That one lonely night, I cried out galaxies…
I couldn’t take it anymore. Everything reminded me of her; the scenery I found myself in, the women I dated to drown my pain, the scents that filled my nostrils, the night sky above me that was identical to the one we made love beneath oh-so-long ago. Everything was her. She was everything. There was no escape.
As the weeks rolled by, more and more things began evoking the gut-twisting memory of her. Soon, I found myself angry, resentful, and irritated by… well, basically everything.
Most days, I wanted to scream so loud that the sky would finally fall on me and take me wherever.
Why me, you bitch!? Why couldn’t you be someone who wouldn’t dump me and condemn me to this psychological cesspool?
I didn’t want to hate the scenery, the smells, the women I dated, or the night sky — that fucking night sky. But I couldn’t help myself. I was lonely and, for a brief period in my life, I hated everything and everyone.
However, storms always pass, they say. Well, whoever those sons of bitches were, they were right. My storm passed.
Fast forward two years: I’m a new man. Not only did I rid my system of loneliness, but I also began to find enjoyment in solitude. No, scratch that – I began to love my solitude.
But this was only the beginning. My transformation offered me something way more meaningful: happiness, self-acceptance, and heaps of personal growth.
So, for those wondering if it’s possible to go from a solitude hater to a solitude lover, the answer is yes. And I’m far from the only one who was able to cross that bridge.
In retrospect, I can see that I followed certain semi-interconnected principles. But these principles (even though I later realized they were scientifically validated) were no cakewalk. They took me months to implement into my life. After that, it still took me a solid year before I saw any tangible results.
However, don’t be discouraged. Maybe your story will be different and you’ll get over your post-breakup loneliness much faster than me. Hopefully knowing something about these five principles will help with that. So here they are.
1. Find a group and participate in it
Joining a breakup recovery group to fend off my loneliness was probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Primarily, this was because I’m a huge introvert. However, I’m ultimately glad I forced myself to do it. My group not only helped me feel less alone, but also radically expedited my overall recovery.
The way I tackled finding my breakup recovery group was pretty unconventional. A friend told me about one near me, moments after he overheard me whining about my breakup to my mom.
So yeah… the whole thing was a total accident. A lucky accident, admittedly.
However, if you’d ask me how to find a recovery group today, I would recommend two things. Either type “breakup recovery groups in my area” on Google and find one that way, or ask around your local school/college grounds if anyone there offers such a group.
I don’t know about your place, but my town had a handful of local school/college-based breakup recovery groups. In fact, the group I was in, the one my friend recommended, was a college-based one.
The best part about these groups was that they were run by volunteers who wanted to be there. Oh, and at least in my area, these groups were totally free, so anyone could join. Naturally, this was a massive plus for the unemployed-teen-me.
But enough about me, now it’s your turn: go out and find a group of people who are going through the same or near-identical experience as you are, and start participating.
Look especially for one that incorporates activities (dancing, hiking, swimming, gymnastics, etc) in addition to general discussions. Those are proven to reduce loneliness much faster than groups where everyone just sits around doing nothing. (1)
I understand that you might not be lucky enough to stumble upon a real-life group of recovering breakup survivors. But don’t worry, there’s a workaround: online groups.
Before you raise a brow, I’ve done the research for you. Online groups work just as well as offline ones in terms of helping you deal with loneliness. Here are three recommendations of mine:
- If you’re an avid Facebook user, check out this group.
- If you’re an avid Reddit user, check out this group — Or, as Reddit calls it, a community.
- If you’re an avid reader of my work and want responses from me personally, here’s my group — or, as I call it, a forum.
Also, while you’re meeting new people, keep in mind that (according to recent studies) it’s more beneficial and therapeutic if you participate in group discussions rather than one-on-one interactions. (2)
So what are you waiting for? Find a group of people who share the same problem as you and join them. The bigger, more participatory, and active the group is, the better.
2. IMPROVE YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS
Naturally, just getting into a recovery group isn’t enough. You also have to, like… talk to the people in it. This is where social skills come in.
Social skills allow us to build deep emotional connections with others. Those connections can then evolve into meaningful friendships. Finally, those meaningful friendships help us feel less lonely.
Below are three steps I both followed and have taught to others in improving social skills. You can practice them with the random people you meet, your acquaintances from the breakup recovery groups, or both.
Note: Some people are naturally going to be more confident or extroverted and will already be beyond the following three steps. If that’s true for you, feel free to skip parts of this “social skills” section – or the whole thing altogether.
STEP 1: glances, smiles and greeting
Start by making eye contact with the people you encounter in your day-to-day life. When you feel comfortable, incorporate a smile into the routine. When you feel comfortable with even that, add a greeting to the mix. I usually stick with saying “Hey there” or “Good day,” but feel free to experiment with whatever works for you.
Now all that’s left to do is repeat this routine until you become somewhat comfortable with it. When that happens, move on to step 2.
The reason I say “until you become somewhat comfortable with it” is because some people, usually those who are more introverted, will never be entirely comfortable initiating contact/conversations with others. But that’s okay. The point of improving your social skills was never to become totally comfortable around people, but simply more comfortable than before.
STEP 2: Advice and opinions
Start by asking the people around you for advice and opinions on everyday things, like the clothes you wear, the environment you’re in, or the things you’re simply curious about.
However, if you’re not comfortable with asking questions to strangers or semi-strangers, there’s a workaround: think of a question and ask a clerk about it. It’s their job to answer, so you might be more comfortable in this scenario.
After weeks of repeating steps 1 and 2, you’ll see improvements in your social skills. When that happens and you’re ready to take things up a notch, move on to step 3.
Step 3: small talk
Start by initiating small talk with others — be them strangers, acquaintances, or the people in your breakup recovery group.
Small talk refers to a shorter conversation about less important things, like entertainment, the weather, news, travel, etc. However, it is not limited to only those topics. Small talk can also contain emotionally heavy topics, like future goals, dreams, trauma, or deep-seated fears and insecurities.
Also, don’t be afraid to scatter your conversations with jokes, clever remarks, sarcasm, and witty responses. It’s okay to be who you are.
Just whatever you do, don’t be boring. You’re trying to build a connection with a person, not indulge in mindless chatter to pass the time.
3. DARE TO BE VULNERABLE
Vulnerability refers to your ability to open up, speak your mind, and share things about yourself and your life – even when that feels uncomfortable.
There’s no way you’ll ever build deep and meaningful emotional connections with people in your recovery group, or those outside it, without learning how to be vulnerable. Therefore, practice it religiously.
One way of doing this involves getting into conversations that make you uncomfortable or even slightly embarrassed, then opening up and speaking your mind despite those unpleasant feelings.
While I won’t dive too deeply into vulnerability, since I’ve already written about it at lenght here, I will point out the crucial difference between toxic and healthy vulnerability.
See, most people mix the two up and, hence, get into situations where they think they’re connecting with the other person when they’re not.
Toxic vulnerability is the equivalent of overexpression and is the result of lousy emotional management. For example, going on a 2-hour-long rant about your ex being a bitch and the world being unfair when a friend asks you what you’ve been doing over the weekend.
Healthy vulnerability is the equivalent of mature communication and is a result of competent emotional management. For example, expressing grief to your friend and asking for advice without bashing your ex, playing a victim, or continually whining and complaining.
4. Have the right intentions
Many people approach breakup recovery groups with the wrong intentions. Instead of thinking, “How can I help others?” they think, “How can I get others to help me?”
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing bad about wanting advice or a listening ear. However, if that’s your only intention in joining a breakup recovery group, then you’re doing everyone — including yourself — an enormous disservice.
By focusing only on yourself and your wants, you’re missing the opportunity to connect with others. Interestingly, if you fail to connect with others, you also fail to feel happier or more loved. Hence, the only way out of your loneliness is to approach your recovery group with a giver’s mindset.
If a member has trouble maintaining radio silence with their ex and you don’t, advise them on the topic. If a member has trouble sleeping after their breakup and you sleep like a baby, give them advice on how you do it. If a member has uncontrollable anger issues due to their breakup and you’ve taken control, share how you overcame your anger.
In time, you’ll see that the more you help others, the more they help you. This is the law of reciprocity in the flesh. As I mentioned earlier, the final result is less loneliness, more happiness, and more love — for you and others. (3)
5. Keep perspective in mind
Every dab of pain, every tear of sadness, and every iota of grief fades away in time; that nothing stays the same. Naturally, this fading effect also applies to loneliness.
Sure, it’s way quicker when you’re proactively working towards overcoming it. But even if you do nothing much, it will still (probably) fade away. In the meantime, don’t stress about speeding up this process, but rather slowing it down. After all, that’s the trap most people fall into.
They begin stalking their ex, calling and texting them, writing and sending them letters, or even sharing cringe-worthy emotional posts on their social media. All of these behaviors do nothing other than make us feel lonely for a more extended period. Don’t do them.
Even if your goal is to get your ex back, the above behaviors only lower your chances of achieving that goal. Think about it: by constantly reaching out to your ex, you’re communicating nothing but desperation and neediness.
There’s only one thing to do if you want to stop feeling lonely after your breakup: stop reaching out to your ex. Let yourself heal.
Also, try to look at the broader perspective instead of letting temporary pain blind you to reality. If you reconnect with your ex at some point during your recovery, you might risk facing another, larger wave of pain, loneliness, and grief.
Loneliness is not the end
We are social animals; we live and thrive in communities, not in isolation. We’re also wired to physically rely on other people, or even emotionally. Hell, we even extract our unique life purpose from the relationships we cultivate with the things and, most notably, people around us. (4)
So, there’s absolutely no way anyone can say that loneliness isn’t a big deal. It’s a huge deal. Loneliness is toxic for every part of you; your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. But, despite that and as you have discovered, it can be surmounted. Your loneliness is not the end.