Sitting on the couch in my office, Deborah, 35, describes her lonely feelings since her divorce. Unfortunately, she has lost her support network after moving with her ex-spouse to the East Coast, far away from her family in Minnesota. She called to participate in counseling to get advise to ease her loneliness. I inform Deborah that these feelings are common in recent years and that I am pleased to work with her.
Deborah explains, “I come from the Midwest, where neighbors know each other by their first names and people look after one another. In this part of the country, it’s hard to make friends and after my divorce from Ryan, my friends pretty much disappeared. I can’t move right now due to finances but I just don’t know how to connect with people.”
In a recent article for Psychology Today, social worker, psychotherapist and professor, Amy Morin breaks down the often overwhelming nature of loneliness, and offers a constructive and concise 10 step checklist to ward off those negative feelings.
Drawing on insight gained through the universal, emotional experience of the pandemic, Morin writes that “loneliness is a universal human experience, and the isolation felt by so many during the pandemic has led to a better understanding of the importance of social connection.”
Indeed, the minutiae that is so easily overlooked in the frenzied pace of life took on new meaning during a time of forced, prolonged isolation. Our methods of connecting with each other — once a mere component of our social and emotional landscape — became lifelines. Morin observes that while “working from home, sending emails, and connecting over social.
Loneliness is “uncomfortable,” and a “serious issue that can take a toll on our physical and emotional well-being.” But Morin’s central point is that while loneliness is unfortunately common, it is also an impermanent state. And with that optimistic outlook informing her piece, she goes on to lay out a 10 step checklist to defeat loneliness when it rears its head.
First, Morin urges people to communicate, both about their feelings of loneliness and more generally and regularly. The first three of her 10 points revolve around simply fostering that human connection we all crave through basic communication. Whether reaching out to loved ones to share the despair of feeling alone, connecting with a wider network of family and friends via social media, or rekindling relationships from the past as a way remind yourself of the large support group in your life, it’s clear that communication is key.
Morin’s fourth strategy is “being vulnerable.” She points out that “the problem might not be that you aren’t around enough people; it might be that you don’t feel connected to the people around you.” An antidote to loneliness is actively creating the kind of connections we want with those in our lives. Morin notes “that may mean talking about problems, acknowledging your shortcomings, or discussing your fears,” but being brave in the face of your loneliness will help “others open up to you, too, and you can understand one another better.”
Strategies five through nine in Morin’s list revolve around a central theme: finding new, exciting things to do with your time supports that kind of interpersonal connection that will lead to personal satisfaction. Among the tips offered by Morin are simple but surefire salves for loneliness such as seeking out membership in a new club or organization, volunteering, adopting a pet, and taking up a new hobby. In each case, the momentum and sense of personal growth, combined with participating in a new group dynamic will surely help ease the pain of loneliness.
Finally, Morin’s 10th tip is to find a mental health professional who can help you through the struggle. She writes that “a therapist can provide the tools and skills to cope with your feelings and work towards a more fulfilling life.” And in the end, engaging in that kind of self-care can lead to happiness and a renewed connection to the world around you.
Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry