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“At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one's lost self.” Brendan Francis (Photography by Jeff Watkins)

“At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one’s lost self.” Brendan Francis (Photography by Jeff Watkins)

At a friend’s funeral last Monday, I sat very still while they played Rascal Flatt’s song, Moving On. I wondered how many hundreds of times over the past few years I’d listened to the lyrics that said home would end up where I don’t belong.

The song was one of a number of things/people that saved my life. It helped me let go. It helped me move on.

I wish it had done the same for my friend.

The minister tried to explain why it didn’t. He said several times during her service, “She couldn’t find her way back.”

I understood. I’ve had difficulty finding my way back also. Probably we all have at one time or another. 

During our lost times, counselors, recovery programs, books on depression, and concerned friends will warn us not to isolate. While I was detaching from everyone including my husband and adult children, I wondered if I was justifying an unhealthy habit or taking care of myself. Being with people scared me, especially during my deepest depression. I didn’t think I could handle any more hurt. Since people are sometimes hurtful, isolation made sense. It even seemed necessary.

I spent a lot of time alone, all the while, wondering how I’d heal in solitude. How do you find your way back when you’re by yourself? For that matter, where is “back” when you’re all alone?

Although I’m not recommending anyone isolate during depression, this is how it worked for me. I figured out that being alone doesn’t kill you. I realized that friends and family are valuable and I want them in my life, but I don’t need them. I need God. However, before I awakened to this, I hurt a lot. I cried a lot. I felt afraid a lot. I was lonely a lot.

In the end, though, I didn’t die. 

In fact, I found my way back, not to people at first, although that did eventually happen, but to God and to myself.

I held tight to a few things that helped with hope.

  • I thought often about what a friend used to say, “We each have to find our own lonely way.” She didn’t mean friends aren’t important, but in the end, the journey of life is ours to walk. Alone.
  • I thought often about what a counselor asked, “Do you feel like you’re dying? You’re really being born.” I mention this again and again because it gave me hope that the pain I felt wasn’t about a dead-end life, but a new beginning.
  • I thought often about there being a good chance my aloneness was part of a bigger plan since I unwisely placed people in the spot meant for God. I hoped good would come from all the heartache, and it has. God is now center stage, at least most of the time.
  • I thought often, “This will pass,” although I began to wonder when the years mounted to eight, but eight years is what it took because I was afraid to let go. Yours doesn’t have to take so long.
  • I thought often about what I believe, “Everything happens for a reason and I’m right where I’m supposed to be.” Out of my pain sprung this blog in an attempt to walk alongside you, all the while finding my own lonely way.

What have you learned from aloneness? What’s helped when you’re trying to find your way back?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – We’re created with a need to belong; yet that’s often the part of life we struggle with the most … trying to fit in. Learning to belong while walking “our own lonely way” was worth eight years and more.

On the side: This post was written in memory of my friend who finally found her way back.  I love you.

Click here for more photography by Jeff Watkins.

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