***Tips for Recovering from Being Suddenly Single***
Women, Loss, Grief and Loneliness: If I’m so great, how come it hurts so much to be alone?
It seems that at least since Noah had to take animals two-by-two on his ark to save the world from the flood, life has consisted of couples. The twosome-ness of the universe becomes more poignant when you are alone, without a partner—and don’t want to be in that situation. The loss of a partner is a major blow to one’s well-being, comfort zone and place in the world, identity, sense of peace and being loved, useful and whole. Ouch! Loss comes in many forms, however, and all of them can spark the blues, depression, anxiety and unhappiness. Here are some lists of the top ways women especially find themselves single and suggestions for solutions for change.
Women’s Top Situations of Being Suddenly Single, Alone, Lonely, Confused, Anxious or Depressed
1.Partner dies or has a prolonged, debilitating illness.
Yes—a prolonged illness in a partner can leave you feeling as though you are going through life alone. Some women have begun mature, rewarding and committed relationships with other men while their partner is still alive but gravely ill and debilitated. Don’t gasp. This behavior may even seem immoral and unkind to you, but I offer it as an example of how each couple arrives at solutions that work best for them. For example, one of my clients had an agreement with her husband that if either of them became seriously ill, the other partner should feel free to continue their life—as long as the ill partner’s needs were not forsaken. Don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in another’s shoes.
The loss of a partner—even if you did not feel great love for him—can also hurt. You might feel relieved not to be fighting any longer, but many women still mourn the loss of a lifestyle, a twosome, family and certainty. Other women, however, make dramatic changes in their lives as though they were finally “let out of emotional jail.”
The loss of a beloved partner is always painful. Friends try to offer comfort by saying things such as “you and he at least had a long or good life together.” Somehow, these words don’t help enough. There is NO GOOD TIME TO LOSE A BELOVED PARTNER. Few of us want to die alone, raise children alone, figure out finances alone or make major decisions alone. For example, the young widowed women who lost their partners to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know too well the anxiety of raising children alone.
2. A beloved and supportive parent, other caregiver or mentor dies. Yes, even if you are “all grown up” and single, losing a key family member can hurt and leave a big “hole in your heart.” How could it not? After all, you relied on this person for advice and as your emotional and life “safety net”—something we all need. Grief is an emotionally excruciating experience. It takes longer than you think and grabs you with mourning pangs at the worst times. You could be going through your day, quite well, thank you, and then, BOOM!, a song on the radio or a certain smell or sound trips off tears, anguish, pangs, anxiety and sadness—even years after the loss. Telling your friend that you still feel a powerful loss about this person often doesn’t seem to help either. The other person can’t imagine how or why such a loss could affect you so deeply.
3.Moving to a new town—even for a great job or a planned second/third life—can trip off feelings of mourning. And well it should—you are leaving a world that you knew, filled with routines, friends, colleagues and familiar places and routes. So don’t be surprised if moving to a new city for that wonderful new job leaves you feeling anxious. Suddenly, you are eating alone, going to movies alone, going to single events alone.
4.Losing a part of your physical or mental functioning is also a time of loss, loneliness, grief and mourning. This loss can be even more painful when you are alone. Yes, there are support groups, but at night, in the dark, you are often most alone. Losing a part of your abilities can be devastating. You must reassess who you are and how strong your sense of self-worth is. These are difficult tasks under any circumstances. For example, women who have mastectomies must grapple with far more than self-image. They must also manage their fears of reoccurrences or financial problems. Being alone during these times can literally be gut-wrenching. Grief is never an easy process.
1.Stop blaming yourself for whatever you think you did wrong. Blame is only useful in keeping you from changing. After all, if you see yourself as blameworthy and not a very good person, then others will too. The result is that you won’t put yourself in a position to meet people in the future or seek help in dealing with your grief and loss. Why would someone do this? Simple—to avoid any more chances of being hurt, frightened or overwhelmed. To break this cycle of fear, you have to tell yourself that all people deserve second chances. It’s normal to feel scared, but don’t let it stop you from getting out there, seeking help, taking chances and starting over.
2.The best way to adjust to a new town is NOT to change your desired routine—at least in the beginning. Make life in the new place as much like the desired parts of your old one. For example, if you like going to movies and the gym, then find the movie theater and gym you like and start going to them. If you don’t like going to movies alone, then you can post a sign in the gym that you are starting a women’s movie club. Or, even better, go to the movie when you think women might be going alone such as during school hours. You’d be surprised how many women do go to movies alone during the day. Make a pact with yourself that you will speak to at least two women before you leave the movie theater.
3.Keep a journal. Write out your thoughts, re-read them and learn from them.
4.Join grief and loss support groups or start your own.
5.Make a Personal Pact with yourself to make one change a week. It might be to go the gym more often or to talk to at least two new men a day who interest you. Or it might be to attend a community meeting, charity event or talk.
6.If you want to date again but are afraid, don’t despair. The most common fears are making a bad choice (again) and just—ugh!—going through the dating process. But wait—you don’t have to dread dating. Instead of looking for the next seemingly Mr. Right, date men to test your people reading skills. There is no better way to build confidence in your choice of mate than to test your judgment. Buy a good book on body language or reading people and see how you can strengthen your skills.
Thank you for reading this, and I hope it helped.
Dr.LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, MA
Psychologist and Social Worker, Lic. as Clinical Social Worker, SW 7132 FL; 3941 MA; 2850 MD.
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University of Massachusetts, Doctorate in Adult Developmental Psychology; Bryn Mawr College, Master in Clinical Social Service; Georgetown University Medical School: The Family Center, three years-post graduate training in marriage and family with the internationally esteemed Dr. Murray Bowen; Ohio University, Masters in English; Carnegie-Mellon University, Bachelor in History and English.
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