Unveiling the healing power of alone time
Being alone can be the most challenging part of divorce.
I don’t mean living on your own. I mean feeling as if you are the only person in the world going through something so devastating.
I’m talking about the feeling of isolation.
Isolation is a unique feeling. It’s that sense that there is nobody around us, even in a room full of people. It can be a bewildering experience, especially if you’ve never gone through it before.
Feeling isolated after divorce is a common experience for us all. No matter how much we try to stay connected to people or how many people we have around us, there is still a feeling of being ‘cut off’.
The peculiar part is that even though we feel this way, we don’t seem to have the emotional energy to make changes. It’s almost like a self-imposed prison at times.
I can recall in the first years after separating from my husband that, no matter how busy I kept myself or how many people I spent time with, I felt very much alone.
I would try to talk to my family and friends about what I was experiencing, and although they would listen and try to comfort me, I still felt as though I was stumbling through a dark forest by myself.
In some ways, trying to communicate made it worse, so I’d retreat further into my alone time.
The hardest part was having no clue when I would come out of it. On the worst days, I felt as though this was going to be my life now.
Divorced and isolated.
Of course, I came out of this time and was able to look back and reflect on why the whole experience was necessary and beneficial.
I want to share something with you today that may ease any concerns you have if you are feeling like this at the moment.
There is an essential purpose to what is happening.
Emotional pain and trauma can’t be seen, but they are as real as a traumatic physical accident.
Imagine someone suffering extreme physical trauma after a car crash and then trying to get up and walk away from the wreckage without healing.
This is equal to someone trying to go on as normal after a divorce.
A period of isolation is the emotional equivalent of getting treatment for physical trauma.
It allows you to rest, process, grieve, plan, grow and, most importantly, heal.
Dark Night of the Soul
There are many terms for this voluntary isolation period that humans go through after extreme events that cause us to retreat and seek emotional sanctuary.
The one that resonated most with me is ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Eckhart Tolle describes it this way:
It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state, in some cases, is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore; there’s no purpose to anything.
Divorce strips us of our identity and our dreams. The path ahead, the one we thought we’d be following for the rest of our lives, has dissolved. It’s only natural that we would feel what Tolle describes above.
And it’s only natural that we would need some time to cocoon ourselves from this type of shock.
Although there is a natural resistance to going through isolation, there are ways that you can shift your mindset from struggle to acceptance.
Here’s how leaning into isolation can benefit you after divorce.
Time and space: It allows you time and space to gradually come to terms with the changes and the loss you have experienced.
Minimizing triggers: Interactions with other people can trigger us when we’re this raw. Being alone helps us stay emotionally regulated.
Grief: Grief requires us to experience a specific cycle of emotions that must be felt to move on. This takes time and emotional energy.
Planning: Being alone gives you the opportunity to spend time defining what you need now and where you want to go next in your life.
Resilience: You are learning the crucial life lesson that you are capable of getting yourself through intense struggle without needing anyone else to ‘rescue’ you.
Privacy: If you need to ‘fall apart’, you can do it without feeling judged or worrying loved ones.
Reflection: You have changed. The old you is gone. Who is the new you? You need this time to discover who you are outside of the identity you built within your marriage.
Of course, none of these concepts are easy to execute, and at times, it can feel overwhelming and scary.
But by anchoring back to the knowledge that there is a bigger purpose to this time, you will be able to trust that it’s necessary and temporary.
Don’t try to rush this process. As you heal, you will start to feel the natural glimmers of hope that things can be better. You will begin to get little impulses to reconnect with others in small steps.
Eventually, you will emerge from this time ready to form new connections as the person you have become. You will have a stronger sense of self and an improved emotional skill set.
After my divorce, I went through an isolation period which lasted around 18 months. It was a very dark time, and I felt like I was trapped in the darkness, unable to find a way out.
The second time it happened to me after my four-year relationship ended, I was able to recognize what was happening. This made it slightly easier to stay focused on my healing and allow the process without despairing.
It still sucked, but I knew that it wouldn’t last forever.
What was really interesting is that I began to notice how my feelings of being cut off began to transform from isolation to solitude.
The difference is that solitude is a feeling of enjoying being on my own. It’s the realization that being alone does not mean being lonely.
I love my solitude now. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve recognized and accepted that I’m far happier and content with fewer people around me. It’s all about quality, not quantity, like it used to be in my twenties and thirties.
Now, I understand that isolation can be a gift if we understand its purpose and use it to our advantage during tough times.
It’s my hope that if you are currently in a period of isolation, this post has helped you to have a deeper understanding of the process and faith that you will come out the other side of it feeling much stronger.
If you would like support to navigate loneliness or isolation after divorce, let’s talk. I can help you to use this time to your advantage as you begin to take concrete steps to rebuild and feeling stronger after divorce.
Book a free discovery call here. I’d love to chat with you.
Download your free divorce recovery workbook here.
If you know someone who could benefit from reading this article please share it with them.