“Nobody played with me, mommy.”
My daughter’s words pierced my ears and my heart as we drove home from the gym.
“Really?” I said, concerned.
“Yes. I asked all the kids to play with me, but everybody said no. And they found other partners.”
I felt a fleeting surge of mama bear hormones, but probed a bit further to be sure. It seemed highly unlikely that a bunch of random kids who didn’t previously know each other paired up strategically and left my daughter out.
“So what did you do?”
“Well, I went down the orange slide and then I played with the puzzles with a girl who had a pink bow. Some other friends started playing dinosaurs and I had the green one.”
Her little heart was genuinely broken, but she was remembering the circumstances wrongly. It was all so tricky to navigate. She’d experienced real social isolation and had felt true loneliness but her circumstances didn’t necessarily support how she’d interpreted the day. How could I, without invalidating her emotion, help her to see that she in fact, was not isolated and alone? Her experience was not the reality.
She and I have these conversations all the time. I see a pattern, and I don’t necessarily think this will be a childhood problem for her. But what about the rest of us? As females, are we more prone to loneliness?
I think yes. While I think the entire human race was created to live relationally, I think women have an innate need for connection. And loneliness is plaguing our generation…and it can feel deep and devastating and suffocating.
But what exactly is loneliness? What causes it? How much is experience and how much is perception? And why are we sometimes so prone to it, while seemingly immune at other times?
I want to be so careful with this topic because loneliness can pierce deeply. It can cause feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, self-loathing and doubt. In the same way that I navigated the topic with my daughter, might we together try to expose the lie of loneliness while validating the reality of your heartbreak?
Every Single One Of Us
Loneliness is tricky and can pop up no matter what phase of life we are in or what circumstances we are experiencing.
The young child on the playground, looking for a friend to play with.
The woman who longs for children, carrying the burden of infertility alone, every month reeling in the disappointment of another missing pink line.
The brand new mom, dreading the end of her maternity leave because she and her baby still aren’t sleeping. She’s heard motherhood is dreamy and precious, but all she feels is a confusing disappointment and exhaustion.
The single mother who works two jobs and spends one hour a day with her kids before putting them to bed.
The teen mom who is completely isolated, thrown, in what seems like an instant, into a world of motherhood while all of her friends are spending their weekends at football games and movie theaters.
The woman whose husband just got a job on the other side of the country and is packing up her home to move thousands of miles from any familiar faces.
The mom of teenagers who lies in bed at night wondering what words she can offer to ease her daughter’s recent heartbreak. She’s also worried about drugs, peer pressure, and the entire internet, to name a few.
The mom of a child with special needs who gets half-informed advice from everyone and feels like no one understands. Her struggle to love and support her child, along with herself and the rest of her family, is a never-ending, every minute-of-everyday task with no respite.
The mom who just moved her last child out of her home. She’s leaning against her kitchen counter and listening to the deafening silence inside the walls that hold all the most precious memories of her life.
The mom who is fighting illness. She doesn’t have energy or strength to be at all the things. She enlists help from anyone who will assist so that she can fight and rest. Fight and rest.
The mom who went back to work and wishes she didn’t.
The mom who stays home with preschoolers and wishes she didn’t.
The woman who is completely content and seems to have everything.
Loneliness hits them all. It knows no life stage. It requires no circumstances. This is a brokenness within. Not outside of us. It’s not something that will go away if that one thing about our lives would change or improve. It’s not something we conquer one time and move on to the next thing.
The Lie Of Loneliness
Yes, I think most of the loneliness we feel is a lie. Loneliness lies to us in all kinds of ways…
It tells us we’re the only one.
It minimizes our existing relationships and makes us feel like they aren’t enough.
It tells us that we ourselves are insufficient. Not enough.
It steals us from our present moment. Always looking ahead or behind.
It takes unmet expectations and makes them ultimate.
I truly think so much of our loneliness is perceived and not reality. Hear me say this in love, my friend, you’re not actually alone at all.
We’re lonely because we feel unknown, unloved, or both.
It’s a perception. So stop believing the lie.
So what I’ve found is that to fight loneliness, your first step is to know and be known. To love and be loved. To accept and be accepted. To forgive and be forgiven. To connect and be connected.
Are we afraid? Sometimes, yes. Do we mourn? Often, yes. Are we overwhelmed? Absolutely, yes.
But no, we are not alone.
We are not. We are being tricked into believing that we have to carry these burdens, walk these roads, fight these battles, all on our own. Loneliness tells us that nobody has ever experienced the excruciation of our pain right now in this very moment. But it’s a lie. And you don’t have to settle for believing it anymore.