Monday, March 8, 2010

Dealing with Loneliness?

The Question:

Thank you for your blog. I just discovered it yesterday and it was so wonderful to read. It gave some solid ideas of ways to deal with my kids and things to think about as I drifted off to sleep about being a mom. I have 5 children, ages 15 - 4. My husband travels quite a bit and so I am used to being on my own in terms of parenting. I enjoy reading to my kids and being the one to always be there when they need me.

My question is this - How do you deal with loneliness?

I am not close with my own family or my husbands. Our ward that we live in has so many wonderful people, but as my bishop states - it's a great ward for acquaintances, not good friendships. I don't want to go into details, because I will not whine. We live in a nice area and there are so many good people here. I wish I had a friend that had kids my own kids ages and that we could depend on each other. I always do my callings, try to serve when I see a need arise, volunteer at my kids school, try to listen more than talk, etc. But I guess one of my trials in this life is to deal with loneliness. My husband is wonderful and I love to talk to him. He is my best friend, but sometimes it would be nice to share experiences with someone who is of my own gender. My good friends from school days live far away. Heavenly Father has heard many prayers on the subject and he always sends comfort and peace. I hear and see so many families and friends enjoying themselves and their relationship and I feel envious of that closeness.

Thank you for faith and testimony. I love all your references to the scriptures and our Savior. I think that all our struggles can be answered through prayers and scriptures. I just haven't found the answer that brings me peace to this problem. If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it.


The Answer:

Dear Amy,

Is anything harder than loneliness? I think we've all experienced it. We move to a new place. We are tied down with little children. Maybe we're naturally shy. Or as you mentioned, we aren't blessed with a warm circle of extended family. Whatever the reason, it's a difficult trial. And many, many people struggle with it. A friend I've known for years and go to church with every Sunday confided one day that she feels very lonely and isolated--like she is on the outside. I was truly surprised. She seemed to have lots of friends--but in her day to day life, she felt alone.

Another friend of mine taught me a serious lesson a few years ago. She moved into our ward and I'll tell you now that it's a wonderful ward but not the easiest one to break into. It seems like everyone is related to someone--families that extend in every direction. People don't move often so they have longstanding relationships. So my friend didn't wait around for people to reach out to her. She organized a play group, got a book club going, invited people over, called around and invited a bunch of families to meet at the park on a summer day--(just bring a lunch and come.) It was last minute but I was shocked at the turnout. It showed me that a lot of people were really needing to connect--and maybe just waiting for someone to invite them. And I was amazed that my friend took matters into her own hands and made sure that her own social needs were met--while blessing many others in the process.

One time I taught a lesson on an interesting way to write a personal history. Several people wanted to learn more so I offered to host a monthly class. We would meet at my house, have a potluck lunch and share samples of our writing with eachother. Imagine my shock when over 30 people showed up! I really don't believe that all those people wanted to write a history. No way. They wanted to connect! I believe this is the single greatest insight I can give you. You are not the only person who feels lonely. The majority of people around you struggle with this to some degree and no one will ever be offended by an invitation (unless, of course, it involves multi-level marketing).

This may be painful, but you're going to need to become proactive. Sign up for enrichment classes. Let it be known that you're looking for a scrapbooking friend or a walking partner or someone to help you paint a room. Invite a couple to go out with you and your husband or call some moms and meet at McDonald's for lunch. Think about something you'd be really comfortable instigating-- then do it! My friend Marvel went through a painful divorce and moved to a new place after 20 years of comfortable relationships. When I visited her a few short months later, I was surprised to find that she already loved her new ward. She explained that on her first Sunday there, she signed up for every possible thing--mid-week classes, taking in meals, cleaning the church--all with the goal of making friends. It worked.

My personal favorite thing to do is to invite two or three families over on a Friday night. I tell them to each bring a game and a snack. It's never awkward because it's a good size group and doing it almost always leads to natural friendships. I do it fairly often.

Also, be open to "unlikely" friendships. Some of my closest friends are 20 years younger than I am. My running partner couldn't be more different than I am. On the surface, we have very little common ground--but walking or running together every day, we've discovered all sorts of similarities and have learned a lot from eachother. Now that I think of it, some of my closest friends through the years have been exercise partners. That hour a day really makes for some serious bonding.

In a few years, your children will become excellent friends--they're my favorites ever. One of the great benefits of loving and respecting them while they're growing up, is that they don't have anything against you when they're grown! You have some purely good friendships.

Don't pray for friends--pray for ideas and then act on them. The Lord wants our hearts to be knit together and he will provide ways for that to happen.

With love,



  1. My favorite line: "Don't pray for friends--pray for ideas and then act on them." Very, very true.

  2. If you're shy, like me, here are some baby steps:

    Smile at someone.
    Then say Hi the next time you see them.
    Next time, give them a compliment.
    Next time, ask them a question or for their opinion/advice. (What did you think of that lesson?)
    Sit next to someone you don't know at Sacrament or Enrichment night and try all the steps at once.

    Another good place to practice these steps is at the grocery store. Ask someone if they know how to pick a ripe melon, smile at the old man, stop a lady to tell her you like her blouse.

    Be the kind of friend you want to have.

    I'm also very bad at remembering names, but I've found if I tell people up front, they're always very understanding. Plus, they feel extra special when I actually remember. ;)

  3. I couldn't agree more with Jane! Whenever I feel down and lonely I just try to realize that I feel this way then how many other people could be feeling like this and I would have no idea? Take the initiative and invite people to things. I'm convinced most people are just waiting to get an invitation to things. Try it out.

    Also, one summer I was painfully lonely (we were on an internship and only there for a few months) and the things that saved me was service. I went to and signed up for Meals on Wheels and another project for a local museum. I loved it! I got a sense of accomplishment, and met some great people through it. There are so many ways to serve people, and the plus side is that it not only helps them, but you too!

  4. I get ya babe. My husband is an airline pilot and it is feast or famine. He is either totally gone or totally home. It is hardest when he is gone for four days, home for two. Those months really bite. He works out of Newark, NJ but we live in Albany, NY because his family is close - 45 minutes furth north (good or bad... debatable ;^). Our ward boundaries are huge. Most of the ladies I have become friends with live 30 minutes away. We all seem to live at different corners of the ward! But during the summer we started a play group that meets at a local play ground once a week (rotate whose home it was near) and we brought our own lunch or had a pot luck. It was really a great way to get to know the sisters better but it took sacrifice on all our parts because we all live so far away.

    One comment I must make. There is a sister in our ward whom I think is just so wonderful. They have lived here for 2+ years and she is always making little comments about not having any friends and being lonely (husband is gone a lot too). We talk a lot at church (others too), but she is never able to get together with any of us - there is always something she has going on with her kids or whatever. I love her but I feel like - well, if you want friends you have to make some room in your schedule for us! Now, you are talking to the Nap Nazi so believe me I know how important schedules are, but some flexibility is a must or you'll never get out. So this may or may not be you - but just something to think about if it sounds familiar :)

  5. Such wonderful advice! I have moved several times in recent years and have had to learn to be more outgoing myself. I was never one to volunteer to have people over or to start playgroups, but now I do just that. I do a lot of the inviting and don't see as many invites in return, but I figure if people keep coming over here, they must enjoy my friendship! I would definitely reach out to people in your ward, even if it doesn't seem like you are in a "similar stage" with your kids... a younger childless woman or an older one may enjoy coming over for lunch, etc. Maybe organize a lunch at your home or a picnic and invite anyone in your ward you can think of. Also, look outside the ward to your community. Get familiar with Yahoo Groups - you can look for groups in your area that share common interests - I've made a lot of neat connections this way, and it allows me opportunity to share the gospel. And in general, staying active with hobbies and activities you enjoy, whether or not someone is around to go with you.

  6. Just started reading your blog but I can tell I'm going to love it!


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