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  • Writer's pictureSherri M. Herman

Coping with the Loneliness of Grief

Have you felt lost and alone after losing a partner or loved companion Whether you’ve lost your partner to divorce, death, or debilitating physical or mental illness, the grief that follows can feel overwhelmingly painful and lonely. I’m here to help guide you through coping with the loneliness of grief.

Coping with the Loneliness of Grief - Sherri M Herman Spiritual Coach Counselor Psychotherapist

Losing a beloved companion can leave you feeling like there's a gaping hole in your heart; a void that seems like it will never be filled again. And, in some ways, you’ll probably always feel that hole in your heart. Even if there was turbulence or hardship in the relationship, loss is loss. 

No other person or relationship could ever replace the person, relationship, or the dreams you had for that relationship. It is truly a loss that you feel forever. And… and, I know without a doubt that your heart can heal and that you can feel love even in that very space that feels totally empty. And I am absolutely convinced that this loss can end up being just the thing that draws you nearer to love; perhaps closer than you ever felt before or have ever imagined.

black and white flower

Loneliness, in the aftermath of loss, can feel all-encompassing.

Losing a companion feels like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. Depending on how emotionally invested you were in the relationship, it can feel like you can’t breathe and your body just hurts everywhere, because feelings are physical. 

Both the pain and the utter disbelief can be so entirely disorienting that you just can’t think straight for days, weeks, or more. It can literally throw you into a survival mode. That’s because we are social mammals who are wired for connection. 

As much as we might intellectually know that we will eventually lose everything or everyone that we love, there is just always a part of us, wired deep into our subconscious and perhaps into our nervous system, that just does not expect anything to change. Ever.

I believe this is why there is an enormous body of research on the benefits of “radical acceptance”, a term coined by Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Your feelings are entirely normal. 

Every single emotion you feel is one-hundred percent normal, valid, and true. Remember, your feelings are physical. They are just sensations in the body that either feel pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. 

By and large, your feelings are the result of conscious or unconscious thoughts, interpretations, memories, or perceptions. Some of those are within your control and so many (perhaps most) are not. This is why you can’t really choose or control your feelings. Especially in the wake of grief. 

Your feelings can motivate you to take action in some form or another or they can motivate you to stay put. Either way, your feelings are never bad, wrong, or otherwise invalid. If this is hard to accept (as it was for me for many years), I encourage you to write it down someplace where you’ll see it often and practice radical acceptance.

You can feel multiple feelings at the same time.

As if feeling deeply sad or lonely wasn’t hard enough, it’s also totally normal to feel a multitude of emotions at the exact same time. This is what makes grief grief and this is what makes grief so overwhelming and all-encompassing. 

Part of what makes grieving so lonely is that no other person will experience it just as you are. Even if you are grieving the loss of the same person or relationship as someone else, you will still have different experiences. You may share the general experience of grief, but the flavor will be uniquely yours and yours alone. 

And this is exactly why it’s so important to not shame, blame, or minimize yourself for having any or all of the feelings. These internal behaviors cause internal disconnection and deeper loneliness. Instead, we need to meet our feelings, all of our feelings, with radical acceptance and then loving-kindness. 

Again, easier said than done, I know. But practice makes progress. 

holding hands with care

There is no such thing as a normal, grieving timeline.

As you’re beginning to see, your feelings can have a mind of their own, heck, even your mind can have a mind of its own. This is why it’s so important to not put your grieving on a timeline or to let anyone else think that your grieving should be on a timeline. Any timeline of grief is an absolute myth. 

Yes, we can reasonably expect that the early days, weeks, and months will likely be more painful than later times. However, pain can persist and even surge at predictable and entirely unpredictable times. Because, remember, our feelings are activated by conscious and unconscious thoughts or external cues (things outside of you). 

There are no “shoulds” when it comes to grief.

We have a funny little saying in the therapy world, maybe you’ve heard some version of it: Don’t should all over yourself.

Right? Clever. 

But it’s so true. I really wish we could do away with the shoulds in all aspects of our lives. It just causes us so much needless suffering by setting us up for false expectations or comparisons. I lived under the debilitating pressure of should for so much of my life. I’m not 100% free of it but it’s a lot less than it used to be. And there’s just no place for it in grief. 

I want you to remember that should = shame. Everytime you should all over yourself, you’re likely triggering shame, which generally makes you feel worse and more lonely. 

Just say “no” to should.

Your grief journey is uniquely yours and valid.

My friend, I know just how easy it is to look at other people who have had a significant loss and think, “they’re doing better than I am,” or “why have they bounced back so quickly?” 

Just like you are unique, your journey is also unique. Just like you are valid, your journey is valid. Just like you are special, sacred, and exactly as you are meant to be, so too is your journey. 

This is where it’s so important to watch those pesky thoughts of comparison or judgment and let them float on by like clouds in the sky. Then place your hand on your heart and remind yourself, “My experience is exactly right for me. Thank you for loving me and taking care of me.”

hands over heart

You get to set new boundaries.

Because your unique feelings and journey are so entirely valid, it’s important to pay attention to who else in your life honors your experience as well. There may be some people who are willing to accept and meet you where you’re at, and of course many may not have the capacity to. 

You probably have run into some people who challenge your feelings, wonder aloud when you’ll get over it, encourage you to look on the bright side, be grateful, or otherwise happy that x, y, or z. Worse yet, some people may actually blame or shame you for feeling or thinking the way you do. 

Whoever adds to your pain needs a boundary, at least for now. Meaning, you share less with them and perhaps spend less time with them. Remember, boundaries are about managing your own behavior and communicating your needs and requests. Boundaries are not about telling others what to do. 

When you are deeply wounded, it’s better to minimize contact with people who will emotionally take you down further than you already are, even if it’s someone that you thought you were very close to. 

There is no such thing as moving on. 

A part of me wants to say that I wish we could easily move on. But there’s a deeper part of me that doesn’t. That deeper part of me knows that this experience is happening because you loved. Because you are human. Because you hoped and dreamed. And because the grief experience holds the real possibility of sinking even deeper into love than ever before. Loneliness isn’t the end game.

No, you don’t move on. You carry your grief forward. You learn how to nurture it and yourself. You learn how to take needed breaks from it. You may try to suppress it for a little while until it comes out sideways and you remember to tend to it again. 

One step at a time, one day at a time, we learn to live with our grief. 

woman carrying backpack

You deserve loving-kindness.

I know you are kind hearted and it’s important to you to treat others the way you want to be treated. I have no doubt this is important to you. But my friend, it’s also important to treat yourself the way you want to be treated. 

Whether you believe it or not, I’m here to tell you that you are always deserving of loving-kindness from yourself just as much as you are deserving to receive it from others, and just as much as you believe others deserve it from you. And when you know that you will have your own back no matter what, you can experience deep peace and freedom. 

Can you believe it? If you can’t, you can borrow my conviction for now. I believe it 100%. 

An inner source of love is always there for you. 

If you have a hard time extending loving-kindness to yourself, try connecting with your unique inner source of love. I promise you have one. For some people it’s God, or The Universe, Divine Goddess, Buddha, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, Mother Nature, or another name. Maybe for you it’s just the value of love or kindness itself, the support of community, or the memory of your grandmother or grandfather. Or maybe it’s your beloved pet. 

You were created from the fabric of love. Love is the very essence of your being. As my favorite Zen teacher used to remind me (very frequently), you are not just lovable but you are love. It took me a while to realize and feel that truth. I couldn’t think my way to believing it. I needed to feel my way there. With time and practice, you can too. 

Your lost relationship was not the source of your love. The person you loved, and still love, was not the source of your love. They triggered your feelings of love. Which means that love is, and has always been, already within you.  

You can trust yourself.

You have been through so much. You can trust that you will get through this. You can trust that you can keep going. You can trust that you have everything you need to feel good, whole, and connected. You can trust your inner source of love. 

You can trust that those feelings of love you felt before are still within you and you can trust you will feel them again. 

And if you struggle to feel confident in that trust, you can borrow mine until yours is there. 

placing hands on hands with trust

You get to redefine what matters most to you. 

You’re living in a new landscape now. And you get to decide how that landscape looks and feels. You get to shape a new life and reality for yourself. 

What matters most to you in this new season? What do you want your life to be about from now on? Even if you can only think about this one day at a time, what do you want your life to represent today? 

It’s your one and precious life. You, and only you, get to decide what matters most to you and what you want to attract into your life going forward. 

You have permission to feel happy again.

No matter what the nature of your loss, you deserve to experience joy in your life again. If you struggle to give yourself permission due to guilt or shame or fear, you can take it from me. I give you permission (even though you don’t need my permission). 

You have permission to create new joyful memories. To laugh again. To forget about the pain. To laugh in the pain. To remember good times and hard times. 

You have permission to feel gratitude when it feels genuine. Not because you should feel gratitude; but only when it genuinely arises out of extending loving-kindess to yourself. 

Then, I know you will feel happy again. 

Losing a close companion, whether to divorce, death, illness, or otherwise, is always complex. It can leave you riddled with a mixed bag of emotions and a big dose of loneliness. Because you are the only one who will ever truly know your experience. 

But when you commit to practice responding to yourself with loving-kindness, and connecting with your inner source of love, you have the capacity to always (or nearly always) feel deeply connected, valued, and loved.  

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Please forward this to a friend or share on social media. Thank you!

And remember,

you are always loved no matter what.

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Coping with the Loneliness of Grief - Sherri M Herman Spiritual Coach Counselor Psychotherapist

Sherri M Herman, spiritual life coach, speaker, psychotherapist, MN,

Sherri M. Herman, MA, LPCC is a spiritual life coach, speaker, and psychotherapist who is known for being a compassionate guide has been helping others achieve their goals since 2010. Having been twice divorced herself, she loves helping women overcome the challenges and loneliness of divorce while balancing the needs of self-love, parenting, and life. She lives near Minneapolis, MN with her husband, son (aged 12 at the time of this publishing), dog (Spirit), cat (Daisy), and axolotl (Mochi). She loves movie and game nights with her family, hosting potlucks and bonfires, working out at the gym, and going camping with family-friends. Get Your Free 5-Day Email Series >> From Loneliness to Love

I’m here to support you if you need. I can provide you with spiritual coaching regardless of where you are located. Click below to book a free call.


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