Loneliness is one of the most heartrending conditions we experience. It
leaves us feeling hopeless, desperate, and like we’ve been hung out to
dry. Whether the loneliness we’re experiencing is after a death or the
end of a relationship – or due to a situation change, a job loss, or
for no apparent reason at all – we all have times when we need to
Sometimes, it can even creep up on us when we’re in a room full of people. Though it may not seem like it, there are ways to cope with – and eventually overcome – this very common human emotion.
After a significant loss, like a death or the end of relationship, it’s good to take time to heal and to treat yourself with all the kindness you’d muster up for a child who’s lost a parent. Don’t hide how you feel from those who have a genuine interest. Let people in, even if you feel like shutting down. Try to keep yourself healthy: go for walks, eat nutrituous food, and get plenty of sleep. Every day, remind yourself, ‘just keep breathing, and keep moving.’ Make use of whatever spiritual tradition it is that gives you comfort.
What’s most important is that you feel your pain. No matter how terrible it feels, don’t try to hide from it or run away. What makes this toughest is that you can’t shut down, either – you’ve got to keep living your life, even if it feels like you’re just going through the motions. Grief comes in waves (which will gradually get to be fewer and farther in-between), so when there’s a breather and you happen to notice something like the beauty of a bead of dew shimmering like a jewel, drink that in as a moment of grace. Your pain, too, is as beautiful, universal, and inevitable as a moment of beauty.
There are few things as disconcerting or alienating as being surrounded by a clique of laughing people while you sit uncomfortably alone, watching. Meeting new people can be daunting – especially when they are a tight group. Starting a new job, transferring to a new school, or moving to a new city can all offer new lessons in loneliness. Fortunately, this all will change as soon as you meet like-minded people.
A new place demands that you make unfamiliar effort. In your hometown or your last job, it seemed as if you just had friends, but now you need to put yourself in situations where you can make them. Explore your interests by going to classes, wine tastings, or book signings. Or sign up for sports teams. If you love art, you might volunteer at a museum or arts organization. By doing this, you’ll meet people you share an interest with, and increase the odds that of finding someone to befriend. Put yourself out there for a while, and you’ll start to run into people you can connect with. Soon, your loneliness will be a bittersweet memory.
If you have ongoing loneliness – such as when you sit next to your soulmate yet feel utterly alone, or find that when you’re in a group of your friends you feel isolated – you’re experiencing deep disconnection. First, you need to ask yourself, “am I ignoring something that my soul wants acknowledged?” Is there a dream repressed or denied? Are you keeping a secret that separates you from those you love? Or are you simply in a circle of people with whom you have little in common? Often this type of loneliness demands working with a professional to uncover its core and strategize a way out.
Whatever the cause of your state of mind, know that you are not actually alone. Even if you feel like no one is close to you, it’s important to remember that loneliness, grief, loss, and occasional disconnection are all part of the human condition. With time, effort, and guidance, you will find yourself feeling more connected – and more like yourself. Just try not to beat yourself up along the way to finding that place.
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