Friend to Friend–> On Loneliness and Hopelessness.

I had a different topic picked out for this month’s friend to friend post until a reader emailed me a request for a post about loneliness and hopelessness.  I know there are so many people that are struggling with this right now so let’s talk.

First, I am so incredibly sorry that you are experiencing this trial.  I wish I could give you a big hug right now and cry with you.

Loneliness is my least favorite feeling on the planet.  I was thrown into that feeling big time 6ish years ago.  I went from married and living in California to separated/filing for divorce and living in my parents’ basement in Utah pretty much overnight.  It hit me hard (although that last year of that marriage was incredibly lonely too… but the divorce took it to the next level).  For weeks I was crying more hours than I was not (sleeping and awake).  And then when I moved into my own apartment with Brooke right after my divorce finalized, I would do okay during the day but then the night would hit and I would crumble.  Brooke would be in bed and I would find myself staring at the wall wondering how loneliness could hurt so bad.  Sundays and holidays always seemed to be the hardest too because that was when everyone was with their families and I was trying to adjust to my new normal.  Oh and on the weekends or holidays when Brooke was gone with her dad, it took my loneliness to a new level (and it was a time when I really had to figure out my identity outside of being a mother).  That was my biggest experience with loneliness (that felt like a train hit me) but loneliness and hopelessness are both things that I think everyone feels at different times in life.

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I thought I would share a few things that I remember that helped me through my hardest times:

*This was a quote I repeated an unreal amount of times to myself each day when I was feeling really hopeless.

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*There is truly some piece of goodness in each day.  No matter how dark or lonely the day felt, I could always find something to focus on and hold onto.  Whether it is a sunrise, a worker at TJ’s that is always so nice at checkout, a piece of chocolate that gives you goosebumps (maybe it’s just me that gets goosebumps from good candy) or a river nearby you that makes you feel peace whenever you are by it.  HOLD ONTO those little pieces of goodness and don’t let go of them.  I am convinced that those little nuggets of goodness are straight from God and they are His way of showing you how loved you are and how much you matter to Him.

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*I remember listening to a podcast a few years ago (I wish I remember which one) that talked about how humans actually feel happy a lower percentage of the time than I thought was average (I wish I remembered the number).  The rest of the time we feel neutral or angry or lonely or blah or tired or something.  The second we realize that we ALL feel lonely and hopeless at times (and many times) is the second we will feel better because we realize we aren’t alone.

*Every now and then when I felt lonely I decided I need to make somebody else feel less lonely.  Sounds like a nice thing to do but it was kind of selfish because I knew it was going to help me too;).  I knew if I took time to take something to somebody else that was hurting then I knew I was going to feel a bit better afterwards.

*I learned to love my new normal.  Somehow I was able to meet Andrew and have things work out but it wasn’t until I could truly find happiness inside of myself.  I think that we can feel lonely in a great marriage or in the perfect set-up too.  We can also feel joy and peace in ourselves in any situation and it wasn’t until I truly fell in love with what my life was on my own (with my favorite little sidekick regardless of her leaving for the weekends too) that I found Andrew.   Loneliness hurts like heck and once I spent some years really feeling that and experiencing it I was able to work through it and find joy without needing somebody else.

*Getting outside as much as possible always helps me with hard feelings.  There is just something about the air, feeling the sun and being in nature that cures me.  I took many hikes by myself when I was living at my parents’ house while Brooke was napping just so I could get in that fresh air.

*Take things a minute at a time, an hour at a time, a day at a time.  When you feel so much hopelessness and loneliness it feels like a hit in the gut when you think 5 or 10 years down the road feeling the way you feel right now.  The future is not something you need to think about.  You just need to think about the present moment and find the best way to get through the now.

*Work with a professional.  This stuff is big stuff and big feelings.  I’m just sharing what things helped me in my specific case.  There are so many different problems that truly need one on one attention.  Just like you wouldn’t skip the doctor when you have an appendicitis, you cannot skip a mental health professional when you are really struggling.  I just finished up with a new therapist to work through some life struggles (nothing to do with Andrew:) I was having and you better believe I’ll be back again when I need more help.  Don’t be embarrassed, take care of that mental health of yours.

*Something that I’ve thought a lot about lately when something pops up that is hard and hurts every fiber of my insides—> Opposition is part of life.  Without opposition would anything mean anything?  If we just walked around with all of our favorite people every day with everything going perfectly we wouldn’t recognize how great that truly feels.  Without the lows we would never feel the highs.  Without those days of my heart hurting to the extreme, I wouldn’t truly experience how good life can really be.   We don’t see the sweetness without the crappy parts of life.  This is something that is helping me to not just want to take away my kid’s pain/trials for them (when that is what I wish I could do because I don’t want them to hurt)… they have to experience the hard things in order for the good things to feel as good as they do.  I think that hard things make us more grateful and isn’t gratitude a big piece of where happiness really comes from?

*One of the biggest things I learned about loneliness (or feelings in general) is to LEAN into them rather than try to pretend they aren’t there.  To feel what you need to feel in order to get through it and learn a thing or two about yourself.  The thing about feelings is they don’t disappear… maybe for a little while but if you don’t feel what you need to feel and figure out how to cope with those feelings, they lead to major explosions later on.

*If you get a chance, please please watch this.  Feel what you need to feel because pain is not the enemy, it is the thing that brings you strength.

***“Pain is not a hot potato.  It’s a traveling professor and it knocks on everybody’s door and the wisest ones say, ‘come in and sit down and don’t leave until you have taught me what I need to know.  We have it all wrong, we are afraid of pain but we were made for pain.  We need to be afraid of the easy buttons because the journey of the love warrior is to rush towards the pain and allow the pain to become your power.”***

Don’t forget—> How in the world are we going to be faster runners and hit those running goals without the workouts that feel like death?  How are we going to get that new PR without hitting the pain cave each week or multiple times each week?  Running an easy pace every single day is not going to change us.  Putting in those workouts that make us want to throw up or feel like our muscles are exploding is going to get us to the achievements we are reaching for.  We go into a new training cycle with the understanding that there are going to be really hard days that hurt in order to make us strong and I think life is the exact same way. There was no way I was going to change some things in my life or my thinking without the pain during those years of loneliness.   The loneliness that I felt so intensely molded me and got me one step closer to my potential.  That loneliness is what makes me take action when I get an email from a reader that’s struggling with these feelings.  It makes me sit still at the computer and cry because I know how hard it is… and if I didn’t go through it myself, then how could I try to help somebody else walk through it too?  I really believe that our biggest trials are put into our lives so we can figure out how to help other people who are also going through them.

You are not alone in what you feel, you can and will make it through these feelings.  You are normal to feel the way that you do and just like us learning how to cope through the hard workouts, learning to cope through these feelings is molding us into the person we want to be.  We can do hard things.  We have people cheering for us.  It’s always darkest before the dawn and the dawn might not come for a long time but it will come, it always does.  Like always, I’m here for you if you need to talk.  There is so much hope and happiness up ahead.

You will turn your pain into your POWER.

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Would love to hear from anyone that has experienced loneliness and hopelessness and the things that have helped you!

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49 comments

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I absolutely loved this post, thank you so much…it really resonates right now with me. I signed up for a triathlon 6 weeks ago (it’s in 2 weeks). I was coming off winter and needed a focus…I felt lonely and lost. I’ve somehow made it through and looking back on how far I’ve come is truly amazing.

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I am so so glad that you signed up for your tri and it’s coming up soon. PLEASE let me know how it goes and congratulations for making it so far. Keep me posted on all of the things Meghan and I hope you have a great evening!

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WOW! Just wow! Thanks Janae! Once again you nailed it. Thanks for this post. Not going through anything rough right now, but this is a great perspective to remember.

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Oh thank you so much Lisa! I hope you are having a wonderful evening and thanks for taking the time to write to me. Keep in touch!

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Thank you for always sharing authentically, honestly and with such genuine kindness. Cyber hugs.

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Thank you for the sweet comment Melissa! Cyber hugs right back to you:) . Please keep in touch!

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Thank you for this post, Janae. I went through an incredibly dark, despondent, life-altering and almost life ending period while in grad school. Everything in my life was crumbling around me and I was barely surviving. I had family and friends who were there, but no one really knew what was going on and there was such deep isolation and loneliness. It was like the world was whizzing around while I stood still watching it go by. Everyone else seemed happy and ‘normal’ and I was floating around in this altered state…just clinging to survival.
What you wrote about finding the good in everyday resonated with me so much. Whenever I think back to this time, I recall how I had to find ‘my happy’. For me it was a few thing….cooking & baking, running, being outside exploring nature and strolling all the farmers markets I could find. These are the things that I needed to lose myself, to not think about what was going on.
When I know of someone dealing with difficulty…I try to encourage them to ‘find their happy’. Whether it’s a good book, a museum, a spa day or massage, a religious organization, a painting class…find something that makes them see that life can bring joy and happiness.
And to hold on to hope…talk to people…rely on any support. It’s important to know that you are most likely not alone! You might think everyone else is thriving (and social media doesn’t help with this!) but so many people are dealing with issues you might not even know about!

Thanks again for sharing!
Xo

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Caroline, my eyes are filled with tears reading about what you went through… you explained loneliness perfectly. I am so happy you got through this and came out even stronger. I love what things you recommend to people struggling… SPOT ON. I agree, I really think social media is a big part of why we feel more loneliness than ever before (especially for younger girls/boys). Please keep in touch and I hope you have a beautiful rest of your day. Thank YOU.

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Thank you, Janae! The most beautiful part about going though a tough time is that you can look back and say ‘wow…I AM SO STRONG!’. And like you are doing…find ways to help others! Such a blessing. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

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THAT VIDEO!!! Thank you for sharing. You are a light in the world.

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Oh thank you Juliet! I have listened to that video about 20 times because I love it so much. I hope you have a beautiful evening and keep in touch!

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This post is so spot on and I love the strategies you used to help yourself stay focused and moving forwards! Thank you for sharing. Also–your post yesterday about race pictures and a “runner’s body” was so important for me.

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Thank you so so much Kate! I hope you are having a great day!

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Just YES to everything on this post. I struggle from time to time with this & I always tell myself “You can’t have high’s without the lows” AND to LEAN into it! Love love love your words!

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Hey Katie! I love hearing from you! Keep me updated with all of the hard things and thank you so much!

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I’ve struggled with loneliness since my divorce a few years ago. I’m finally starting to feel ok most of the time, instead of only occasionally. All the things you wrote are such great suggestions. For me, I had to learn to ask for help – even though it felt silly. Those people that love you don’t think it’s silly – they are there for you.
And most of all – you are not alone. There is a lot of love out there – sometimes just not in the ways you expect.

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Thank you so much Samantha for sharing and I am so sorry about everything you’ve been through. I love your tip… you are so right, asking for help is so needed during those times. ‘Just not in the ways you expect’ <— yes!!! Keep in touch and I hope you sleep great tonight!

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This is a beautiful piece. As I myself have been on an intentional quest to find joy in everyday and learning to lean on God (who doesn’t always make pain go away, but helps us through it, making us stronger) your words have helped cement finding gratitude in everything especially the hard times.
It has been nice to see you grow through out the years and become a great help to many.

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Thank you so much Teresa for joining me and I love what you said about leaning on God. There were so many days that I was so sad that I wasn’t physically able to stand without starting my day with prayer. You are wonderful and please keep me updated with how you are doing!

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Thank you for sharing such a helpful and personal piece on this struggle that so many face. And turning it such that there is a positive to going thru the tough stuff. Very moving and very good to remind ourselves of this.

I have a question – Do you have suggestions on things to look out for so we can be there for friends and family who go thru these tough times?

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Oh thank you so much, life is so much better when we are able to go through these things together and learn from one another. That is a fabulous question and sometimes it’s really hard to figure out that someone is struggling. A lot of times people have a hard time opening up about this stuff when they are in it (I did at the end of my first marriage). I think if they are pulling out of activities, crying more, distancing themselves, going through problems that you have heard about, acting differently… can anyone else help with this question? For my divorce it was pretty easy for people around me to know I needed help because I had moved back home and said online I was getting a divorce but what a great question to help know what to look for in others…

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Wow. Powerful post Janae. I remember reading your posts during that difficult time in your life. I had so much empathy for you. You came out of that dark place shining like a diamond! I’m proud of how far you’ve come! Thank you for sharing words of wisdom.

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Thanks Kimberly for being here with me over the years and for your empathy! Thanks for what you said… please keep in touch!

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Excellent post, Janae. Thankfully I’m not in a bad place right now, but I’ve been there before. I loved the video – one line that jumped out to me was (I’m paraphrasing)…”the fear is real & big, but your courage is bigger.” Love love love that. It’s comforting to think that it’s ok to fear, just don’t forget that good will come out the winner in the end. What she says about parenting is spot-on…it’s a hard thing to let your kids hurt, but it’s so necessary. Thank you for this post!

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Yep, that line is one of my favorites too! Thanks for sharing Amanda and I hope you are having a really great day!

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Thank you for sharing this important message, Janae. I really agree that we need the trials in life to love the good parts. The song “maybe its ok” by we the messengers shook me-> “If I didn’t know what it hurt like to be broken, then how would I know what it feels like to be whole. If I didn’t know what it cost like to be rejected, then I wouldn’t know that Your love coming home.”

Feeling lonely is a really awful feeling, and I think we have a real enemy that tries to get us to feel like we’re alone because he knows how bad that feeling is. Thanks for reminding us we are not alone! We even have our internet friends:)

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Oh wow, I need to get that song right now! I love that so much, thanks for sharing Eleanor. Yessss internet friends for life. Hope your day is a great one so far!

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Great post Janae. When I went through my divorce, many years ago, I don’t know what would have happened if I did not have my kids to focus on. Like you, my kids went to their Dad’s a couple weekends a month. I used that time to hang out with my parents, family, and friends. That helped me not feel so alone, but I still missed my kids and could not wait until they came home Sunday afternoon. The first couple of years were extremely difficult. My ex remarried quickly, had other children, and it felt like I was an outcast, because I stayed focused on my kids and work. It was 6 years before I even started dating (no interest in ever getting married again). As my kids grew up (they were 4 years old and 7 months old when I got divorced), I started looking at the joy of life, outside of my kids. I remarried 8 years after my divorce and honestly, no one could have gotten me to reconsider marriage, other than him. I think there will always be moments that one feels alone or lonely, no matter how content they are with life and that is okay. It is what you do with that alone time or loneliness that keeps you moving forward and get stronger.

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Oh the Sunday afternoon… nothing like them coming home and just waiting until that time. I am SO thrilled that you did the right thing for you and your kids. Your story is beautiful and you are so right… it’s what you do with those feelings that matters! Have a fabulous day!

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Great post! I never comment, but this one really spoke to me. After getting a divorce and living alone for the past few years, and for the most part being okay with that, I recently made a major move and have never felt so lonely! One thing I realized was I needed to let myself feel that. That it was okay to feel horrible for a little while. Once I accepted those feelings, I could start working through it….and ultimately started to feel better. While I don’t feel like my new location is “home” just yet, I’m more open to getting out and meeting new people and experiencing new things. I think the hardest part, for me anyway, was allowing myself to feel bad for a little while.

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Ali, thank you so much for talking with us all about that. I love how you chose to truly feel what you needed to feel. I think we feel worse when we keep telling ourselves we should feel better but it’s not possible in these situations. I really hope that you continue to meet amazing people and feel more at home where you are.

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Loneliness for me happens when I desperately want someone I am close to understand and or empathise with what it is like to be me, or be me in the whatever it is I am experiencing in life.

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Clapping right now… I totally agree with this too!

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Totally agree with this definition. It feels so lonely to not feel seen or understood. Empathy is huge!

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I have been there! This whole article resonates with me. I too went through a divorce with small kids – it is lonely, though also the biggest relief ever when he left. I am actually currently experiencing some sadness and loneliness now, but I know I really and truly just need to feel through it. Let myself feel it and it will be so much better. Training for races really helps!

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Thank you so much Ashley for sharing your story with me and I AM HERE FOR YOU. We can just get each other. Keep feeling things and training! Your kids are very lucky to have you!

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Hi Janae – I’ve shared this post with my daughter who is going through a very hard season right now. Your words are very comforting and the coping “tools” you shared will definitely help! Thank you for being transparent about the experience you had; have no doubt that you are helping many in doing that. :-)

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You and your daughter are in my prayers! It must be so hard as a mama watching her struggle like this, I know it was so hard on my mom. Please keep me updated with how she is doing. Thank you so much Leslie!

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Definitely lean into those feelings or they won’t go away! I spent a year avoiding my feelings and when I finally allowed myself to feel them, they started to go away. Thanks for this post. I’ve been there.

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I did the same. Thanks for sharing Sarah, it means a lot and it is so nice to know we all aren’t alone. I hope your Wednesday is a great one so far.

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Thanks for the post, I needed it. I went through my divorce the same time you did and seeing my children’s beds empty at night when they were with their dad was so unbearable I couldn’t even go in their rooms at first. Your comment about finding your identity outside of being a mom is bang on. I think I had put all my identity into being a mom as well so when I didn’t have my kids I felt completely lost. These posts are great for knowing we are not alone in what we are dealing with! Thank you again!

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Your comment gave me goosebumps and it’s amazing how much I can relate with you without ever having met you. I hope you are doing well and your kiddos are so lucky to have you. I still close their bedroom doors when they are gone because their empty beds at night hurts but finding our own identities really does help so much. Keep me updated with how you are doing!

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Thank you, I really resonate with this. I’ve been feeling really isolated lately despite trying to be more involved with church, etc. but something that has helped me was definitely knowing that if I do hard work on myself now, eventually things will get better and it won’t feel this way anymore. Like you said, we can’t have the good things without the bad as well and that’s completely ok and normal. I appreciate you a lot.

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Amanda. I am really really sorry that you have been feeling so isolated lately. I love what you said about knowing that if you do the hard work on yourself now, things will improve. I totally agree with that and love feeling like I have control over situations so knowing that I work hard at feeling better then I can do things to help. I’m always here if you ever need to talk to anyone! I hope today you feel how loved you are!

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I have felt loneliness after betrayal and while experiencing a lack of mutual empathy from someone I desperately want to be fully seen and loved by. It is a very painful feeling. I have learned there is a support group for pretty much every topic under the sun & finding people who are experiencing the same thing as you is incredibly healing. I think the harder the topic or the more lonely you feel, the more crucial it is that you find your community.

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THANK YOU to both Janae and her reader for suggesting this topic! I loved “pain is not a hot potato.” I spend my days talking people about mental health, and loneliness is 100 percent a contributing factor to anxiety, depression and more. I’m here for anyone reading this, at any time! You are so loved and courageous.

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All of this was so incredibly well-stated, thank you :-) I have had many moments like these throughout my life. Without going into detail I will just say that each time I thought to myself “how am I ever going to get through this?” or “how can I possibly make peace with this?” And now I can look back and say that since I allowed myself to go through it, I was able to get past it. But that has always been the key. I used to stuff my feelings and avoid them when I was younger, but you can’t possibly make peace with something that you never deal with. I had to allow myself to feel it, to honor those feelings before I could move on from them and heal. Today I can look back and remember how painful those moments were, but I don’t feel the same about them anymore. I am at peace. It’s SO incredibly powerful.

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What an amazing post, Janae.
I am sure it’ll be so helpful to someone going through a trial.

My heart still aches for you remembering the time of your divorce.
Crazy to think it wasn’t that long ago, and how you probably wouldn’t have believed it if someone would’ve told you what was waiting in the future for you.

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Love love loved this. I feel like you have inherited the awesome pep talk gene from your mom :) So uplifting, thank you!

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