The 8 Loneliest Moments After Divorce (And How to Lessen Their Sting)

There is no escaping the feeling of loneliness after divorce. After all, a shared life has been cleaved into two separate paths. The sense of isolation is a quiet companion for much of the time, although some circumstances cause it to wake up wailing. Here’s when you can expect the loneliness to be at its worst and what you can do to lessen its sting.

The Emergency Contact

After the discovery of my then husband’s affairs, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to ensure that there weren’t any lasting physical effects. I dutifully began to fill out the paperwork to update my information when I stopped short at the line asking for an emergency contact. For years, he had been the default name on that line. Now, who should I designate? Any family was thousands of miles away and it seemed strange to list a friend. I felt orphaned.

To lessen its sting… I texted a friend, asking if she was okay being my default emergency contact for the foreseeable future. Her response was heartfelt and immediate. I no longer felt quite so abandoned. It’s easy for us to make assumptions about how isolated we are when there are people around us ready to step up. Ask. You may be surprised.

The Nights

And especially that empty bed. That first night, I alternated sitting on the couch and walking the darkened neighborhood streets. I couldn’t even look at the marital bed, much less sleep in it. That rectangular prism of wood and cloth represented so many memories. Merely the thought of it made me ache for the warmth of his body next to mine.

To lessen its sting… Change it. Claim it. If you are staying in the same home with the same bed, purchase new linens. Move the furniture. Switch to a new brand of laundry detergent that doesn’t smell like memories. If you’re relocating to a new space, make a conscious decision to not replicate what you had. And regardless of your situation, fill the void with a furry companion or a particularly snuggle-able pillow. As for the nights themselves, make sure both your Netflix and your library accounts are current.

The Sharable Moment

It was just sign, erected outside of a new construction site. But to me, it was part of an ongoing conversation. My then-husband and I had wondered and debated about the nature of the new building. And when, days after he left, the mystery was revealed, I found that I had composed the text to him and was ready to press “send” before I realized what I was doing.

To lessen its sting… First, eliminate the element of muscle memory. Move the contact info to a different area of your phone so that you don’t connect on autopilot. Then, decide if this can be shared with someone else or even on social media. Sometimes we feel better just releasing the idea or observation out into the world. If it’s best kept quiet, try writing it down. I kept a small notebook just for this purpose. Also, find comfort in the fact that this impulse will fade with time.

The Shared History

When the first dog we got together died, I grieved not only for her but for the fact that I couldn’t share memories of her life with my then-husband. When he left, I was left with years of shared memories with no match, like a puzzle with missing pieces. I tried to share with others, but I soon learned that this was one of those times when “you had to be there.”

To lessen its sting… When there is an ending to a shared beginning (anything from a death to a promotion to a child graduating high school), make a concerted effort to mark it with some sort of ceremony, either public or private. When you feel the ache of unrequited shared memories, shift your focus to building new memories, new shared histories with other people. If a particular place or date holds painful memories of a lost history, try memory layering – intentionally building new experiences over the old. And here’s how long it takes to create a new shared history.And here’s how long it takes to create a new shared history.

 

Continue to read the rest.

 

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23 thoughts on “The 8 Loneliest Moments After Divorce (And How to Lessen Their Sting)

  1. I was lonely in the marriage, when I was sick and in the bed. To lesson the sting? I recommend a body pillow! It’s great to snuggle with and sleep.

      1. … or complain about your reading lamp until you switch it off and just lie there awake and alone and sleepless.

  2. The first illness after I left was actually refreshing. When we were married he was not there for me during illness and at one point had to be talked into driving me to the emergency room.

    I took comfort in that I had handled this alone before and did not have someone second-guessing my choices or questioning how sick I really was.

  3. I have read so many testamonials on here. It is comforting to a point to know at least that what your feeling is typical and “normal”. You havent tripped and gone over the edge. Yet. As i have often heard ,it takes two to marry but only one to get a divorce. Sad. I think more marriages could survive if human beings could ever learn to put the other first and if the two would or could learn to not take advantage of orvtake for granted the other person in their life. Unfortuneatly it seems to be a part of our fabric as humane beings. I think my greatest fault is that i am too giveing and forgiveing. I was taught to be that way. People are not perfect . They have bad days. Im too willing to overlook faults. Ive chngd or am trying to chng that in myself. People dont respect kind gentle careing loyal giveing people. But if that is who i am. Who do i become. It sadens me.

  4. Great thoughts to lesson the pain of the after effects of divorce. I know I have felt all of these and wish I had thought of some of these. My solution was to shove my feelings down deep and ignore them… oops not the best idea. Thank you for your post

  5. I think I can (and so far have) handle the first seven relatively well, but the last one is already making me nauseated just thinking of it, and it isn’t even on the near horizon as far as I know. I find myself playing that scene out in my head at random times and it never feels like something I will be able to deal with with grace or rationally. Hopefully, by the time it does happen (because I have no doubt that he will not live out the rest of his days alone – and maybe already isn’t – by any stretch of the imagination) I will be ready and able. It will still make my want to vomit though.

  6. I am 14 years later and remarried now. Because the relationship was abusive, it’s taken a little longer to recover. We were 20 years in the military and 2 children. So the life I had since I had been 19 was ripped. I always felt it was like being in a car that was traveling about 60 mph and someone tied a rope to the bumper, and when it reached the end, it snapped me back and the car kept going. Because we had been in the military for so long and because the circumstances that caused the end, I was left with nothing. No money, house or anything. If not for my parents, I would have been homeless. Thankfully, I’ve made a new life for myself, with a good job and life. Still in recovery. Coming from an abusive relationship sometimes takes longer to climb out of.

  7. The one that got me was the emergency contact, that was tough. And I literally had a meltdown the first time I had to answer the Married/Single/Divorced demographic. Technically, I was still married, but separated and in the midst of a divorce… as if I didn’t already feel like an outcast. Eventually, I had some “bitter” fun when visiting joint doctors –telling them to separate our information because M could “use his girlfriend’s insurance as his wife no longer was carrying him on hers.” The poor people in the wake of that bitterness, there was lots of awkward silence.

    1. Oh, yeah. I let out some of that bitterness on poor unsuspecting folks too. I’ll never forget the hug I got from the saleslady at AT&T because I couldn’t answer my identifying questions since my ex hijacked my credit.

      Hopefully better days are with you now:)

      1. Oh yes, each day is better! I had moments too where support came in unexpected places… grateful moments. : ). Thank you for such a great post!

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