2006 Article: Loneliness is the most difficult challenge I face in my life as a newly divorced, single-mom. With the change and chaos that follows divorce, choosing #1 isn’t all that easy. Loneliness quickly rises to the top of my list, because I can’t readily fix it. Most of my problems can at least be improved, albeit in small increments, as I work on them. Loneliness, however, seems to go hand in hand with this new territory.
2014 Perspective: When you read the definition below, it is easy to imagine how lonely the newly single parent’s life can be; “single,” unaccompanied,” and “solo” are even listed as synonyms for lonely! It is not so much that you have no friends, but more that you are solitary in responsibility for a life meant for two. Having no partner in family life — as parent, in the home, financially – is a big change from married. The 2nd definition really hits the target of how my heart felt at first – even in a crowd of friends, I felt isolated as I adjusted to all the changes in my life.
Definintion of Loneliness
1. sadness because one has no friends or company; the fact of being without companions; solitariness
2. (a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.
Webster lists related words that to me feel well suited to anyone who is feeling lonely.
Related Words unattended; forlorn, friendless; cloistered, disassociated, insulated, isolated, remote, retired, secluded, withdrawn; quarantined, segregated, separated, sequestered; separate, unattached, unconnected, unlinked; detached, disconnected, disjointed, dissociated, disunited, divided, fractionated; abandoned, adrift, deserted, desolate, forgotten, forsaken, neglected
2006 Article: Some divorced people begin dating and enter a relationship right away or before the divorce is actually final. This no doubt reduces feelings of loneliness. My choice was to not date before final dissolution, and I still don’t feel “ready.” My social life is mostly among married couples that are very sweet to invite me along. I appreciate all invitations… even the ones I decline. Despite generous hospitality and inclusiveness from friends, it’s a couple’s world. My separation and divorce period was long – over two years. During it, the fifth wheel position was safe and comfortable. Since my divorce is final, I’m realizing that I can’t stay the 5th wheel and thrive.
My “old” friends are golden, but I’m also looking for new friends at midlife. People whose schedules and needs better reflect my own. Understand, loneliness is very different from being alone. I need and relish my time alone. Loneliness is more the realization that I have no choice. No one cherishes me as life partner. It’s not possible or healthy for anyone to spend large chunks of time with me. No one shares my burdens: parenting, financial or day-to-day. It’s not that no one loves me – they do, and I am very thankful. However, in most decisions and even immense joys, I am alone. That hurts.
During my divorce process my sister gave me a hand-made quilt with Bible verses on the squares. I sobbed when I opened it. To be well loved by her was wonderful, but it was also a painful reminder of what was missing in my life. I cherish the quilt and it continues to give me comfort. Relationships after my divorce became like sections in that patchwork quilt. I need to weave a lot of relationships together (and a lot of verses and prayers). While I have no one who can meet a majority of my emotional needs, I have many friends and family who are close and involved in my life. Together they form a rich community.
It’s also important to develop new divorced and otherwise single friends. We fill a void for each other and nurture each other through this new life and loneliness in ways no one else can help. It takes courage to reach out to new people, and many times new activities. Often, I don’t even know where to find them, but I am trying. It means taking risks, leaving my comfort zone, and putting myself “out there.”
Loneliness also causes me to lean more deeply into my faith. God sustained and strengthened me through the divorce. He is there for me now. He is truly the only One who can fully love me, whether I’m single or married. I am still angry about much that has happened. I feel lonely and afraid; I rebel and resist His love. I refuse to pray, then lash out and cry. He handles it all and loves me still. I always gratefully come back to Him, and He gives more love and understanding than I could ever imagine.
Despite the reality of loneliness, my faith and almost all my other relationships have grown in the last year or so. I have decidedly moved on from some relationships. Other friendships have deepened and improved. And new exciting friendships are on my horizon. They represent people I never might have met without this adversity. Ironically, even with the loneliness, I feel relationally enriched, despite the loss of my marriage. God is good!
2014 Perspective: Now I am married to the man beyond what I could have hoped for or imagined. We share about everything in life; I am blessed beyond measure. Still, at times I feel lonely. Is it true for all of us? Possibly God designed us that way to assure that we would always be drawn to Him — the only one who can meet our deepest need. The God-sized place that nothing else can fill is definitely in my heart. And He is enough.
But there is something else I believe He put in us. There is the loneliness I feel, when I’m not connected in meaningful ways to other people (even beyond family). Our Triune God, after all, is relational first and foremost — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I think He made us to live connected with each other. He made us to share our lives with friends, strangers, and family in a myriad of significant ways. When I am too isolated from other people (and all this moving and change has made it so), I experience a more short-lived but pervasive loneliness all over again. Perhaps it is part of being human — made in the image of God — that I crave meaningful relationships. Today, it is still important that I am vulnerable and risk forming connections. I still need to be open to what God has in store relationally, and risk “putting myself out there”
The loneliness of divorce is unique in many ways, and I in no way want to minimize it. I remember desperately wanting a magic wand to stop the pain. At times I think I would have given up segments of my life, just to get to the other side of all I felt. God took me through it all, not around it. All I can offer those who are unwillingly single is compassion, empathy and hope. But even hope is a delicate offering. When I was first separated, a minister told me he was certain I would be laughing again in five years. He meant well and was actually correct in my case. But his comment offered no solace. It didn’t validate my pain and more accurately made me feel misunderstood and more lonely. I don’t want to make that mistake with a reader.
It’s important that we, as friends and family, come alongside those who are lonely for any reason. We can be there when someone needs to cry, or vent, or talk, or be silent. As far as it’s possible we can enter into the joys, sorrows and everydayness of her life and offer little pieces for her “quilt of comfort.” The more history someone has with pain and loneliness, the more easily she can remember God’s faithfulness before and believe in the hope of tomorrow .
Something else I’ve learned is all this change didn’t come only from being divorced. Rob and I sometimes lament the fact that we are still building the infrastructure of our lives at midlife. It takes a lot of our energy, and we thought this would have all been long done by 50. Instead since our mid forties, we have moved, remodeled, tried to “blend” families, started a new business, tried to make friends, when so many our age are already settled in groups. We helped to moved one of our 5 children for a total of 8 moves in the summer of 2013, and we didn’t even help with all the moves they made! I’ve gone from single to married. From full time mom and part time student to empty-nester to step mom then again, empty nester. To full time employed and back again to part time! I’m now trying to find the balance — more infrastructure to be built.
While we may have more building projects than those celebrating a 25th or 30th anniversary, I see similarities in their lives too. The empty nest and midlife contain many catalysts. Heart attacks, cancer, selling a business, retirement, grandchildren, financial changes, moves and down-sizing — all can cause us to look at life differently.
I will be 50 in July. What better opportunity to re-evaluate my life and seek to live the life I believe. What better time to recommit to seeking HIs Kingdom first. I’m evaluating my level of surrender and willingness to let God work through me. What is really my heart and focus. According to Gandhi, “Action expresses priorities.” What does my life say? I have much more experience, knowledge and understanding from almost 50 years lived — and they all point me toward more humility and a deeper understanding of the vastness of God, my position in HIm, and how little I actually understand. To more gratitude and more desire for Him and doing His will.
Loneliness and a myriad of other adversities in life drive us deeper into dependence on the One who is worthy. Nothing is wasted. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 This verse sustained me through the loneliness of divorce, and continues to today!
More to come on busyness, priorities, and midlife. I welcome your comments at the bottom of this page! God’s Blessings and my prayers for the lonely reader. I have been there.