How I Survived The Loneliness Of Separation
Most newly single people agree that you find yourself in serious limbo when you are separating.
You feel displaced for many reasons -- but it was loneliness that I had to overcome in a big way. My kids were quite young when I separated, so once I got home after work, did the bath routine, made dinner and read them a bedtime story, the quietness bit into my core.
I was used to sharing the evening with my ex, and now he was setting up for evenings with someone else. That alone was a hard pill to swallow. But the loneliness pill was far worse -- it was excruciating at the start. There was no one to tell how my day was, no one to share any frustrations with, no one to just get a hug from during the "quiet" time.
All my family and friends had their own lives, complete with their regular routines and their plus ones. When I first became separated a few years ago, I was one of the only ones in my "predicament". Whilst I had family and friends, it was probably difficult for them to relate to my situation and the realities of what I was going through. Despite their best efforts to help, loneliness during separation may have been hard understand.
I spent a lot of nights with the TV or music playing in the background to quell the eerie quietness. I tried to occupy myself by meal prepping (a working parent's life hack!), straightening my crazy curly hair, painting nails (because frankly paying for them to be done was a luxury a single parent could not afford).
I needed to fill my time -- I vacuumed and cleaned, I basically did anything I could to keep busy, to diffuse the empty feeling that overwhelmed me. I also tried to keep away from the lure of social media that screamed "happy people, happy families"(albeit "perceived happy").
After quite few months of being isolated and detached, I realised that things had to change. Nothing was going to get better until I did something about it, until I expressed my feelings to people close to me.
I took up boxing during lunch, and on the weekends when the kids were not with me. In fact, on the weekends when the kids were with me, they would join in!
I also organised few girls' nights on the weekends when I had no kids. This helped A LOT. It helped me meet new people.
The girls' nights were a way for me to forget my isolation and loneliness even just for a few hours, for me to quell that empty feeling at the pit of my stomach that would not go away.
One girls' night that particularly resonates was a dinner at one of the "hot spots" at the time. It was my luxury for the month; money to spend on socialising was hard to come by.
The girls and I were surrounded by a great vibe of music and drinks; I was happy. We were laughing so hard and crying tears of laughter that I didn't notice a spunk trying to get my attention. He walked over and very confidently introduced himself and said he loved the way I laughed (10 points rights there) and asked if I would go out for dinner with him.
I was so taken aback and not used to being asked out (after 17 years of being with the one person!) that my girlfriends intervened and gave him my number.
My point is, sometimes you meet people without even trying.
Just in case you are wondering, yes, I did get taken to a great dinner. And no, it did not go past the first date -- but it was a great initiation, and helped my confidence during one of the LOWEST points in my life. Even the little step to accept the date and meet someone new was HUGE for me.
When you are in your mid-40s (the median age of divorcées, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics), making new friends can be a unexpected skill you need to fine-tune, or simply learn how to do again.
And I know I'm not alone. In 2017, there were about 50,000 divorces granted in Australia, an increase of 5.2 percent on the previous year (the rate currently hovers around two divorces granted for every 1000 residents). Before these marriages break down, they last about eight years until separation, and about 12 years until divorce.
For this growing group of singles, feelings of loneliness and isolation can be blindsiding.
But a lot has changed in the way of meeting people. Here are a few simple things that may work for you:
1. Start a new activity
The benefits are twofold! You may find an activity you ACTUALLY enjoy doing AND meet new SINGLE people! Join a gym or start boxing like I did -- this is great for releasing all those “ex” frustrations.
2. Install an app
Meetup is an app and website that connects people according to their location and topic of interest, whether it's pets, sports, cooking or anything else you can think of. Alternatively, there are quite a few dating apps for those ready to try looking for love or just friendship again, including Bumble and RSVP.
3. Find a Facebook group and join
When I separated a few years ago, this concept was very new. But now, this is a great way to educate and find others to share or just listen to about what they're going through. It's a good way to avoid making the same mistakes we did during separation, and learn concepts and information that you may not know.
If you don't have one, consider adding one to the family. This will help with companionship when your little people are with your ex. I had two Shar Peis and I used to let them sleep inside the house (they previously slept outside pre-separation) and they helped keep me company and made me feel safe. They definitely helped diffuse the feeling of loneliness. And If you already have a pet, perhaps consider joining a Facebook pet group.
I started volunteering with the Salvos as an activity to help build my little man. But when I was scheduled to help on weekends that I didn't have him, I still went. This helped me so much and also gave back to the community. It started with the intent to give back, but volunteering actually gave back to me! It gave me an appreciation for what I actually did, have and helped me make new friends.
The loneliness after separation can be excruciating, and the people you've connected with previously may be a challenge to relate to during this time. Focus on one step at a time to build on your existing tribe, who can support you and spend time with you during your kid-free time.
To learn more from others who are separating or divorcing, and meet and connect with people who understand what you're going through, join us at The Separation Exchange.