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How to Deal with Loneliness after Divorce or a Break-Up

Article | March 2019

How to Deal with Loneliness after Divorce or a Break-Up

Loneliness after a divorce or break-up can be common and even expected. You were sharing a life with your spouse or partner, maybe raising kids, and likely making plans for a future together. Divorce and break-ups stir up strong emotions, many of which can lead to feelings of loneliness.

What are the causes and what can you do to help manage feelings of being lonely after a divorce?

What causes you to feel lonely after a divorce or break-up?

When a relationship ends, there are a number of factors that can contribute to post-break-up loneliness:

  • Grief, sadness, and anger: Divorce and relationship break-ups can start you on an emotional rollercoaster. Emotions like grief, sadness, and even anger can be common. Emotions like these may cause you to pull away from others and isolate yourself, which can eventually lead to feelings of loneliness.
  • Separation from family and friends: When divorce and break-ups happen, it’s not uncommon to become separated from groups of friends and extended family, especially those closest to your ex. These people were an important part of your shared life and could very well be completely gone from your new life. And let’s not forget about pets. Many divorces and breakups also mean a beloved family pet is going with one partner and not the other. If you were closely tied to a pet that is no longer around, this missing "loved one" can also leave you feeling alone.
  • Child custody: When children are involved in a divorce, there are often custody issues to deal with. If you share custody with an ex, there could be times you suddenly find yourself alone without kids around to distract you. This, too, can contribute to feelings of loneliness after divorce.
  • Holiday blues: Many couples and families have regular holiday traditions, often shared with family and friends. Divorce and break-ups can change all that. When those holidays come back around, they may bring with them post-relationship loneliness.

What are some ways to deal with loneliness after a relationship ends?

Consider these tips:

  • Accept your feelings of post-relationship loneliness: You’ve suddenly lost someone important in your life. They are physically gone, as well as emotionally. You may feel disconnected and alienated from others, as well. While you grieve and heal your split, you may experience periods of loneliness that can be a common part of the process in moving forward.
  • Avoid a rebound relationship: Don’t let loneliness after your break-up or divorce push you to dive into another relationship too quickly. If you’re using a rebound relationship to avoid loneliness or the emotions of a break-up, you may want to reconsider. Instead, try spending some healing time with yourself before embarking again on the dating path.
  • Join a support group for divorced people: You’re not alone. Therapy groups offer an opportunity to get help, understanding, and insight from others who are going through a similar experience. Loneliness after divorce is quite common and chances are good you will discover others in your situation who are willing to talk, listen, and offer advice.
  • Start a new routine: Losing a relationship can also mean your way of life has drastically changed. If you lived with your spouse or partner, it’s likely you had a regular everyday routine. The longer the relationship or marriage, the more ingrained that day-to-day routine likely became. A split can suddenly upend all of that, leaving you feeling disoriented and directionless. Things like meal times, sleep schedules, and even exercise regimens can fall by the wayside, impacting your health and wellness. If you exercised regularly, then get back to it. Exercise alone can help boost endorphins, which can make you feel happier.1 So, try planning out a new routine for yourself. See if it can help offset some of the factors contributing to any post-break-up loneliness you may be feeling.
  • Get involved: Whether it’s volunteering or joining a club, getting engaged with other people can boost your brain’s endorphins2 and help make you a happier person. Look for volunteer options or clubs of likeminded people. Be open to building lasting friendships and a new support network.
  • Be good to yourself: Find special things that delight just you. Try to carve out a few enjoyable moments every day. Maybe you’d enjoy a walk or hike, a bubble bath, some yoga, reading a good book, or listening to your favorite music. Whatever it is that brings you immediate enjoyment, spend the time doing it. Building good habits like this can help you fight feeling lonely when your relationship ends.

How long do feelings of loneliness after a break-up or divorce last?

How long feelings of loneliness last after a divorce or break-up depends on the factors you may be dealing with. Feelings of social isolation and disengagement from others may not be constant—they may be driven by a particular situation or may come and go. For example, a holiday that rolls back around may bring with it a period of loneliness that fades after the holiday.

For most people, loneliness that occurs after a divorce or break-up is temporary and part of the grieving and healing process. If loneliness goes on and on and seems never-ending, it may be time to talk to your doctor, a therapist, or another health care provider about chronic loneliness. They can help.

Woman sitting alone, looking out a window

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Always consult your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Any third party content is the responsibility of such third party. Cigna does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any third party content and is not responsible for such content. Your access to and use of this content is at your sole risk.

Sources:

What You Should Know About the Stages of Grief, Healthline, September 25, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/stages-of-grief

What to Do About Deep Loneliness Post-Divorce, Psychology Today, June 15, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemplating-divorce/201706/what-do-about-deep-loneliness-post-divorce

1 Exercise and Depression, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1, accessed March 19, 2019.

2 Endorphins: Effects and how to increase levels, Medical News Today, February 6, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320839.php