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