the influence. The list of stupid things is way too long to include, but I and you and we all know what they are.
Give yourself time to heal before you jump into another relationship. Feelings of rejection frequently accompany divorce, whether you were left or did the leaving. When we feel rejected, we tend to look for comfort in the wrong arms. And those wrong arms tend to look a lot like the arms we left or left us. So, drowning your sorrow in poor choices, my friend, tends to lead to more isolation, which makes you feel even more lonely.
Connect In Real Life
Put your phone away when you’re with others. Look them in the eye when they speak to you and when you speak back. Social media creates a false sense of connectedness. The average number of “friends” on Facebook is 338. And, while it’s fun to occasionally peek into the worlds of people we know from the far corners of our lives, how many of those people will show up with brownies and Ben & Jerry’s, or a casserole and Kleenex when your life falls apart?
Truly Connect On Social Media
If you are a fan of social media, instead of just perusing the profiles of others, join a private group and really share, be it words of wisdom, or kindness, or support. You never know what someone needs to hear. Something as simple as, “I felt so ___ when my spouse left me, but I learned that ___ helped me get to the other side” can mean the world to someone who is suffering. So, share what you’re going through or how you got through a tough time. Don’t waste your pain by wallowing in it, help someone get through theirs.
Start Living Differently
Consciously choose how you use your free time. Instead of “hermitizing,” which is Amy-Speak for avoiding people, with Hulu, choose activities that will allow to you to connect with others, be it at church or the YMCA; get out and DO and BE and TRUST that you are going be OK.
Foster Your Network
Plan one hour a week to have coffee or lunch with a colleague. Take a weekly walk with your BFF. If your BFF doesn’t live anywhere near your zip code, then plan a weekly phone call. But, choose a time when you can give each other your full attention, even if it’s 15 minutes. No scooping the litter box, no folding laundry, though refilling your wine glass is totally acceptable.
Limit the Pity Party
Literally, set a timer for 5 minutes twice a day, every day and during those 5 minutes, cry, cuss, wail, and/or gnash your teeth; do whatever you need to do to incrementally rid yourself of the sadness. Just don’t scare your children or your pets.
Volunteer At A Local Charity
I promise that no matter what you are going through, someone is going through something worse. When we go through trials and traumas, we often lose sight of the good things we have in our lives. I’m not minimizing your pain, mind you, without a doubt, divorce is daunting. But, focusing your attention on someone in a worse state than your own can illuminate the many things you can be grateful for while on your own painful path. Gratitude shines a light on the blessings easily darkened by sadness. Plus, gratitude brings more good things into our lives; who doesn’t want more good things?
Don’t Judge Your Insides With Other People’s Outsides
Social media is filled photos of perfect-appearing people living exciting lives in exotic places, dining on exquisite food. In reality, they too, wake up in their own beds with bedhead and inopportune acne. They, too, eat salad from a bag, have had the same stupid argument with their spouse 1,000 times, and have at least once, sadly, though secretively, identified with Meatloaf’s famous lyric in Paradise By The Dashboard Light: “I’m praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you.”
Most importantly, dear friend, remember that the only thing worse than being alone is wishing you were.
Wishing you peace & plenty!
Your gray girlfriend,