When I was married I lived a comfortable life. For the most part I was surrounded by people – my husband, my daughter, my son and my dog. We did most things together, whether it be trips to the shops, gatherings with friends and family, or any of the other myriad things that consume family life. We were a ‘regular’, ‘normal’ and ‘happy’ family.
I was married at 22, had my first child at 24, and my second at 26. By the time my kids were teenagers I could regularly be found counting my lucky stars, grateful that I’d ‘made it’. That (unlike my mother and grandmother) I’d managed to hold my marriage together and would never have to fear being alone. The dreaded ALONE.
When, in my fortieth year, the unthinkable happened and my husband blindsided me with the news that he no longer wanted to be married and was leaving me, I was left shocked and shattered. I was certain that there had been a massive mistake – that this was simply not how my life was supposed to turn out.
In an instant, my childhood fear of being abandoned, alone and unlovable was recognised.
How I Overcame My Fear of Being Alone After Divorce
In the early days of my separation I found myself consumed with the negative thoughts swirling around my head (funny how grief does that to you). The most prominent of those thoughts was:
What if I’m alone for the rest of my life? What if I never find anybody to love me?
I became almost obsessed with the idea – the fear – of being ‘alone’ forever, as if this would be a fate worse than death.
One day I was speaking with a married girlfriend who told me that she often felt alone, and lonely, in her marriage due to her husband’s moods. Another day I accompanied a single girlfriend to watch the film Fifty Shades of Grey which, weirdly enough, helped change my perception of relationships and of what ‘happily ever after’ really meant.
Over time I began to adjust my rigid and outdated views on love, marriage and loneliness. I slowly came to accept that I would be OK no matter what – that being in a relationship or marriage that stifles individual growth and leaves one or both parties feeling empty and alone (or worse) was surely a fate worse than being forever ‘alone’.
Here is how I overcame my fear of being alone after my divorce:
1. I allowed myself time to GRIEVE
Of course, when we are deep in the throes of grief everything is heightened. Our emotions, our fears, our loneliness. When we have spent a good portion of our life with a significant other, and that significant other is suddenly removed from of our life, we are going to feel the loss. BRUTALLY, at first.
In the early days of my separation I made it a mission to learn all that I could about the grieving process. I wanted to understand what it was that I was going through, and how long it was going to last. I read inspirational stories of women who had made it through the divorce process, and I asked friends for their break-up stories and strategies.
What I learned was this: I was not always going to feel so terribly alone. But to help me along, I needed to allow myself to grieve – as horrible and painful and excruciating as it was. It simply could not be skipped or bypassed. I very consciously told myself that I would get through it, and eventually I did.
2. I MADE myself spend time alone with my pain
This continues on from the point above. In order to move through our pain, we need to feel it. We need to sit with all of the sucky emotions as they arise. Emotions that are processed by us will move through us, and eventually leave of their own accord. Emotions that we do not take the time to process become suppressed emotions, and will very likely resurface at a later (often inconvenient) date – and often much worse than the original emotion.
This is NOT to say that you should isolate yourself and do nothing but feel horrible all of the time. It IS to say that you should not look for continual distractions from your grief and pain. I used to sit in the bath, sometimes for hours, with just music and tea for company. This practise alone taught me that pain and loneliness would not kill me!
3. I made the decision to REDISCOVER who I was
Too many of us lose a piece (or many pieces) of ourselves when in a long-term relationship. We forget who we were before we married – I think I actually forgot that I was somebody at all. I identified as a wife and mother, and that was pretty much it.
When the first excruciating phase of grief had passed, I tentatively decided it was time to find out who I was. Who I was – without the labels of wife and mother. I rediscovered my love of writing. I re-taught myself how to cook (my husband was the chief cook in our household). I spent hours devouring books and movies that I somehow never found the time for whilst married.
And I did most of this alone!
Remember, you were somebody before your marriage and subsequent divorce. And guess what? The girl you were is still in there somewhere! Make it your mission to find her.
4. I forced myself OUT of my comfort zone
When I was married, I rarely spoke to anyone new or different or outside of my circle of regular people. I felt stupidly secure in the knowledge that each night I would be going home to hubby, and I therefore didn't really see much need to meet new or interesting folk.
As a single woman once again, I oddly found myself going out of my way to say hello to people I wouldn't normally feel comfortable enough to speak with. For some reason, my new ‘alone’ status gave me the confidence to do this.
I now know that as we evolve and change, so do our tastes and perceptions. Our souls naturally want to seek out different people and experiences in the name of growth, and it is important not to stifle this. So, be brave enough to hang out with the people you feel drawn to, even if they aren't your ‘regular’ types. Your ‘regular’ is very likely changing from what it once was, just as it changed for me.
I now love my alone time.
Now, four years on from my divorce, I can confidently say that I love my alone time. My first year of divorce taught me how to not only tolerate being alone, but to find true joy in it. I have seen that for every loss in life, there is usually a gain, and that nothing in life is ever really permanent. And I am no longer scared by this.
Are you struggling with suddenly being alone after divorce? Please, share your story in the comments.
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