Feeling lonely when you are actually alone makes sense but isn’t it strange how we can feel even more lonely when out in public. It is possible to be in a room filled with people and yet feel more alone than ever.
Even though I may be surrounded by people and distractions, thoughts of the person missing from my life seem to just get louder, as if amplified. The reality of who is missing appears more stark and obvious.
When I first went out to a restaurant after my husband left me, I didn’t cope very well at all. It wasn’t long before I had to leave the restaurant, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I felt I needed air and was swallowing down the need to cry as this massive panic attack took hold of me. Seeing all the couples, the happy families, hearing the laughter and chatter, it all felt like some cruel joke. It overwhelmed me, I felt like I was drowning. I dashed out of the restaurant, got into the safety and privacy of my car and sobbed all the way home.
It was so painful to see that the world was continuing on as normal while my world had ended. It reminded me of that Skeeter Davis song, ‘Don’t they know it’s the end of the world.’ Amidst all the shock and heartbreak I felt, it just seemed so surreal that the world carried on as normal.
Of course, the world is entitled to go on. Who am I to pause the momentum of life. My world was just that, my world. Day to-day, we all exist in our own little worlds, surrounded by key people. Take someone integral out of that world and the seismic shift can feel very much like the end of everything.
I realise now, that this first outing to a restaurant was probably too much too soon. I was still in the early days of dealing with the shock of my husband suddenly leaving me. It was a while before I ventured out to a busy place again. When I was feeling slightly stronger, I tried again. I went out to a restaurant for dinner with my family and while still difficult, I managed to get through the meal this time!
As I looked around the restaurant, I realised something. I wasn’t just missing my husband, I was missing the identity that I had in my marriage and the confidence it gave me. Before my husband left me, when I was out and about in the world, there was a comfort and security knowing ‘my other half’ was out there and that I was loved. I had belonged to someone. I realised that I now felt untethered.
We can often gain confidence in social situations simply by having our partners with us. We feel a part of a unit, a team, someone is present who is ‘your person.’ We both had our roles when we were in the presence of others and that dynamic has now gone. It can leave you feeling vulnerable and uncertain of your place in the social setting. This is particularly the case when mixing with other couples whose ‘team’ dynamic is still very much in place.
It is so hard to work through but I can only tell you that bit by bit things get easier. In time, the volume on the ‘I miss you’ dial, seems to turn itself down ever so fractionally when out in public and this allows you to get through it.
At times, I also felt a strange self-conciousness that even strangers could see my vulnerability. That they could almost see the hurt and loneliness I was cloaked in, that it was palpable. The truth is though, they couldn’t, they weren’t even looking. They weren’t looking because their own world’s were just as important to them as mine is to me. People are going on with their own lives and under their smiles and laughter, they may be dealing with their own problems; their own loneliness, their own pain and sadness.
Heartbreak is a universal experience.
When you first go out in the early days of your loss, break-up, separation or divorce, take someone with you that loves you and knows the full situation you are in. If it gets too much and you need to take a breather, they will understand. Don’t feel any pressure to swallow it down or pretend that everything is fine in the presence of people who love and care for you.
For me personally, because of my faith, whenever I get that feeling that I am untethered, set adrift or alone, I also find it helpful to remind myself that no matter the changes in life, I am still tethered to God. Many things in this life may change but that is one thing that remains.
Little by little, you will rebuild each aspect of your life and one of those aspects is having a healthy social life outside of your own four walls. You deserve so much goodness in your life and going out socially is possibly one of the first steps in embracing this. It is going to take enormous courage and strength to begin actively seeking it out but you are brave and you are courageous.