Loneliness after expat divorce. What does it mean?
Among different types of loneliness, loneliness after divorce is seen as a life change with a major impact and a major influence on our psyche. Research has shown that loneliness after divorce is considered as one of the most traumatic life experiences. One can, among other things, experience loss, emptiness and depressing loneliness, but also be confronted with other feelings such as anger, guilt, feeling inferiority, failure, etc. Psychologists compare this to the feeling of grief after the death of a loved one. Loneliness after divorce among expats is certainly even more challenging, as they are people who live far from home and family.
It was the same for me. The feeling of loneliness during the divorce/loss and the fear of going into the future as a single and lonely have occupied me for a long time. The fear of the future alone and the prospect of loneliness during and after the divorce have possesed my mind for quite a while. As a result of divorce I moved from Mexico back to the Netherlands where I had lived before, to start all over here. Suddenly, after taking care of my family for more than 20 years, I found myself alone. The loneliness affected my life greatly, to the point that it literally got in my way. But being a single in four years taught me a lot about myself. At the beginning it was very awkward, strange, new and all together very difficult.
During this period, however, I have learned to live and think differently and what’s more, I have learned that alone doesn’t mean the same as lonely. Step by step I have been able to find myself back again and I have learned to appreciate myself, just for who I am. Only after I learned to be single and happy with myself alone, could I continue to shape my life.
What does it mean?
At the beginning, the main questions arose – how will I manage on my own? How can I live alone? How do I get through the holidays? Who are my friends? Who am I actually? These doubts only added to the feeling of overwhelming emptiness. On top of it there is that predominating feeling of being totally alone with your despair, despite of all the people around you.
For example, you may not feel like going out and appearing in public. The reasons for this are often – fear of intrusive questions, shame, not being ready for the confrontation with people, insecurity about the reaction of family and/or friends, fear that mutual friends will take side of your ex. You often lock yourself up between four walls, which only reinforces the feeling of rejection and alienation. It results in you not wanting to admit your suffering and loneliness. Moreover, you keep looking back, recalling the past and mourning about your loss. Unfortunately, this only leads to melancholy, disappointment, passivity and lack of initiative.
If that sounds familiar, is there a way out?
Working on yourself is the answer. Getting out of your sleeping mode and setting new goals will make possible to learn how to deal with loneliness after a divorce, no matter how cliché that sounds.
How do you overcome the loneliness after divorce?
Recognition and acceptance.
The first step to getting out of loneliness after divorce, however difficult, is to recognize and accept that your divorce is a fact, that you are moving on alone and realizing that your life really doesn’t end there. The transition from wanting to know nothing about it, through the disappointment to processing what happened and giving it a place is a big, necessary step in the right direction.
Of course this was not easy for me either. It felt unreal, terrible, I missed my old life enormously, the company, the attention, the family, being together, but also the so familiar stability. However, as long as you deny your situation and the feelings that accompany it, you cannot continue, even though the lack of strong arms around you can be painful and almost physically felt. After living in a bad mood for a while, I taught myself to reflect on everything I felt. I not only allowed it, but started investigating. Not only not being able to be alone after a relationship but the sorrows, the anger, the powerlessness, the fear, the isolation, the loss….
Allowing yourself time for tears, anger and pain, grief, the fear, is important and will help to relieve negative emotions. You shouldn’t want to rush it. Staying in this process endlessly is not the way forward either. Otherwise, it will become an obstacle that prevents the start of a new phase of life.
There comes a time when you have to start looking into the future, a time to think, to reflect and then to shape your new life.
The help of loved ones is here more than welcome. Allow yourself that help, don’t become dismissive, and be careful with those who show interest and help. A walk and a conversation with trustful person, an outing with the kids, a dinner with the friends… these little activities will help you to deal with the feeling of rejection and loneliness.
Becoming aware of all my feelings, I started to realize that there are also the positive feelings and started noticing the changes: moments of peace, hope, the gratitude, small successes, appreciation and support of the people around me, the feeling of being independent. It motivated me to search for answers: who I am and who I want to be.
It is worth opening up to a new life – personal development, physical activity, hobbies, travel, language learning, a course, volunteering etc. All of this will not only direct your thoughts to new challenges but also enable to meet new people and develop new passions.
For example, I gradually decorated the house, found work, took up walks, went away with a good friend for the weekend, started a garden project to enjoy the view after work, and that’s how I started living again. To build a new network, I got to know the neighbors and new people, including singles, and went out together. I started to take better care of myself, enjoy being with others and started teaching yoga. In addition, I began new studies, developing myself personally, which changed my life and my view of it forever.
5 ways to handle the loneliness after a divorce.
1.Discover your passions.
If you have a hobby, get back to it again and dedicate yourself to what you enjoy the most. For example, you can take a weekend bike ride or, if you’re a bookworm, join a local book club.
Try out something you’ve always wanted to learn. This is a good distraction so that you don’t constantly think about loneliness, divorce, and a failed relationship.
If you don’t have any interests, consider creating new challenges for yourself. Think about which activities you always wanted to do but resigned because of lack of time or because your partner wasn’t a big fan of them? Now you can do something you always dreamed of doing.
2. Embrace new habits and roles.
Divorce forces you to develop qualities of yourself that you have never known before.
For example, if your partner has done all the odd jobs around the house, you may need to learn how to take up on that role. If he was the family’s breadwinner, you may need to get a job.
Rather than seeing these new roles as added stress, see them as an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and discover something new that gives you satisfaction and self-esteem. You can even learn to enjoy new roles by making a list of all the tasks you are already doing now which you previously thought you were unable to do and be proud of yourself.
3. Seek support from family / friends
Most of us experience loneliness after a divorce, I think. That’s why the contact with loved ones, family or friends is so essential after a divorce. Allow yourself to lean on good friends and / or family. Otherwise, make sure to spend time with people who positively influence you and who make you feel confident as a person and stimulate you.
Create a new routine like a night out with friends or a weekly video call with your aunt. This will give you something to live up to, and interacting with people will cheer you up. Avoid people in your life who influence you badly. Definitely don’t use alcohol or drugs to relieve your pain, they are counterproductive.
At first I thought I was all on my own. I moved near a city where I have lived before. However, the house and neighborhood were new. It soon became apparent that I had many lovely people around me. I then accepted and embraced the support and help offered by old friends and acquaintances. They helped me around the house with practical matters. A neighbor was walking the dog. Together with a new girlfriend we enjoyed dancing. I spent the holidays with a friend. And I regularly called my family abroad. How do you do that, you may ask. Well, you have to do it yourself. Accepting help is not easy. However, by being open for it, I’ve gotten so much more. This mental support, appreciation, acceptance and stimulation made me feel hope and gratitude. Thanks to all love around me, I became a little less lonely.
4. Ask for help yourself if necessary.
Dealing with loneliness after a divorce is not easy. You may be hesitant to ask others for help because you don’t want to become a burden to them. Sometimes, however, a helping hand is just what you need.
Ask friends or family members to lend a hand. I know from experience that people like to help others. They just don’t always know how. That help might come from an unexpected source, as long as you are open to it. In addition, you can still outsource a task that you do not like. You can arange for a household cleaning service or let the tax advisor to sort out the paper work for you. This is also taking good care of oneself.
5. Take control.
This is the next step to your own happiness. Invest in yourself while you can. I did that by taking a good look at what I needed.
For example, I started to eat healthy, started exercising (yoga, walking and cycling) and I started to enjoy nature and dance. The last two were the ways to recharge. At the same time, shifting the focus to the here and now has helped me tremendously in reducing and ultimately controlling emotional stress. You can also start listening to the music, however choose the songs that make you powerful.
I started to enjoy small things and successes again. Taking care of myself also meant letting go of what was bothering me and looking at myself more positively. This gave me more peace and more hope. I also became curious of who I am and what I want. In a result of it, I’ve got to know myself well.
Thanks to actively looking for people with the same interests I got to do fun activities together, what gave a lot of energy. I felt much better about myself. That just meant that I was no longer so lonely or bitter. Even after returning home on my own it felt good. In the end, I experienced the time of being alone very positively.
If you get along with yourself, you radiate it. Your positive attitude and enthusiasm radiates. This positive energy is contagious for others and for yourself, it makes you happier, it makes you wanting more. Because Eour positive energy creates a new positive energy. More of it creates more of it creates more …… etc.
Choosing for yourself is the best you can do at that time to combat loneliness. It makes you complete. If you choose to be alone then it is a conscious choice. If you prefer toshare your life with a partner, it is fine too. You know however that your choice is not based on combating loneliness. You then make a conscious choose knowing that it is for other reasons that are important for you.