I know a lot of women who battle loneliness.
Women who long for deep relationships, meaningful friendships, purposeful connectedness… and can’t seem to find it. Some are still looking for it, others have just given up.
We’re created for companionship, connection. God designed us to thrive in community, and even the most extreme introverts need people sometimes. Yet so many of us live in a perpetual state of disconnected isolation, longing for safe people to authentically connect with.
Jeanne moved back home shortly after her dad was diagnosed with dementia. She wanted to make sure he was taken care of, and felt it was her duty as a good daughter. She was grateful for a flexible job where she could work from home while still caring for her father.
For a while, Jeanne was able to stay fairly independent. Caring for her dad took a lot of time and energy, but she still got out and had a life of her own… right up until the day she walked in and found the stove burner on high while dad watched TV. She realized it was no longer safe to leave him unsupervised. What if something much worse had happened? Guilt piled on guilt at what might have been.
Since she couldn’t afford home health care, Jeanne started staying home all the time. She got groceries delivered. She ordered household supplies from Amazon. She invited friends over instead of going to their homes or getting coffee in town… but after a while their lives moved on and they couldn’t always drive to her house.
She didn’t mind caring for her aging parent. But like many caregivers, young mothers, and others who find themselves locked into the schedule and needs of another person, Jeanne began to discover just how much isolation can take its toll. It took a while, but one day she realized that it had been weeks since she’d meaningfully interacted with other human beings…
Jeanne was soooooo lonely.
What is Loneliness?
My dictionary defines loneliness as:
the depressed feeling of being alone
destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship
desolate, bleak, isolated
Loneliness affects all of us differently. Some people have a higher threshold of tolerance for alone time. Introverts may thrive on several hours without human interruption every day. Extroverts might feel happiest with nearly constant interaction.
Regardless of how much companionship you need, when you start to feel lonely, it’s emotionally painful. Enjoying community and longing for support are natural feelings. When you don’t have these, you start to feel lonely and abandoned.
God hard-wired us with a need for community. We need each other for encouragement, validation, support, and love. But sometimes circumstances make it difficult to experience healthy vibrant community.
What Triggers Loneliness?
When you’re feeling lonely, it’s important to stop and ask “What triggered this feeling?” Was there a commercial on TV about a family spending holidays together, and you just lost a loved one? Was there a billboard advertising something you used to do together, but your ex has the kids at Christmas?
Maybe you just went on Facebook. Or Instagram. I remember one February, scrolling through photo after photo posting about fun dates and delightful dinners and kisses in the snow… and that was just my friends, not the social media “influencers” who make a full-time job of posting photos designed to make me envy their apparently perfect lives.
I felt. so. lonely.
And the thing was, I’d actually had a great day. I’d done delightful things with my kids and felt a tremendous amount of peace and joy. It just didn’t come with picture perfect, high gloss, online evidence. Fortunately, I realized what was happening, and closed the app. There was absolutely no point in triggering my loneliness via jealousy from other people’s lives. (Especially since I know that photos never tell the whole story.)
Don’t define your behind the scenes against someone else’s highlight reel. Facebook feeds and Instagram selfies rarely tell the whole story. They’re merely glimpses into a moment of someone’s life, or worse… just some actor’s job.
What Are You Longing for?
This February, instead of talking about romance tips and dating, I’ve decided to focus on how to #loveWILD. A huge part of that is acknowledging loneliness.
So next time you feel lonely, pause and ask “What am I longing for? What triggered this?”
Can you pinpoint what you’re missing?
Is it a lack of physical contact?
Absence of meaningful conversation?
Loss of intellectual stimulation?
Maybe you simply crave the reassurance and support that comes from sharing a new idea with a loved one.
Jeanne finally realized she what what she missed most, was conversation. Even though her dad was impaired by dementia, Jeanne started talking to him like she would with a good friend. She also made an effort to maintain phone calls with others, and found a local caregiver’s support group that met once a week.
When you’re feeling lonely, it’s helpful (even if it’s hard) to admit it. Say it out loud. Write it down in your journal. But don’t stop there.
Take the next step… ask yourself not just what triggers your loneliness, but also about ways you could create (or accept) opportunities to meaningfully connect with others. What can you do to overcome loneliness?
Stick around for next week’s #loveWILD post…
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