“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” – Mother Teresa
Humans are made to live in community. We just are. Some crave that community more than others. I enjoy small groups of people, but I can tend to get overwhelmed easily with too many conversations. So, at a party, I normally retreat to a corner somewhere in the room and chat with the same person all night long. It’s just how I’m wired.
But, there is a total difference between being an introvert and loneliness. I have truly been lonely and it is the most miserable feeling.
When my ex-husband and I were separated, before our divorce was finalized, it was getting to be the season of holidays. Halloween was right around the corner, then came Thanksgiving, and of course, Christmas was soon after. So, on top of figuring out my totally crazy and bizarre personal life, I also had to continue to celebrate these times for my kid’s sake. I so wished we could’ve just skipped these because my brain was having enough difficulty getting through each regular day, not to mention a holiday!
Halloween and Thanksgiving weren’t too horrible. I was in the process of packing our home and moving in with my parents. Plus, I was navigating a 4-year-old and 2-year-old through the hardest time in their little lives. Although we were in a chaotic season, my mind was so occupied with details that I couldn’t focus on how I was really feeling about being alone….until Christmas came.
Christmas was when I really started to struggle. It was the first time I think I allowed my heart to begin to feel the absence of “what once was.” Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be floating on this cloud of sheer Christmas joy. There was love and anticipation of the season in the air. Children were trying to be on their best behavior, and parents were the gift secret keepers.
I, on the other hand, was selling off my furniture, talking to divorce lawyers and feeling very much alone. I remember thinking I’m going to take a family picture this year. We do it every year, and this year will be no different. But it was different. Although the picture itself wasn’t terrible, it was really just a glaring reminder that my family was broken…along with my heart.
I was lonely. Not the kind of lonely where you don’t have anyone around, but the kind of lonely where there are tons of people around and you still feel empty. It was like a part of me had been amputated. Although it was gone, I could still somehow feel it. I would try to put on a good face, but the authentic part of me would remind me that I was indeed by myself.
But, something changed on Christmas morning. I promise I’m not being cheesy, but I had a complete heart change on that day. My children woke up that morning like many other children….ready to attack the presents. By the time I rolled out of my bed and walked to our tiny Christmas tree, the kids were jumping up and down. My daughter was flapping her little hands, which she always did when she was excited, and my son was just randomly squealing. But, it was the smiles that caught my attention. Since the whole divorce had started, I don’t think I remembered their smiles being quite as beautiful as they were that Christmas morning.
After all the presents were free from their shiny wrapping, my babies climbed up in my lap and snuggled. They didn’t say anything as they were tired from all the excitement, but I could hear my son sucking his thumb and feel my daughter curling my hair around her finger. And, I knew, I wasn’t alone after all. My husband had left our family, but my Savior had not. My children were with me body and soul. They were healthy and loved. He had allowed me to have the most precious gift that Christmas morning….the gift of perspective. Just because my family looked differently than it used to, didn’t mean it wasn’t still my family. I had hands to hold, bodies to hug, and cheeks to kiss goodnight. I was overwhelmingly blessed.
Loneliness affects us all at different times in our lives, and different situations stir up those lonely feelings. You may think, well I don’t have a husband, or children, or a family. That very well may be the case. But, you do have the opportunity to create family by pouring into your friends and those around you that may be less fortunate. If you are feeling lonely, try not to focus on what it is that you don’t have. But, put your eyes on the Lord and on the gifts that He has given you.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:5-10