Unwanted. Abandoned. Alone.
Of the many emotions in the singleness spectrum, mine is a combination of these three. My story is best relayed with grace — I don’t tell it to dwell on the catalyst that left me suddenly single after over a decade of marriage, but I tell it to share how joy has brought in healing, even when the pain felt impossible to overcome. I imagine there are a fair number of us who have heard words such as, “I don’t pick you anymore. I’ve chosen someone else now.” This can be heart-wrenching in dating, but in marriage it does a whole new number on the heart of the faithful spouse.
In this same way, I’ve spent the last year and a half overcoming a love lost, mourning my ex-husband’s infidelity and abandonment. While much healing did slowly come, I soon found myself slipping back into brokenness. This brokenness stemmed from a very real and raw reality that many of us face — loneliness.
Singleness often means empty rooms and empty halls. Often, there’s nothing but silence. People who have never experienced the ache of loneliness might not realize that “pizza for one” doesn’t simply mean more for you, or that ice skating on your own isn’t just a chance to make new friends.
There is a crushing sadness to loneliness. It sweeps in and grabs hold of you and pins you down, whispering in your ear that you are worthless and unseen. It’s a depth of sorrow that’s hard to describe, but for those who’ve been there, you understand. For me, sadness took the upper hand and depression crept in. Sorrow held me in its icy grip for months until God shattered through the darkness.
While I can’t wish singleness away, God is showing me ways to find joy even now — ways that combat grief, honor God, and bring sweet relief to loneliness. Here are three I’ve discovered:
1. Add some cheer.
Oh, the power of a cheerful living space. I’ve worked hard to spruce up my home with scented candles and cozy lighting. I have a stack of books by a wingback chair and a jar of flowers on an old table. Opening a window brings in sunlight and lets in birdsong. There’s nothing like dusting off the gloom by feathering your nest. The process is good for body and soul.
In particular, start with your bedroom. It’s often where we find ourselves most alone. If you’re like me and the budget is tight, get creative! I’ve recently draped my bed with an old quilt that has a fun, gypsy vibe, and thanks to a clearance find, I strung some twinkle lights along the wall. Now my bedroom is lit up like a folk concert, and I love it. Plus, using a staple gun for the first time made me feel empowered.
2. Swap some old for some new.
If romantic comedies make you nauseated or your favorite ’80s ballads only emphasize the void in your love life, cut yourself a break. If Instagram deflates you because everyone else’s life looks awesome, tuck the app aside and ignore it for a few days or even several weeks. Set some of your once-favorite things on the shelf and crank up something new. I’ve come to enjoy long walks, worship albums and journaling. Find what works for you. Find what brings a breath of fresh air. You just might discover some new passions along the way.
3. Widen your gaze.
This is a big one for singles, and really, all human beings. Our normal pattern is to zoom in on our own disappointments and desires, letting our focus shrink until we’ve lost perspective, and at times, even our joy. If you’ve found yourself here, it’s the perfect time to lift your gaze and see what’s around you: a huge world filled with people — often hurting just like you. If you struggle with mentally rehashing how unhappy you are, try setting that aside and expand your view.
For me, it started with taking home a kitty from a glass cage in a pet shop. She’s now curled up on my gypsy quilt. That same week, I invited my elderly and widowed neighbor over for dinner. I confess, I never really thought of her loneliness when I was blissfully in love. Now, God has opened my eyes to this pain in others (James 1:27). My neighbor and I had a wonderful time over turkey soup, and a few weeks later, we watched an old movie while sipping tea. It was good medicine all around. Yesterday she dropped off a little gift to say thank-you, and boy, did it bring me cheer. This process has shown me to look beyond myself. By doing that, we often find a slice of happiness that can’t be acquired any other way — not by force, not by meltdowns, and certainly not by raising a fist at God (Romans 8:6).
Wherever you are on the path of singleness, let’s remember it’s a process and a journey. And God uses it to refine us. The more light we let in, the more joyous the time will be. If you have love to give, don’t let it break you from the inside out — pour it out on God’s people, and He will use it for His glory.
Joanne Bischof is an award-winning novelist living in the mountains of California, where she currently writes old-fashioned love stories for HarperCollins Christian. Read more about her at joannebischof.com.