This month I had the privilege of meeting a close online friend in person. I use the term online friend to clarify simply how we met each other.

My online friends have become a lifeline to me and are no less important than "real" life relationships. In truth, my "real" life involves a great deal of online relationships and transactions and I generally don't distinguish the two, except for clarification.

Kika and I met here at FIMBY. Kika has been reading FIMBY for maybe five years now. Through years of commenting, and then e-mailing, I got to know Kika as more than a blog reader. Kika has become a very close friend.

Last winter I e-mailed Kika asking her if we could talk on the phone sometime. Up until that point we were just e-mail friends but I really needed to talk to someone in person. Someone who understood me (in English!) and shared my values; a kindred spirit.

Kika makes time for friendships, something I'm not always so good at cultivating. When I said "I need a friend to talk to" she made herself available to me.

I remember that I cried on that first call. It was a relief to share deeply with a friend and to feel safe doing so. I had shared so much with Kika over the years through my blog and e-mail, and her likewise, that when we first started talking in person there was very little fluff.

Since that first call, which was initiated out of certain desperation on my part, our friendship has deepened and my life has been enriched by knowing Kika.

Kika and her husband have a connection with Quebec, having met at Laval University in Quebec City 20 years ago. They returned this summer for a romantic getaway and they took the time to drive out to the peninsula to visit us (and to play many games of chess with Laurent).

Kika in person is exactly like the Kika I've gotten to know over the years via the internet. I feel so at ease with her and we spent most of our time together buried in conversation about kids, health, marriage, personal growth, our dreams and our setbacks. Kika is committed to her family and committed to personal growth. She inspires me in many areas.

Reaching out to Kika last winter was a proactive measure against the loneliness I was feeling at the time.

Loneliness is a reality for many people. Not simply "once in a while I feel lonely", but an ache we carry in our heart when we don't fit in and feel we don't belong.

For me, our move to a different culture and a more rural way of living stirred up a level of loneliness and isolation I hadn't experienced before.

But even before that, loneliness had been a companion for a few years.

I wrote a post four years ago, Looking for Mommies Like Me, in which I expressed a bit of this loneliness. My path has never been the mainstream and the longer we walk our own journey the less travelers there are by our side. In that post I expressed my desire to find female companionship in the journey.

The responses on that post were very thought provoking for me and heart stirring also. Many of you (people who may not be reading this blog anymore) shared insight and advice that I actually took to heart.

The actions that came out of that advice have helped me move through those acutely lonely parts of the last few years and into deeper connection and friendship.

How I've become less lonely in the past couple years

I tread lightly in this territory of sharing what I've learned about loneliness. I despise simplistic solutions to complex conditions of the heart.

I didn't title this post 4 Steps to Overcome Loneliness. I am certain to struggle with loneliness again. I don't think I've overcome it more than understood its causes, for me, and figured out how to address those at this stage in my life.

So, I'm not suggesting these are answers for everyone but they are things I've identified in my own life that have helped me feel less lonely and isolated - even though I live in a somewhat isolating situation, which I explain more further in this post.

I stopped judging so much

We might as well start with the biggie.

Judging has served me well. (I know I just said I stopped doing it so much, hang in there just a moment while I explain.)

In choosing the life I want to live - as a young mother and now as a late thirties something mom with teen and nearly teen children - I've had to filter out a lot of what I don't want in my life. Judging - I want this thing, not the other thing - has helped me do that.

From the time I was quite young, I was very clear on the kind of home life and relationships I wanted with my family. Those goals guided my decision making through my early adult years - choosing a spouse, choosing to be a homemaker and stay at home mom, choosing certain parenting styles instead of others, etc.

Most of my decisions have not been supported by the culture at large. Early marriage and motherhood - by choice. No career - by choice. Investing completely in family life during my kid's youngest years - by choice. Fairly traditional marriage roles - by choice.

Depending on where you live and what culture you find yourself in, these put you either in or out of mainstream thinking. I have been decidedly out for the majority of my adult years.

This next part embarrasses me to say.

While living on the outside of the mainstream, I fell into a pattern of judging other people's decisions to feel better about my own. Why I needed to feel better about my own, I don't know. I guess I knew what I wanted in life but that didn't automatically give me a lot of confidence in the execution.

Sometimes when we feel different we want to bolster ourselves at the expense of others. I think it goes without saying this is not a soul-healthy practice.

When I was a new mom and a mom of young children I sought affirmation in the belief that I was "doing things the right way". I wanted so badly to get this right and I was making the best decisions I knew to make. (I now realize most of us act from the exact same motivation and come to different conclusions and actions.) I sought approval by seeking friends who were like me and lived similarly. And took it a step further by judging those who were different.

I don't remember when I turned the corner on this, but I did. (You can all breathe a sigh of relief now.)

I think I reached a certain stage in my parenting where I felt good enough "here" that I didn't need to judge "out there". I reached a point where my affirmation as a mother comes from my actual relationship with my children, and not making "all the right" parenting choices. What are the right choices anyway?

I judge other women less harshly now. Really, I have absolutely no need to judge their choices to make myself feel better. I have the relationships I want with my family and that's all I need.

And as I struggle through transitions as my children grow and separate from me (it's called the young adult years), I feel more compassion for other mothers, regardless of their parenting styles or lifestyle decisions. Mothering is incredibly hard work and I have no right to judge. I have no need to judge.

In letting go of this, or growing out of this, or whatever has transpired in the past few years, I've opened myself up to so many more relationships with other women.

It's a good thing this happened when it did because I'd be really lonely for friendship here if this hadn't transpired in my life. There are very few moms "like me" where I live. Most everyone has a career or nearly full time job, none of them homeschool, daycare is not just the norm, it's expected (and it's virtually free so even stay-at-home parents use it).

And you know what? These women, who are not like me, are fascinating, beautiful and wonderful. They inspire me in many ways. They are active and engaged in their community. And I want to be their friend. I share many things in common with them in spite of different family lifestyles.

you've seen this artwork a couple times already on my blog
Kika's daughter painted it for her mom, a little gift to carry with her on her trip

I want to return to one thought before moving on. Judging has served me well when I judged what was right for me and lived according to that conviction. When I built boundaries and barriers in my life to honor those decisions and to create the environment I wanted for my family.

Judging has not served me well when I applied what was right for me, and my conviction for living well, to other people. When I built boundaries and barriers in my life that barricaded me in and kept people out. That was a breeding ground for loneliness.

I started appreciating people for who they are (different from me)

As much as I've let go of judging women and opened myself to many more relationships that way, I still need to connect with a core group of women who really understand, know and love me.

Some people refer to this as their tribe. (I've never liked that word, it sounds too much like internet marketing to me.)

I need to connect with women who share my faith. Women who understand my heart for my family. Women who know what it's like to be committed for life to one man. Women who are homeschooling teens. Women who write. Women who work from home, as partners with their husbands. Women who know what it's like to be active outdoors.

My struggle in the past was thinking one woman had to be all this! This was especially pointed out to me in the comments of Looking for Mommies Like Me.

I know that finding someone with the exact family and personality alchemy as myself is impossible. And knowing me, we probably would rub each other the wrong way, too many edges. But I have thought it would be so nice for someone to understand me on all these levels.

That's kind of selfish, eh? In seeking out someone to understand me I forget that relationship involves understanding the other. When we focus too much on our own needs to be understood we lose sight of the mutuality of friendship. It's not all about me!

People are so interesting (and irksome sometimes), and if I shared everything in common with all my friends I would miss out on all we have to offer each other in our differences. I would miss out on the new understandings we each gain when we step outside ourself for a time to put ourself in someone else's situation.

I reached out

To fight loneliness I had to reach out to the women around me, those online and in person.

I feel like it doesn't matter what your situation is, you can reach out somewhere to build relationships.

I live in the woods, I don't have a phone, I'm a homebody, we homeschool and there are no homeschoolers in our immediate area (read: no co-ops, no groups, no support), I'm an English speaker in a francophone community, I'm not part of a church...

You've got excuses out the wazoo for not reaching out? Me too.

When we lived in Maine, contact with homeschooling moms (my usual crowd) came easy. I could see friends as little or as often as I liked. Some of these friendships have been difficult to maintain in our move because the friendships were formed around, and relied upon, our proximity to each other.

I had developed friendships around playdates and homeschool meet-ups with likeminded mamas. I lost all this "ease of connection" in our move. And last winter I remember having the conscious awareness that I was going to have work at making connections in my new life.

I started by asking Kika if I could phone her. We never knew each other in real life, our relationship didn't rely on proximity. Connecting with her in audio felt like a deeper connection, not a poor substitute for a face-to-face meeting (which we had never experienced).

Then I sought Skype connections with other online friends. This winter I made an effort to reconnect with a group of Maine girlfriends, all homeschooling moms with teens. We supported each other throughout the winter and spring with morning e-mails and prayer.

I reached out locally. Facebook, the health food store, and even our dead end country road have all brought friends my way. I make the effort to spend time talking to people when I meet them in my community, and this is not always easy because of my language insecurities.

I have to work hard to get over my insecurities about not speaking French well and reach out in the language I know, which is English. I really respect that Quebec wants to maintain the French language and I feel I contribute to anglicizing the province and I struggle with that.

I have had to work through my insecurities about not fitting in (the whole French culture thing), deal with technology glitches (which I don't like and make me frustrated), make time in my week for Skype conversations (time I often think should be spent doing something productive), and keep in touch with e-mail (when sometimes the last thing I want to do is open my inbox) - all in an effort to move myself past the loneliness.

We all have circumstances that isolate us in someway. Our physical location, our beliefs and values, our lifestyle. And we all need varying amount of interaction with people to fill our well.

As an extrovert, in the woods, in my non-native culture, I have to make a concerted effort to reach out and make connections. My mental and spiritual health depends on having those connections and conversations with people.

I became more comfortable with myself

Part of reaching out to a variety of people in different situations, instead of seeking out a bunch of friends just like me, is being comfortable in who I am and my way of looking at the world.

When you feel ok in who you are, you realize you don't need to see eye-to-eye on everything with everyone you know or all your friends. And this allows you cultivate more relationships and feel less lonely.

Being comfortable with who I am involves both self-confidence and compassion.

I've always been a fairly confident person, but sometimes in the past that confidence was falsely rooted in comparison to other people's decision. In which case, the confidence is actually pride and not a very good basis for friendship. Pride isolates and causes loneliness.

I think healthy confidence comes from recognizing and operating in your strengths and gifts. And I've been on mission in the past couple years to identify those.

It's been up and down for me in this regard. A two step forward and one step back kind of dance. I will identify a gift or strength but then so easily look around to see how those things compare with other people's gifts and strengths.

Enter compassion. Compassion is the necessary partner to any kind of confidence. In fact you won't grow healthy confidence without a serious dose of compassion for your weaknesses and failings.

Personal growth, spiritual journeys, faith, and learning of all types (so that's life right there) involve vulnerability, failures, trial and error. You can't grow, becoming the person you are meant to be, without practicing self-compassion.

Recognizing our strengths and living those feels so empowering and "on top of my game". (I LOVE it when I'm in that place!). But loving myself in my failing, weakness and soft spots is how I learn to be really comfortable in myself, all of myself.

This yin and yang of self-ease - confidence in strengths and compassion for weakness - keeps me humble, which is much more conducive to connection and relationship than having it all together, all the time.

Positive relationship with others grows out of the fertile soil of positive relationship with self. And positive relationship with self is being comfortable with who I am. At ease with my dreams and goals for my life (so what if all your friends are growing gardens and you're hiking!), my strengths and unique gifts, as well as my weaknesses and failures.

It seems the more comfortable I am in myself the more I am able to reach out in times of loneliness. Reaching out sometimes in strength, with something to offer, and sometimes in weakness, needing support. Both are healthy.

A funny thing about growing more comfortable in yourself. When you operate in your strengths, and experience the rush that comes from that - you love to see others do the same. It doesn't threaten you, it encourages you to keep going in your own growth. And practicing self compassion will make you more compassionate to other people.

The very traits you are growing in yourself so you can reach out across differences, and be comfortable instead of lonely, are the traits that will make you a good friend and connect you to people.

And this is true across the spectrum of human need and relationships. The traits you cultivate in relationship with yourself becomes a gift you offer in other relationships.

I don't have a tidy conclusion for this (ah, the freedom of blogging) except to say, I welcome your reflections and insights, in comments, from your own experience with loneliness.

Have you struggled with loneliness?

(This is a sensitive topic so of course we will keep comments kind.)

« Going to town
We'll figure it out when we get there »
  • Nadine Fletcher

    Nadine Fletcher on July 30, 2013, 3:32 p.m.


    It's been a long while since I have last commented on your site...not cause I did not want to...but because of the many excuses I had in my head. Not sure you would remember me but my daughter is attending university in Halifax and I had written to you about something....can't even remeber what for now. Thanks you for this beautiful post. I very much struggle with loneliness...and the more lonely I feel the more I tend to seclude myself away from others...at times my language barrier and lack of computer skills keeps me away from others. French was my mother tongue...and now I seem to be stuck in both world when it comes to writing...I neither write well in french or english and where is the spell checker on this computer excuse anyways?!?! ha ha ha... thoughts like these keep me even more secluded and lonely...and the cycle continues. I am glad you reached out. It gives hope for a loner like me to be able to make a real connection with real people. Since moving to Alberta 11 years ago...loneliness has plague me. Never did have that problem anywhere else I lived but boy do I have it bad here...Throw in that I feel I don't "fit" the norm here...am more concerned with feeding our family with organics, living a simple life...oh and the "clicks" they are hard to enter here...people want to be nice...seem like they are open but there is such a sense of "clickyness" here...I can't seem to brake that barrier..l...no fluffy stuff here...I get along with a divercity of people...but the people I am most attracted to are the down to earth, simple, granola types...SO thank you...for insipring me to reach out...to put my "baggage" at the back of my head and find someone to do life with...may be soon that will be in the cards for me too:)



    • renee

      renee on July 30, 2013, 3:53 p.m.

      Nadine, I am so happy you left a comment this morning. I do remember someone's daughter going to school in Halifax and bringing her out here... so that's you. 

      It's nice to connect with other people who know what it's like to leave a familiar culture to live in another, especially when that culturally change involves a language barrier also.

      I have huge hang-ups about communicating in french because I am unable to express myself with my limited understanding. And expressing myself well, in both speech and written word, is very important to me. I also don't want to just talk "fluff" - weather and where I work (which is hard to explain in French) but also stuff of my heart. So, I have to do that en Anglais, for now.

      I totally identify with the kind of people you identify with. Those are my people also (my tribe) and thankfully there are quite a few of those types around here, which is the level on which I relate well to many of my local friends. Shared community/earthy values. This is different than my Maine friends who were homeschooling, stay-at-home types with very similar faith & family values. Realizing that multiple friends can meet multiple needs for points of connection has been so helpful to me. 

      And I know about the cycle of loneliness - I'm not good enough, people will misunderstand me, it's too hard, we don't have enough in common - and other excuses which keeps us going round and round and sometimes spirally down. When what we need to do is step out of the cycle to move forward. 

      By the way, Kika lives in small-town Alberta and is similar to you in the values you stated, and she isn't cliquey at all. So there are peole where you live that are like you (smile). The gems are always hidden, which makes them so precious to find. 


  • Lane V.

    Lane V. on July 30, 2013, 3:49 p.m.

    Very nice job! As a extrovert I do feel lonely but I think that is because sometimes extroverts it is harder to make deeper connections with people. Therefore you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely or out of place. In this realization I have sought to make deeper connections and it has helped a bit.

    i also find looking or viewing artwork that conveys loneliness can also help to recognize the universal nature of the feeling. I find Edward Hooper is an artist that does this for me.

    As always thanks for your honesty and perspective.  


    • renee

      renee on July 30, 2013, 3:59 p.m.

      Lane, that's interesting. I haven't thought much about the deeper connection part. I do know I don't like "maintaining" relationships very much. I have to work at that part. I am very good at meeting people and forming fast connections - I think that's an extrovert thing perhaps. But it overwhelms to think about, (because of the do-gooder tendancies of my personality) that I have to cultivate and tend all those connections - ack! So then I can pull back, unintentionally, from overwhelm of deepening too many relationships and stretching myself. But I'm trying to be better with making time for the deepening part of friendship and for me that usually involves choosing people over productivity. (Because there is always something more pressing to do than talk on the phone with a friend or my mother, who is also my friend!)


  • Shelley Richmond

    Shelley Richmond on July 30, 2013, 4:22 p.m.

    Yes.  It's maybe an aspect of my internal state that I don't like to admit much, and I am well-versed in hiding my insecurities behind words so I'll try not to edit too much.  The lonely ache isn't so much a longing to 'fit in' for I was never really good at that single, married, or as a mom/homemaker with other women.  I'm pretty comfortable with not being 'normal' and frankly, never desired to be considered as such! 

    But the lonliness.  In some ways, it comes from not letting my real self be known to others.  Even myself.  I keep 'those' ideas quiet or 'that' dream boxed for I lack confidence in the execution, faith in my ability to stand secure in the rooted conviction(s) I have.   So I see the lonliness as intertwined with lack of confidence, and a fear of when I do become 'known' of rejection or being belittled.  But this all seems to come from a spirit of fear, not of a sound mind.  So, to battle the lonliness, that's where I'll begin.   




    • renee

      renee on July 30, 2013, 4:47 p.m.

      Shelley, you raise a very good point and distinction. And don't think many of us actually want to fit in or even be normal, even those people who think they want to fit in and be normal. What people want to be known and be loved - and we go about that by trying to fit in, or saying "to heck with that, I'll just do my own thing, thank you very much". But we still ache to be seen for who we really are and loved for that. 

      It reminds me of the movie Avatar. Ever since seeing that movie the phrase "I see you" has become very powerful to me. I usually think of it in the context of my growing children. Their desire to be known and seen for who they are, separate from me. And what children long for, what our loved ones long for, what we all long for (I believe) is simply to be seen (deeply and feel safe in that place) and to matter. 

      My goal has been to really "see" my children and my husband. And this has extended to friends and family. And of course to seeing myself. Fear is the anti-thesis of this and it's why it's so destructive (on so many levels). We can't see or be seen. And I know exactly what those fears feel like. And I have contributed, I know, to the belittling of others (intentionally or not) to cause them to fear being seen. It's a journey towards loving relationship on many levels. 


  • Tonya

    Tonya on July 30, 2013, 4:25 p.m.

    Hi Renee!

    What an awesome post!  (My kids would tell me I can't use that word.)

    You are one of a handful of women in the blogging world that I also talk about as one of my "online friends".  For awhile, I felt embarassed to say that - because jeez, how in the world can you be friends with someone you haven't met - but when you share so many connections with another, it does happen. 

    I know we will meet in real life and I look forward to that day.

    Thanks for writing your blog - it has truly helped me to feel less lonely.

    Love, Tonya


    • renee

      renee on July 30, 2013, 4:31 p.m.

      Yes! Yes! Dear "real" life friend of mine. We will meet one day, I know. 

      Perhaps the fact that I've made so many good friends online will help prepare me for the day my kids meet their spouses online (or something like that!). Most of Celine's closest friends don't live here either. It's partly the world we live in and having access to likeminded people online, and also our cultural reality of being english speakers in a french culture. We need to make friends wherever we can! Local, or otherwise.



  • Kika

    Kika on July 30, 2013, 4:37 p.m.

    I'm glad to have gotten to know you over the years, Renee. You have been a real gift to me since I, too, have certainly felt lonely and that I don't quite fit in where I live. You have inspired and encouraged me over the years by sharing your life (and your dreams & struggles) on your blog and while the particulars or details of our lives/circumstances aren't identical, often the stretching and growing and lessons being learned are essentially the same. It was a joy to come meet you and your family in person and I hope to have a reunion in the future - but this time with our kids:)

    Many assume that it is only extroverts who struggle with isolation or loneliness but, in fact, us strong introverts can experience this as well. Because we tend to want meaningful relationships and deep conversations we can be around millions of people and busyness and yet have an aching longing for real connection and for truly 'being seen' - as a person and not just a number or one of the crowd.

    P.S. It was actually 20 years ago that my husband and I met in Quebec, at U Laval, and this summer we celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.


  • Alaina

    Alaina on July 30, 2013, 4:45 p.m.

    This is a great post.  I can relate on many levels.  I think that for me, I find the greatest challenge to be the disappointment in trying and then having it not work out.  I have found that over half the time, it doesn't work.  Maybe even like 80% of the time.  I find that the biggest reason it doesn't work out is that trying to find a time with the other woman's schedule is so hard (meaning that the other woman is so busy).  I have also found that because most of the women I meet have a job outside the home, that the time that they have for friends doesn't work out.  Those are excuses and they are realities, which I keep trying to figure out and work on.  I do find that I get discouraged and go through seasons of trying and seasons of just not trying.  


  • Katja

    Katja on July 30, 2013, 6:38 p.m.

    Hi, can i say that you and Kika look like sisters?!Or close relatives.


    • renee

      renee on July 30, 2013, 6:57 p.m.

      That's funny! I don't think we look very much alike at all! Maybe it's the shared interests you see?!


      • Kika

        Kika on July 30, 2013, 7:08 p.m.

        Over the years I've had a close friend and my kids say we look alike too. That may be b/c I often wear bandannas too, though. Not sure:) Funny because I don't look at all like my biological sisters who all have long, pretty hair and like makeup and fancier clothes, etc. (I adore them, just don't look like them!)


  • Cat

    Cat on July 30, 2013, 8 p.m.

    Funny you should talk about loneliness...With the new school year coming up, I do feel lonely these days. Lonely in preparing this without the help and support of friends around me who also Homeschool (since my only friend around here is you and you are 4 hrs away!) Just wanted to let you know that every time we see each other I feel energized, ready to takle school once more. Loneliness comes in many forms, but for me it's about having the extremely important job of homeschooling and not having a support group around. I'm so thankful you are there!


    • renee

      renee on July 30, 2013, 8:08 p.m.

      I hear you! I know that homeschool loneliness feeling and how it affects our kids as well, so... can't wait to see you also (and you're another friend I met blogging!) xo, Renee


  • kyndale

    kyndale on July 31, 2013, 1:08 a.m.

    What a great, very long post.  But, I read and nodded my head throughout because I totally understand lonliness.  I am also an introvert who likes to nurture my small band of friends and family.  Since I "met" you a few years ago I felt a kinship with you.  How can we feel a connection with someone that we only see pictures of and read their words?!  But, it happens!  : )  My struggle with being an introvert is reaching out to people because I am fine and dandy just hanging out with my family.  However, I know that I need to push myself.  It's my biggest life challenge.  (Darn, and then I got your e-mail!)  I know I'm never going to find a mother who shares all of my ideals or my ideas about how to raise my family, although some people are so very similar.  Like you said, that makes it fun to try and understand how others do things and not judge them but accept others.  That's all I can do is accept others. Because I'm not perfect.  Again, great post!  Thank you Renee. ♥


    • renee

      renee on July 31, 2013, 2:15 a.m.

      Kyndale, I know it's long. I try so hard to keep these things short but then I just surrender to fully processing the thoughts and all the time that takes to write it coherently (hours and hours). I feel very content in and with my family also, which is one of those things I share with you. Our deep commitment to be present for our kids and share life with them. And then of course we ache when our kids are gone...

      Anyway, thanks for reading and as I love your hearts and I wish I could type those also. The keystroke you told me about doesn't work on my computer. 



  • Jen

    Jen on July 31, 2013, 1:19 a.m.

    Been reading for a few months...first shy comment:)  This was all sorts of goodness...good to read, good to be affirmed, good to know I'm not alone in my loneliness.  I have been processing and noodling around my head the difference between loneliness and solitude.  One conclusion (just for me, no judgment towards others) is that it is my attitude towards time alone and apart that often defines.  Still noodling that one...  Thank you for transparency so that we all can see ourselves a bit more clearly.  Such loveliness all through your blog. :)


    • renee

      renee on July 31, 2013, 2:11 a.m.

      Thank you Jen and welcome!

      I love alone time. I am more and more reflective and introspective the older I get. I want quiet mornings, time to read, time to journal, time to write this blog etc... Alone doesn't feel like loneliness to me. It feels like space to breathe and think. And since our big move, simplifying our lives, Damien coming home and being more available for the kids (and my kids growing, of course) I have quiet a bit of reflective time in my day. I think more than the average person. A friend commented on this to me this winter. That a lot of the stuff I was struggling with was because I have a quiet, relatively slow life that allows space for the deep stuff to bubble up. 

      The quiet time that allows for this (sometimes struggling) thought life also this feeds my creativity and spirit. Loneliness for me is something completely different. I can feel loneliness in a crowd of people.

      Again, thanks for reading and commenting.


    • Kika

      Kika on July 31, 2013, 2:11 a.m.

      Big difference for sure- I crave some solitude and require it to be happy but can also end up lonely if I have no meaningful friendships in my life. 


  • MOM Tougas

    MOM Tougas on July 31, 2013, 3:03 a.m.

    Having lost 2 husbands, I have felt lonliness deeply. I live in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. Moved here 6 years ago and found it intimidating, coming from a small town where everybody knew everybody. How did I cope? I fell upon an online social network called...    meetup.com  ...neighbours getting together to learn something, do something, share something. I now volunteer to lead hikes in our city parks once a week through this meetup.com. Last Sunday I lead 14 people on an 8 km hike in one of our city parks along the river, and midway through the hike we stopped at a trendy little coffee shop for some tea and cakes. Hiking with strangers is a wonderful way to get exercise and get to meet new people at the same time. We share our 'stories', and make new friends. Many people attend because they are lonely and isolated and are looking for an activity to share with like-minded people. (You might be surprised at how many people feel lonely and isolated).  Meetups are world wide. If you don't have one in your area, start one. Another way to meet people is to volunteer for something that you enjoy doing. I enjoy music, so I volunteer at a local jazz club. I have met many wonderful people this way.


    • Kika

      Kika on July 31, 2013, 3:15 a.m.

      That's very cool and inspiring. I've had friends move to our small town and not feel like they fit, which is fair (since I feel the same way), but I still believe we need to not just look to be 'fed' but also contribute to our communities as it seems you are doing. These volunteer activities may not lead to kindred-spirit friendships (although one never knows!) but they do add to a life of purpose and fulfillment, I think, because they allow us to use our specific interests/talents for the benefit of others.


    • renee

      renee on July 31, 2013, 12:01 p.m.

      Thank you so much Mom for sharing your experience. 


  • Mama

    Mama on July 31, 2013, 3:22 a.m.

    Wonderful post, Renee. I think that many of us feel a similar loneliness due to judging and distancing, but are not brave enough (yet) to admit it. I have absolutely struggled with that, and still do at times, but in the past couple years I have begun finding freedom in seeing the beauty of variety - how God has given us all different passions, and how we can all respect and support each other in the pursuit of happiness together. I think you have cut to the chase and said it well, that we can be less lonely if we choose to let others be themselves and love them for it. Well said.


  • Sue

    Sue on July 31, 2013, 12:07 p.m.

    Hi Renee,

    I have experienced lonliness at times in my life, too. One of the areas I struggle with now as a wife and mother, is the fact that my family consists of extreme introverts, who have little interest in socializing outside of the home. I need friends and social interaction and have had to seek that through my interests. It would be nice to have family friends and have social events at the house but its not going to happen, which makes me sad. I often attend social functions by myself but try to meet up with friends there. I make it work, but I do feel envious of friends with social husbands.


  • Robin

    Robin on July 31, 2013, 2:44 p.m.

    Such a lovely post, Renee.  Loneliness can feel so hopeless.  Although we are busy all day homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, gardening, running errands...whatever...not having another adult (besides my hubby) to talk to, confide in, share womanly struggles with can be overwhelming sometimes.  I have two adult daughters (both live at home still...one is working in her degree field, the other is still in college) and a teenage son (he's my last homeschooler!).  Even though I have all these lovely people around me, there are just some things that require an "outside" friend.  I've had so many good, good friends in the past.  But, as time has gone by, those friends have slipped away.  I have always kept up with long distance friends, but most of the time, they did not return the favor.  I know life is busy for everyone, but, I finally got tired of being the only one making the effort.  So, the older I have gotten, the less effort I make to seek out friendships or even bother to keep them.  The effort never seems to be worth it.  Friendships only work when everyone participates.  It seems most people (at least where I am) don't have time.  We are in the states and an area with a huge homeschool community, but we don't fit in.  We are in what is considered the bible belt and everyone here is extremely religious and homeschools for that reason...we are not.  I find most homeschoolers in our area don't want to have a relationship unless you are just like them.  Any inkling of "different" and I get "the look" or an abrupt end to the conversation.  So...I just don't bother anymore.  I try to find enjoyment and happiness in my immediate surroundings and with my husband and kids.  In the end, friends will come and go but family is forever.  Thanks for listening.


  • Jen B

    Jen B on July 31, 2013, 6:02 p.m.

    "A funny thing about growing more comfortable in yourself. When you operate in your strengths, and experience the rush that comes from that - you love to see others do the same. It doesn't threaten you, it encourages you to keep going in your own growth. And practicing self compassion will make you more compassionate to other people." - I have someone in my family that does not operate this way. There is a competitive tension she brings about with other family members and it makes me sad. I love to cheer for friends and family when they are operating with their strengths. I love when they do the same for me. You know that great feeling of mutual admiration and genuine happiness you feel for each other. I never feel that from her, usually jealousy or something as equally yucky and it makes me feel the same for her. It's something I am really trying to work on. Maybe if I can extend my genuine compassion, she will learn to have more compassion too.

    I loved this post too! In most aspects of my life I am very different from you too Renee. Yet, I feel like you are the kind of person I would make fast friends with. I have always had friends of great varied backgrounds, varied religions or none at all, of different age groups and lifestyles much different than my own. I think it has been one of the greatest gifts to me. I've learned so much! Thank you for sharing candidly! :)


  • Kika

    Kika on July 31, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

    I know I've already commented plenty but want to add something more. I have been thinking alot about healthy aging and most of us are probably familiar with research that indicates the extreme importance of healthy relationships to life-spam and quality of life in latter years. Author, John Robbins, of the book "Healthy at 100" writes that loneliness can kill faster than cigarettes, "and, by the same token, intimate relationships that are authentic and life-affirming can have enormous and even miraculous healing powers. " I take this as encouragement to forge ahead, to take risks in friendships and not give up. To continue reaching out online and in our communities in order to meet this need in our lives. 


  • Alison

    Alison on July 31, 2013, 10:03 p.m.

    Thanks for posting this, Renee. Your love letter post back in February was what I needed to hear for myself at that time - that kindness, spoken to yourself. Your honesty online is a big part of what brings people to feel they are already friends with you - they receive that wonderfully helpful 'this is where I struggle, this is where I break through' that good friends can offer each other.

    I have felt lonely with a series of situations of friends moving on. After a time, I realised that it was partly the setting (I live in a fairly international city, so there's quite a lot of transition), and partly the people I made friends with (often internationals themselves, or those outside the local cultural mainstream). It doesn't make it any easier though.

    Earlier in the spring, I found myself making the effort to chat to other mums at the school gate, and have started into a couple of new friendships. One is proving particularly lovely for us as a family and I might not have found it without needing to look for new friends.

    The other thing I thought, when I read this post, was about the J (judging) aspect (Myers Briggs) that you've written about before. It's one I relate to personally... As I get older, I find that the J aspect is shifting - it's still something that frames how I think, but I am learning not to criticise the P (perceiving) aspect, of others or in myself. And I feel happier for it. 

    So many of us are looking for kindred spirits, and I love it that we can find them online, especially if they are not always easy to find immediately around us. Be encouraged in the friendships you are cultivating - and in the friendship you offer us as readers of your blog.


  • Lauren

    Lauren on Aug. 1, 2013, 4:27 a.m.

    What a wonderful post! I related with so much of it. I have a group of about 8 women that I "met" on a social networking site called cafemom about 8 years ago. We have migrated over to facebook now but these women are some of my best friends. We skype, e mail, and talk on the phone as well as connect on facebook daily. We have helped eachother through divorces, babies, the loss of babies, moves, job changes and so much more.



  • crispina

    crispina on Aug. 1, 2013, 2:53 p.m.

     Your truthfulness and courage is very beautiful. I too feel lonely sometimes. I have found as women get older they become less emotionally authentic. There is an image to maintain and it takes courage to be vunerable and maybe it's easier to just smile and not share too much.  So we have friendships but there is very little depth there.  

    "Positive relationship with others grows out of the fertile soil of positive relationship with self. And positive relationship with self is being comfortable with who I am."   This is profound. Realizing this gives me compassion for those ladies who are not yet ready to be open or accepting of me. 

    I think one must really seek out these true friends and then hold on to them.  How wonderful you created this place where you draw these women to you. 


  • Tara

    Tara on Aug. 1, 2013, 2:54 p.m.

    Renee,this post really spoke to me! Although our lives are very different, I am right there with you in terms of lonliness and needing to realize what is in my power.  You are further a long in your journey regarding letting go of judgment and making changes than I, but so much of what you say really spoke to me.  In my situation, I am a mama who is very family focused. I chose to be home with my 2 kiddos and we decided that I would return to work full time when my littlest went to Kindergarten.  We have done that and I have a schedule that allows me to be home after school 3 days a week and my husband the other 2 ( I am struggling with adjusting to my evolving role as primary homemaker as well- but that another story!)  What I am struggling with, is that we no longer fit in with the "stay at home crowd" and I definitely do not fit in with the full time working mothers where I am (seem primarily career -focused). The stay at home moms that I am most connected to have moved and while we connect by phone and email, I miss seeing them.  I am struggling now with finding pieces of what I need from different people, but struggle most with finding like- minded families for us to connect with.  Anyway, I thank you for sharing this.  It inspires me and has definitely given me food for thought and some ideas to consider to help me move beyond the feeling of being "stuck" that I have had. Thanks for validating some of the thoughts I already had and for introducing me to some new perspectives!  I love that you and Kika connected face- to face!


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 1, 2013, 5:17 p.m.


      I can totally see how you would struggle in that spot. You kind of don't fit into either crowd (smile). You trail blazer you! I hear you. It's hard, but keep working at it. Because, like I have to remind myself "what other choice do I have but to work at making things better?" Either we get hard and bitter (and like that's going to help with loneliness!) or we stretch and grow (which hurts, but not the same as bitterness). 

      Your experience in both worlds gives you something really amazing to offer other women - understanding. Having courage to live our own lives and not needing to fit into a mold of somesort - homemaking, working, stay-at-home whatever (there's a mold for all it) is maybe one of those "big" life lessons/challenges for women in this generation.

      Good luck and blessings as you figure out your new family schedule. xo,



  • Sarah m

    Sarah m on Aug. 1, 2013, 4:13 p.m.

    Your thoughts and reflections on judging are so interesting and spot on. I don't know that I could have ever articulated that within myself, but it really resonated. I've often had conversations with my spouse on how I feel overly-judgmental, but I want to be compassionate to others without judging them. It happens almost unconsciously, though, at times. I think in the past few years--of actually reflecting on my own judging mentality--I have picked it out, named it, and tried to get better at it, but it still happens. I find this the hardest with homeschooling, because it takes such committment (time, mental energy, etc.) that we HAVE to be passionate about it. Then it becomes easy to see all the  negatives of the other way of doing things, thus separating ourselves from others who do not choose the route. 

    Since our move six months ago, I have felt extreme lonliness at times, but it more or less surfaces as anger and jealousy towards my husband (poor guy! We talk about it.) because he is in his glory days seeing all his old life-long buddies who he has missed for the past 10 years, while I'm "stuck at home, again" after the long days alone. It's given me a taste of what he's felt the first part of our marriage, where he didn't really connect well with anyone in our last town, although he did have friends, just not close friends. I've never had to deal with this until now, but I have tried to be much more outgoing (I guess just saying YES to more things than normal) to get to know others. I have made 1 friend and a bunch of sweet ladies that I see every week at bible study, I get to nudge along with them, but I am going to really try to nuture the one relationship the most while I'm here. I do miss my best friends terribly, though. I have phone calls and emails regularly, every two weeks or so, but I miss SEEING them and HUGGING them the most. 

    Sarah M

    PS-I've seen and read many of Kika's comments--it was really fun to see both of you together!



    • Sarah m

      Sarah m on Aug. 1, 2013, 10:13 p.m.

      Renee, this is one of my favorite songs (from one of my favorite bands) and they just came out with this music video today. I thought I'd add it to my comment as an aside. They have great lyrics, and this piece of the song really fits the conversation of loneliness. If you choose to watch the entire video, you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUWu8Ny36dc They have very well-written songs, in my opinion. 

      "And she thinks most people, don't talk enough about how lucky they are. Most people don't know what it takes for me to get through the day. Most people don't talk about the love in their hearts. But she doesn't know that most people feel that same way..."  ~Dawes


  • Jason Elsworth

    Jason Elsworth on Aug. 1, 2013, 9:56 p.m.

    Excellent post. It is your honesty that remains the strongest aspect of your writing for me.


  • Maryam

    Maryam on Aug. 2, 2013, 9:04 a.m.

    This is a wonderful post, as always. Thank you for your honesty—it's really a unique thing on this crazy interweb, and I'm grateful :)


  • Libby

    Libby on Aug. 2, 2013, 3:42 p.m.

    Just to say I have been reading and enjoying your blog for a couple of years now. You lovely generous lady. I never felt moved to actually comment before but wanted to reach over to you now and say - yes!  I identify with what you say, I have been terribly lonely as a stay at home mum and have also had to take active steps to reach out and connect. I agree with your words and am so pleased you have found comfort. Other people are so so important. We are social animals.  Good luck - long may the warmth round you continue.


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 10, 2013, 1:38 p.m.

      Libby, thank you for reaching out to comment on this post! And thank you for the blessing of the last sentence. I love that. 


  • Sarah Westphal

    Sarah Westphal on Aug. 2, 2013, 10:53 p.m.

    Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this journey. This really resonated with me on so many levels. Especially the judgement part, I did A LOT of that during the first years of parenting before I got my confidence and security in what I was doing for our family. Thankfully, now I don't care what others do! (not that I don't fall pray to judgement every now and again--I'm not perfect)   Parenting is hard. Period.  Being a wife, mother and friend is hard. Period.  

    Reaching out is the best solution to loneliness--be it virtual or in real life. 

    Take care,




  • hsofia

    hsofia on Aug. 4, 2013, 5:29 p.m.

    Am new to this blog ... came here via Lori over at Campcreek Press (twitter). Don't have much to add; just wanted to say I suffered from debilitating loneliness for many years and much of what you said rings both familiar and true. I hope this piece helps others! Also, the photographs are lovely. 


  • shelli : mamaofletters

    shelli : mamaofletters on Aug. 4, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

    Renee, I think I might have been one of those people who left a comment on your post a long time ago because it rings familiar, and this topic is close to my heart. I still struggle with lonliness sometimes. Like you, I wanted someone who was like me in many ways, and although I knew it probably wasn't realistic to expect one person to meet all those requirements, I still longed for it. Still do, I guess. Since I'm a religious liberal, it's been very hard to meet/connect with people in the homeschooling world in Georgia, but at one point I just stopped worrying about what they might think of me and opened myself up for friendships with anyone. I have a close friend now because of that. I would still like to meet other people who could fulfill my need to talk about writerly things and spiritual matters. I have hope that I'll make more friends over time. But it's definitely a struggle. Good for you for reaching out when you needed to.


  • Michelle

    Michelle on Aug. 8, 2013, 12:56 p.m.

    I too struggle with friendships. I used to be a girl of few words, and friends would praise me for being easy to talk to and a good listener. After having children and moving to a state where I knew no one, I made it a point to make a huge effort to get to know people by joining support groups, and taking myself out I my comfort zone by talking more.  Part of this commitment was to meet people to avoid lonliness, but also to be a good example for my children in hopes that they would not have the painful, shy childhood I had.  Well, I'm happy to say my kids are very outgoing (not to say that  parents can totally influence that character trait), but I find myself still lonely within the new friendships I have made.  Here is what I mean by that- I have noticed that over the years, friends are becoming hesitant to share their personal thoughts, struggles, joys and feelings like they did when we first met, even though I still do. I'm left feeling like it's a one-way street.   someone else commented on this, and I wonder why women would start to bottle things up and become more superficial with each other as we get older. I have contemplated if it's possible that I come across as judgmental and that may be why friends don't share, but I'm certainly not perfect and I don't try to pretend that my life is. The fact that we decided to homeschool did alienate us from some people, and I wasn't surprised by that, but this new emptiness within friendships has really confused and saddened me.


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 10, 2013, 1:46 p.m.

      Michelle, this is an interesting thing you've observed and experience. In my close friendships I've seen the opposite happening. An opening of our struggles, faults and insecurities - maybe it's just the women I've connected with (finding them hasn't been easy and I've reached out online also, as I talk about in this post). I'm a bit mystified as to why friends would be hesitant to share as the years go on except friendships do evolve and change and sometimes we have to let go of friendships (or relegate them to a different place in our lives) that aren't mutually beneficial anymore. People change. 

      I do know that insecurities will hold people back from opening up. So if your friends have had insecurities growing in their lives (maybe as related to marriage, career, motherhood) while they see you perhaps "succeeding" in these areas (whatever that success looks like to them) they may withdraw. Insecurity has a huge amount to do with withdrawing and "hiding" ourselves. Just a thought... 


  • Shannon

    Shannon on Aug. 10, 2013, 2:18 p.m.

    Renee---you are so open, sharing your "iterations" (I so love that) with all of us readers, making us feel a little less lonely. It is wonderful that you made such a connection. This is a powerful and insightful post.


  • LisaZ

    LisaZ on Aug. 10, 2013, 7:51 p.m.

    Wonderful post, Renee. Even we introverts get very lonely at times! We all want deep connections. I am so glad you got to meet Kika. I think many people short-change the kind of relationships we form online, when for many of us (me and my son with Aspergers included) they are a lifeline. I know at times when I've been home alone with no car, even in the middle of a small city, the internet has a great joy because of the connections I make here. With people similar to me!

    What a sweet story. :)


  • rivergirl

    rivergirl on Aug. 10, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

    As an introvert who has social anxiety, is single, and experiences loneliness a lot of the time I was surprised to come across this article. It really opened my mind  to how people who are extroverts and have families can also experience loneliness. I do have some special friends who have that "connection" element  I so desire and that so nurtures me but with family commitments and distance as a factor,  our time together is "limited". And I guess I have my commitments, too. In the past I've taken on the challenge of reaching out  and getting involved here and there but now I'm at a stage in my life where I want to stay home more and be a homemaker, garden etc. Loneliness can be a deflating experience but the tone of these articles was honest and yet still positive. I must say I feel better about the challenge of loneliness knowing  there are  people out there with these sorts of attitudes.


  • Marianna

    Marianna on Aug. 11, 2013, 1:47 a.m.

    This entire post resonates deeply. Like many others have mentioned I'm an introvert who finds it difficult both to reach out and to stay connected if I do. I'm fairly content with my own company, but am keenly aware of the need to connect to others in a more than superficial way. 

    I've copied your words on judging, the distinction between when it's positive vs. negative, and will ponder them more. What you say about using judgement to determine your own path is very insightful for me. 


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Aug. 21, 2013, 9:19 p.m.

    I sure resonanted with the part about appreciating the differences between ourselves and other people. I often find myslef lamenting that I have yet to find a friend who shares all my values, hobbies, passions, etc, when in reality, does another like me exist? Most likely not. It may sound cliché but really are like snowflakes, individually created in a uniquely beautiful way. I'm working on embracing the differences as well, so that I can pursue deeper relationships with those who are around me rather than longing for different friends. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and heart on this, Renee!


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