Loneliness is a part of being human, but it takes a greater toll on us survivors of abuse. We feel more isolated and dejected than your average person.
A break up for us might mean complicated grief or a rise in feelings of abandonment. The death of someone close seems like proof for the belief saying “we deserve to be punished.” Even our conscious decisions to leave those who hurt us brings unique grief. The feeling that we’re destined to always end up in unhealthy relationships.
Being a survivor of abuse is tough enough…so when we add loneliness into the mix, it can create an overwhelming cocktail of emotions. Even more so when that loneliness hits after you leave an abuser.
This is why I wrote this blog. Because you deserve a life you love, not one filled with pain. I’m here to do anything I can do to help you lift the burden of grief.
Why loneliness is so difficult for us survivors of abuse
Us survivors are far more likely to feel like an outsider after leaving someone (or having them leave us).
No longer are you just a girl or a boy or a non-binary person making their way through this tricky world. You’re a human who, after trauma, feels like you’re also carrying a huge amount of baggage.
And I bet you’ve thought, “Who would ever want someone with that?”
Sometimes our abusers directly told us they’d be the only person to ever love us. This was a total lie, but their words were convincing.
So, our loneliness is not just sadness in being alone. That’s the kind your average non-survivor-of-abuse faces. For us, it’s repeatedly thinking, “I’m broken, who would want me?” on top of that sadness.
(Important note: You are wanted and loved and there is a place for you in this world!)
It also feels unfair that our abusers get to keep their friends and status while we’re the ones rejected by society. Us survivors are seen as trouble makers. We’re seen as the ones who tear apart families and friend groups.
Thanks a bunch, victim blaming.
In truth, it was our abuser who was problematic. But very few people will acknowledge that. So we also have to live with the burden of being blamed for “wreaking havoc,” on top of losing some of our close relationships.
Finally, you also have to give up the feeling of protection and comfort you had around your abuser. Even if their affection came with pain, they still provided a connection that was meaningful to you.
It’s natural to grieve after leaving any relationship. It’s just more complicated when the person you miss was also someone who traumatized you.
The self-hatred loneliness brings
It’s unbelievably common for us survivors to feel self-hating when we miss our abusers. Why would we ever want to return to someone who hurt us so badly? What’s wrong with us??
If you’ve thought this, take a breath. It’s okay. Longing for your abuser makes a lot of sense. They were a significant part of your life for months or years or even decades, and now they’re gone.
Think about this: If you lose a simple item, like your favorite shirt, there’s a sense of loss you feel with that. And that’s just a piece of fabric, not a whole living human being that you shared your body, mind, and soul with!
It’s natural to grieve anyone, even an abuser. So, when you feel lonely and you cope with that loneliness by privately longing to be back in their arms—that’s okay. This is a part of healing and there is no need to feel ashamed of this.
How to find your place of belonging in this world
A quick google search will pull up a bajillion results on healing loneliness, but here are what I’ve found the most effective for us survivors.
Accept grief, longing, and anger: You need to acknowledge all the feelings you have (including the complicated and confusing ones about your abuser). Then you need to choose to unconditionally love yourself through those emotions.
(Check out this blog to dive deeper into this! It’ll show you how to compassionately accept every feeling you have, even the painful ones.)
Rebuild new connections: This can be a tough ask when you feel like a burden to other people, but it’s so important. You need to get out there and start connecting, or reconnecting, with others. The best way to resolve loneliness is by filling your life with other joyous relationships.
Find comforting touch: Interacting physically with another human or animal can make a world of difference, biochemically speaking. Our body is a powerful influencer of emotion, so work with it like a teammate!
Invite a friend over for a cuddle session, take a nap with a pet, walk downtown and say hi to some dogs, or get a long hug from someone. All you need to do is say “Hey, I’m going through some tough stuff right now…could I have a hug?” You’d be surprised how many people, even just friendly acquaintances, will say yes.
Loneliness takes time to overcome, but it’s not a hopeless journey
You’ll have days where you feel comfortable, even happy, and others where it’s hard to force a smile. Don’t expect to have this all solved in one night.
Healing is a journey, but it’s worth every step. Four years ago, when I left my abusers, I was a mess. I lost almost all my friends to victim blaming, and the others I had were too busy wrapping up their college degrees to hang out.
I spent almost every day alone in my apartment.
But then I connected with old friends and met likeminded entrepreneurs where I had stimulating conversations. I forced myself to go to events and even decided to lead a recovery group.
Fast forward to two years after I left these abusers, I started dating the love of my life. Now we’re living together and I definitely plan on marrying her (Shhh, don’t tell!).
(Just kidding, it’s not really a secret.)
Your path will follow its own winding road, but you’ll surely find loving connections along the way. There are people who will bring you joy and show you what it’s like to be loved.
You just need to stick with it. Trust in your healing journey.
Now go ahead and write down, right below in the comments, two things you’ll do this week to reduce loneliness!