Behind Closed Doors: Lonely

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It’s been coming on slowly, but I’ve recently realised that I am really lonely. I wish I had the kind of friends who help you to pick up the pieces, who will let you cry down the phone at them, and who will help you through the tough times. I envy those women with friends who are as close as their family, or who have known each other since school or university. Sometimes the worst thing is knowing that you need some support, and not knowing where to get it.

About six weeks ago, my mum rang and told me that her husband of ten years – my stepfather – had announced he wanted a divorce. That’s pretty much all I know. She has a history of mental health problems, and when she isn’t doing well, she sort of loses touch. When she is in the mood for communication, she won’t talk about it all while my stepdad is in the house. To be honest, I don’t think even mum really knows what is going on and it’s her life. At the moment, they’re still living together. It may well all blow over.But I do worry that maybe it won’t all disappear and that I will have to try and help her deal with it from 150 miles away, all the while worrying about her being ill.

I’ve never really been that bothered about not having particularly close friends until this. I have a decent enough social life, but I didn’t properly I realise that there is a difference between having a social life, and having people to lean on. There’s about 4 people that I’m ‘good’ friends with. As in one-on-one coffee friends rather than nights out dancing friends. None of them really know each other as I met them in very different ways. I’ve tried to talk to a few of them about mum and my stepdad splitting up. One of them changed the subject pretty quickly, and hasn’t mentioned it again. Another turned it into a conversation about her brother in law’s divorce. The third’s reaction was that it had happened before and been alright so it would probably blow over.

That wasn’t what I needed.

I needed them to give me a hug. I needed to be asked how I feel about losing a man who has been a constant in my family for over ten years. I needed them to ask about, and listen to, my fears and feelings, to let me cry, and to support me through the worry about my mum and her health. I needed them to automatically order a bottle of wine. I needed to be able to tell them that ever since my mum first rang, I’ve have headaches every day. I needed to be able to discuss how heart-breaking it was to spend a day with my stepsister and her child, not knowing if it would be the last time I would be an aunty. I needed them to ask whether it was bringing up horrible memories of my parents divorce, because actually yes it is, and attempting to stop a scar from bursting open is one of the worst parts of all of this.

I am struggling with realising that I don’t have these kind of supportive people around me. One of my friends is recently engaged, and observing the closeness of the relationship between her and her bridesmaids fills me with envy and sadness. My stepsister and I have a big age gap, and we’ve never lived in the same city, so it’s only in the last couple of years since she had her baby that we’ve got to know each other a bit. Even so, we don’t have the kind of relationship where I could ring her to talk things through, any anyway I don’t think she knows about it. Mum’s not told her and I doubt her dad has. My dad’s out of the question. He stopped acknowledging that I have a mother when they divorced 15 years ago and tends to communicate via email. I have a lovely boyfriend who is tries to listen when I want to talk, but he’s never had to deal with divorce. It’s not something that happens in his culture and community, so it’s alien to him. He’s not really a talk-about-your-feelings type. I don’t think he knows what to ask, and is worried about upsetting me so he doesn’t bring it up.

The really strange thing about all of this is that ultimately, my mum’s bad news has triggered the realisation of loneliness. It feels like I’m dealing with supporting my mum and coming to terms with the uncertainty about my family better than the whole ‘friends’ bit. I found myself crying at lunch time today reading this BBC article about being a child of divorce – partly because of the topic, but more because it explained so many of my feelings. All I wanted to do was share it with someone but I didn’t know who.

And so, I suppose this is why I turn to the AOW readers. I hope you don’t mind me staying anonymous. I sort of feel like I have to, having been quite frank about my family, but also because ultimately admitting that you are lonely is a bit embarrassing. I really hope that some of you will have words of wisdom – about how to overcome the loneliness or how to support a parent through divorce (because I am struggling to find anything on the net about how to support your parent through a divorce. It’s a little bit like when you become an adult you should magically know how to deal with it. More so if it’s the second divorce you’ve gone through). Even if you don’t though, I really hope that just getting this off my chest and sharing my problem will halve it.

Categories: Behind Closed Doors, Family, Friends and Relationships
12 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted October 7, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Oh this is a horrible situation to find yourself in. I have no advice, I found supporting one of my friends through the divorce of her parents frustrating because they seemed to forget she was their child and therefore had her own stuff to deal with as well as helping them pick up the pieces. So I just hope you don’t get so stuck in the middle if this does pan out the way you fear. You have relationships with both of them and those are yours and important and … I don’t know. It is hard and it is rubbish that you have to be in this position.

    As for the loneliness, I’ve been lonely a couple of times like this. When my friend from school died I called someone I thought was my friend and he told me off for calling as it “was not important” but weirdly his girlfriend, who I knew less, found out and invited me round. When my dad had his most recent heart attack people I thought were close were rubbish, but I was genuinely surprised by the support I got from “less close” friends. So it may be you have people. Some people, for better or worse, run away from things like this because they scare them. They worry supporting you through it will make them have to explore the idea it could happen to them. Or they want to make it better and smooth it over. But sometimes life is messy and shit things happen, even to lovely people. I hope you find the support you need, and in the meantime I reckon all the AOWettes are primed with hugs for you. Xx

  2. RJ
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I can relate to this all too much. My parents divorced when I was young and my mum went through a second divorce a few years ago; both divorces were messy – I don’t remember by parents divorce itself but the tension/animosity between them throughout my childhood was awful. With the second divorce there was a lot of ‘he said this, she said that’ nonsense going on; I don’t think my mum would even realise that she was looking to me for support in the second divorce but she would frequently call when she was really upset and ask me to try to unpick whatever the latest drama was.

    Like you I don’t have a huge group of really really close friends, definitely I have a few brilliant people around me and a wonderful man at my side but I’m not used to wanting to or needing to lean on other people. As Siobhan said above, sometimes support comes from unexpected people – when things have got tough for me (repeatedly in the last 3 years), I’ve found sometimes people you wouldn’t think of as especially close friends can come through with that bottle of wine – take support where you find it and don’t discount any offers of support you find.

    My other suggestion (because you mention an old scar relating to your parents divorce) is counselling – when my mum’s second divorce was at it’s messiest I’d just finished several months of counselling to help me deal with a bunch of family-related things that were making me unhappy; having someone to talk things through with/offload onto helped enormously. If you have family members with mental health issues (something else I have experience of), setting boundaries and finding a way to offer support without being overwhelmed can be really tough and counselling helped me set some boundaries when my mum tried to draw me into her issues more than I could deal with.

    I’m off to read that BBC article now – thank you for sharing – and good luck finding a way through this. X

  3. CC
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    So sorry you are feeling like this. I have been through a parental divorce and my mother in particular often complained about my father to me, making me feel like the worst sort of diplomat. I have a really difficult relationship with her and can often only communicate with her via text as she is incredibly needy emotionally and her mental health is not the best. That probably sounds cold but actually, being able to say that out loud comes as a result of some fairly life changing counselling I had a couple of years ago where I finally realised – I am not responsible for my mother’s happiness and I think I can safely say that you are not responsible for your mother’s happiness either. She has got to take responsibility for her own relationships and feelings and whilst she can look to you for support you can’t do it for her. It isn’t your fault.

    On the loneliness front – have you tried just asking your friends for what you need? Ringing them and telling them exactly how you are feeling and what you need them to do? If you don’t say then you can’t always expect people to work it out – especially if they have not had that experience themselves. I am sure they would he horrified to know that you feel so alone. Not wanting to burden people is one thing, but I am sure your sister would be more understanding than you might think. Don’t bottle it up, people might surprise you. You only get close friends by sharing your thoughts and feelings with them – one doesn’t come before the other.

    Finally, please go and see a counsellor – so much of what you say rings so true to me – difficult (and I say that as gently as I possibly can – I know she is still your Mum) mother daughter relationships can be so damaging. Go and see someone neutral, someone who has no axe to grind, and talk about all the things you feel you can’t tell anyone and see what they say, see how you feel afterwards. It may not even need many sessions (I only had 4) but I can almost guarantee you will feel a million times better afterwards. Good luck x

  4. Fiona
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Gosh I wish I could give you the hug you so badly need right now.

    I have no real advice – being lonely is horrendous and it’s so hard to get out of. Perhaps give one of those four friends a second chance at reacting the right way – let them know what you need – how you need someone to cry to, someone to give you a cup of tea and a hug – maybe they’ll get it right this time?


  5. Posted October 7, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    First of all I want to send you a huge hug. Second of all please don’t feel embarrassed by admitting to feeling lonely – it isn’t a weakness in the slightest. It’s human nature to want and need people around you to support you through the hard times and celebrate with you in the good times. I completely empathise with feeling lonely having just moved to a new area. There are times where all I want to do is phone someone to meet me for a restorative coffee, and then my heart sinks a little when I remember there is nobody to call who can be with me in no time at all to put the world to rights. It sucks. Making friends when you are an adult is hard, but it’s something that even those who are most comfortable in their own skin need.

    If you feel strong enough perhaps you can reach out to one of your friends again? If you feel that talking face to face is too hard could you email them? I know it’s not as personal, but you will get to get all of your thoughts and feelings out. That way, you know that you have shared exactly how you feel and you are giving them the chance to step up to the plate. And I really, really hope that they come through for you. I know this sounds awful, but maybe they think because your step dad isn’t your ‘real’ Dad you might not be so affected by it? There’s also a real misconception about how divorce can affect adult children and I think some people don’t understand the importance of just ‘being’ there for someone even if they don’t have the words or power to make it better.

    As RJ says you might really benefit from a course of counselling. You need a place and a space where you feel safe to work through all the feelings you have – about the divorce(s) and your mum’s mental health issues.


  6. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    big massive virtual hugs

    as a child of four parental divorces (yes,you read that right!), I think I’m pretty well versed in the situation. If you ever want to talk,email me a

    I agree on the counselling thing too, they’re a fantastic resource for times like this.

    chin up sweetpea xxxx

  7. Anonymous
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I think I know a little bit about how you’re feeling. My mother’s recent breast cancer diagnosis left me feeling very lonely as friends I thought of as close left me feeling marooned.

    Like someone said, give them the benefit of the doubt. i gave one of my ‘best’ friends a good ticking off and after several arguments she realised she needed to be there for me. Likewise, my bf was left bewildered and unsure of how to support me and was too scared to bring up the topic, until we had a good chat and cry and i told him what i needed.

    Don’t be shy to tell those you love how you need to be supported.

  8. Amanda M
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Loneliness is horribly – it’s so isolating. That sounds bleedin’ obvious but I think anyone who has experienced it knows the hole it creates inside you which is more profound than the glibness of the work really conveys. As others have said, I think that sometimes you have to reach out and spell it out to friends – some are socially awkward with emotion and need you to tell them what support you’re looking for. I do hope you find it. And be kind to yourself, don’t use up all your emotional energy on your mum – you need some TLC too.

  9. Lexie
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Oh man, what a crappy thing to have to go through. I don’t have any advice to add really, just that there seems to have been lots of wise words already said in these comments. I hope you find the support you need. Take care. X

  10. Anonymous
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Let me first say I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. It sucks to be in pain and not feel like you have anyone to lean on. I’d like to echo the other poster(s) who suggested telling your friends exactly what you need. Its uncomfortable, yes, but you can’t blame them for not reading your mind and knowing what you need. I think maybe you feeling like you can’t open up to them is part of why you’re feeling abandoned. I’m sorry if this reads as judgmental, only your needs and reactions to your friends seeming lack of response is so similar to the way I feel things and I know from experience that asking flat out for what I need makes me feel better than resenting them not giving it to me.

    I’d also like to second the suggestion you consider counseling. When we are at points in our lives where we feel alone, nine times out of ten we aren’t alone at all, we’re in crisis. Talking through your feelings with someone, which again is understandably uncomfortable, truly does help. You’d be surprised at the relief of simply saying out loud to someone, the things you’ve thought for so long but never had the chance/courage to say. Having someone on your side, who only wants to help you feel better and to help make life easier to bear, is priceless. Therapy saved my life and I can never say enough how integral I think it is for anyone who is feeling lost and lonely.

    Good luck!

  11. Anonymous
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I only really want to echo what others above have already said. I’ve had councelling for the same reasons and that was the difference between coping and sinking. The professional knows all the questions to ask to make your brain five itself the right answers.

    Here’s another virtual hug coming atcha!! If it helps, I met the girl who will be my maid of honour only recently and way after school and uni combined. And the girl I was friends with at uni, who I thought would be that, isn’t even invited because we’ve not spoken in five years. My point is: things change. Your best friend might be just around the corner, your other friends may pull through… speaking to a councillor in the meantime may help you ask for what you need better or help find that friend you may not know is waiting. The fact you wrote this shows you’re strong enough to face this, so don’t give up. You’re so close!

  12. Hannah
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I am so so sorry to hear what you’re going through. Loneliness is one of the most horrendous feelings in the world. As is feeling so helpless and powerless seeing your parents go through something terrible.

    I’ve experienced both my parent’s divorce and then a subsequent divorce and lost a parent figure of over 10 years so if you ever need to talk, rant or just let off steam then please email me – .

    You are most definitely not alone, even though it may feel like that now.

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