Let’s talk about feeling alone after divorce. It’s such a good topic, right? (It’s hard to feel alone when you have a puppy in your lap, which I do!) I’m going to answer questions you have specifically asked about feeling alone. I love getting to answer your questions.
Your Understanding of Why You Feel Alone and How to Overcome Loneliness Starts Here
What does it mean to feel alone?
Feeling alone points so much to a sense of disconnect and separateness. Women get used to being part of a couple or a family in a particular way, and then when the main way of relating to themselves changes (wife, family, spouse), it feels like this really intense separation.
It feels all new and different. It feels disorienting. The alone feeling is about the perception that all of a sudden, you’re separate.
When in truth, at your core, you’re the same person that you were a year ago; or five years ago. Obviously, we’re always evolving and expanding, but what I’ve come to understand is that oftentimes we view ourselves too much through the lens of our relationship. And not enough through the truth of who we are as an individual. What do I mean by that?
So often, women relate to our identity as our roles versus knowing the nooks and crannies of what makes us tick as individuals. There’s a certain ease around identifying with roles. But, what makes us tick as an individual may not always feel like it squares with those roles. What do we do when our role and our truth don’t square? We shut the truth down. Because it doesn’t square with our role. So we think,
“Oh, I must preserve this role rather than go further down the beautiful, amazing rabbit hole of discovering where the truth of who I am can lead me.”
So, when you’re divorced, and you’re feeling alone, and you think it’s because you’re suddenly alone…It’s actually because you’ve not been following the rabbit hole of the truth of who you are for so long that you’re disconnected. You’re alone from self.
Who Are You Really?
You have created a wall between the truth of who you are and who you’ve been acting as if you will. And it’s not just you. I did it too. But now there aren’t as many distractions. You have more time, and one of your roles just went away. So there’s more space to feel the truth. Which is; you’ve been shoving a lot of stuff down for a long time. That perception of separation, it’s heavy, and I think it’s interesting that there’s so much shame.
How to Deal with Shame
“What are people going to think? What are the teachers gonna think about how my kids are experiencing this? What is my ex’s lawyer gonna think about how this gets framed in court? What is my mother-in-law gonna think about this or that? What is so-and-so going to think about this person I’m dating? What is this person I’m dating going to think about?”
There are a lot of framing things, and that’s all shame-based framing.
Like when you are judging how you’re living according to how somebody else perceives it, you’re really just judging yourself, and all that judgment creates so much shame and creates so much feeling alone.
Because you are again cutting yourself off from the truth of who you are. When you feel alone, know that it’s going to be tempting to frame it around not being with people. But it’s really about being with you, and the rest of it kind of comes along after. So if you’ve been feeling alone, I want to encourage you to get really curious about alllllll the things about you that you’ve been pushing away, shoving down, avoiding, and denying.
Using Self-Awareness to Move Forward
Know that if you’re feeling alone right after divorce, GREAT!
It means you’re clearer about how much of you needs to step forward.
Feeling alone after divorce is a great awareness. It means you’re more aware of what has been, but you’ve been kind of numbing it out or avoiding it or shoving it down.
What are the symptoms of feeling lonely?
Oftentimes when women are feeling lonely, we get into this dance of too little or too much.
Shut Down Emotions
By too little, I mean shrinking away, shutting down, and withdrawing from people, places, and things. And maybe sleeping a lot, maybe feeling some warning signs for depression. Maybe feeling restless and lethargic at the same time. That’s a thing, right? That’s a whole mood right there: restless and lethargic. Where you’re withdrawn or shut down can be a symptom of loneliness.
Or maybe swinging in the opposite direction, where there’s too much. Too much of things, like maybe too much swiping in the dating apps, or too much drinking. Or too much partying. Or over committing, like keeping yourself super busy to avoid feeling the loneliness. And I think that’s a really common symptom of feeling lonely. Just staying so busy and then crashing. You’re not really feeling a lot when you’re too busy or when you’re crashed out, right? So it kind of feels like a nice way to keep all those feelings at bay.
Be sure to notice if you’re in that dance between too much and too little.
What are the physical effects of loneliness?
I’m going to point more to the mental effects of loneliness and what comes with that. When we’re isolated for even brief periods of time, like true isolation (there are TV shows built on this, there’s a whole reality TV category based on isolation), it’s not good.
We tend to lose weight or gain weight. Or we start to develop some really irrational thoughts and feelings patterns.
There has been a lot of research both in the animal world and the human world when there’s prolonged isolation. The research has shown that psychotic thoughts and feelings creep in, causing really unstable ways of relating to your environment. Isolation goes beyond feeling lonely. The physical effects of loneliness are definitely going to be there in your mind and your body.
Because that level of aloneness is going to create pain in your mind and in your body. Sustained loneliness – it’s painful.
And when we feel pain in the mind, that translates into the body. It creates those stress hormones. And stress hormones create this pain cycle in the brain. We experience mental and physical pain in the same place in the brain, so just know that. The physical effects of loneliness are real. And the pain that you feel is legit. And it’s really valuable to get to work on that because the only thing that’s going to come from this is more suffering.
What is the main cause of loneliness?
I’ve been a student of loneliness and its solutions for a long while. I actually put out this whole PDF on my therapy website about hacking loneliness. But even my understanding of it and my understanding of the solution around it has evolved over the last number of years. And my belief is that the main cause of loneliness is separation from your true self and separation from your spiritual guidance.
Separating From Your True Self and Your Soul
Let’s call it separation from your true self and your soul. And your soul’s guidance. The truth of who we are, what we need, what lights us up, what creates joy, and what inspires us. And we’re not living that life. And we slowly become shut off.
This is actually a common occurrence in childhood because parents share their belief systems organically.
We all, as parents, want to raise our children to have a belief system and a set of values, and as parents, we pride ourselves in having a certain set of values and beliefs. And we share those beliefs with our children with the expectation, often, that they take them on, right?
But what happens when our children take on our belief systems without questioning, “Is this a fit for me?”
There’s been a lot of studies that say that children most frequently take on the political belief system of their parents and the religious belief system of their parents. But often as kids, kids don’t know enough to think about, “Well, what else is out there?” Nor do we, as parents, often expose them to the full menu of what’s out there.
Because let’s be honest, we want them to believe what we want them to believe.
But what I was taught to believe is not what I believe today. And man, has it been a rainbow journey! By rainbow, I was picturing a rainbow as a bridge in my brain. To get from one side of that rainbow to the other side of the rainbow, from what I used to believe to what I believe today about who I am, how I am, and how I show up in the world. And that journey of self-discovery is everything.
What’s the main cause of loneliness, and what’s the solution?
It’s coming home, coming home, love. To yourself. And no, it is not going to happen overnight. And yes, it’s going to be a process. And yes, it means grieving more losses because you can’t take it all with you into your new life.
Come Home to Yourself.
Have you ever seen that meme? Where it talks about the cost of your new life is going to be your old one? And you’re already living that out loud in so many ways. I really want to inspire you that this is not just lip service. This is not just an idea that you see in a meme. You are headed for something magical. The magical thing that you’re headed toward is you. You are the magic. Staying on that path is how you experience the magic. And when you get off that path, you lose the magic.
What happens if you’re lonely after divorce for too long?
The answer is when women do anything for too long, or anyone for that matter, something that’s causing suffering, we do it for longer, right? Meaning you’re going to suffer longer. I believe the path to the magical self, it doesn’t have to be as long as you think it is. Is it always happening in layers and stages, sure. Am I still on the magical path to self? Absolutely! I am more myself today than I was six months ago or two years ago. It is an everyday journey that I’m on, and I love it. I didn’t always love it. It sometimes comes in fits and spurts with anxiety about breaking up with what other people think of me. I was saying this at the gym this morning. I was laughing that I wish sometimes this was a cleaner breakup where there was no contact.
This idea of caring about what people think of me because they think I sometimes still text my ex. Not literally. I don’t actually text my ex. But meaning, looking at things through the lens of what other people may think of me.
Worrying about what you think about what I just said 8 seconds ago. So it’s a process of really clarifying: I am me, and I’m gonna celebrate that magic and give zero Fs about whether or not you approve. That’s the magic!
And if you’re lonely for too long after divorce, you’re the only one that gets to decide how long is too long; and just know that your comeback story starts now. Your comeback story starts now, and you don’t have to keep suffering.
Now let’s get down to brass tacks.
How to deal with loneliness when you’re feeling alone – when you’re feeling sad, what do we do about it?
There are going to be a lot of answers to this. So I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but we understand that the path is to yourself.
That’s the clear, big-picture goal: to find a path back to the heart. To come home to you and that magic that is inside of you.
But sometimes, we get to that goal by being with others, right? When I was in the early, acute stages of post divorce life, I did organically what is often suggested, which is saying yes! Engaging in a lot of places that are going to be FOR you. And I just knew I wanted the solution so badly. I wanted answers, and I did not want to suffer. And I was at a space in my reproductive life that sounded like:
“Well, if I want even a shot at having a kid, I need to get on with this healing process. ’cause there is a timeline here.”
From Feeling Alone to Self Discovery
So, that probably helped motivate me. I went to individual therapy, I went to group therapy, I went to Al-Anon, I went to personal development workshops that happened in ballrooms of hotels. I went all in on all the things because I wanted to get to the bottom of it. And what I want you to hear is that each of those places I went to heal was really bringing me home to myself. It was a self-discovery process. And yes, I still went out and partied sometimes, and I took a dating hiatus for a while. But then, I went through a dating phase, and yes, I went to concerts, and I started a business, and I networked, and I lived life outside of those healing spaces.
But those people I met in the healing spaces became dear friends, and they became lifelong dear friends.
That whole process got woven into my life. And then those are the people I had fun with, and those are the people I spent my Sunday afternoons with, or Saturday morning brunches or whatever.
Because then healing wasn’t just something that I did to deal with pain, but it was with people who inspired me, who nourished me, who nurtured me, who felt good.
There are a few things I said here: Say yes, get involved, and go do things.
Maybe for you, that’s not like 82 types of therapy because that’s me. I’m the 82 types of therapy gal. Maybe for you, it means playing softball or taking that Zumba class. Or joining CrossFit or playing the clarinet, I don’t know, right? All of those things are self-exploration. Maybe it means getting involved in the PTA at your kids’ school.
If your intention is to get unlonely, and you’ve heard me say today that getting unlonely means getting in touch with the magic inside of you, then you’re gonna get urges.
Inspired ideas to do things, to try things, to explore things.
All of a sudden, something will show up in your news feed, or you’ll see a bulletin board, or you’ll see a billboard—things are going to cross your path, and it’s going to spark something inside of you. And your job is to say yes to this spark.
Sometimes the thing sparks, and we are like, “Ah, you know I can’t afford it. I don’t have time.”
Your job is to ignore all of the resistance or to breathe it away. Sage it away, sing it away.
I don’t care. And to lean into this spark because this spark is exactly the magic that I said is in you. It’s an impulse of magic showing up to help you cross that rainbow.
Saying YES to Yourself
So I want you to say yes to the things that you get inspired to do. So you know, I got inspired, for instance, to go to an Al-Anon meeting, and then when I was sitting in the parking lot of my first Al-Anon meeting, I thought I was going to pee my pants. I was terrified. But participating in Al-Anon was a game changer for me in a lot of ways in my life. Long term, I still use it today, day in and day out. So, you’re gonna get a spark, and then you’re going to feel like, “Nope, can’t do it.” And it’s going to be for whatever reason. So I want you to push through that moment. Because this spark is the thing to follow. The fear is not the thing to follow.
Coming Home to Yourself
And if you do this enough times, you’re going to find yourself home. And you’re not going to be alone. And you are going to be in touch with so many wonderful things about yourself and all the things we talked about here on the pod. And all the things that you Google. And all the things that stress you out are going to start to come into alignment.
What Heals Loneliness?
Coming home to you is what heals all of it.
It’s what helps you attract the right next relationship. It’s what helps you attract the right next job. It’s what helps you attract the right next parenting technique. It’s what helps you attract the right next, fill in the blank, whatever your blank is. This topic is the key to all the topics. Which I love. And I’m here for you, and I believe in you. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were born to be magic, and the fact that you feel like crap right now has nothing to do with how magical you are.
And you are a handful of inspired choices away from realizing what I mean. And you reading this is no coincidence. It’s part of it.
You Were Born to Be Magic.
It’s part of how somewhere you got a spark of an idea that led you here, and that’s how this works. Sending you all the love. Talk soon. Peace.