Modeling healthy friendships despite profound loneliness

August is Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Month

Feeling alone in a crowded room
When an invite finally came, it took everything in me to make it and I was usually late. Most times I didn’t attend because cooking one potluck dish seemed like cooking for 30 people on Thanksgiving. I needed to be social yet it was the hardest thing for me to put myself out there.

I couldn’t talk about what really was on my heart. I couldn’t bleed quite the way others could. It was mostly curb talk. You know,

“Nice lawn you got there. Is that a John Deere lawnmower?”
“Why thank you. Where did you get those beautiful roses? How do you manage aphids?”

It’s something to talk about but it’s nothing of substance or consequence and nobody really is listening or cares.

I was starving for intimacy. No longer did I have my husband to speak to or give me hugs. The tactile withdraw was overwhelming. My kids couldn’t hug or hold me like my husband did but friends could get close. They did the best they could but I needed to be held for a solid 30 seconds as often as possible. I actually needed to be able to trust someone with what’s going on, to share feelings and be connected. The lack of these resulted in feelings of isolation and exacerbated feelings of low self esteem, loneliness and shame.

I participated in many, many, many of these conversations at church. While my heart was shattered in a million pieces and my kids were still shell shocked from their father’s death, I still had no one.

In a room full of people, I was alone … still. I wanted to talk about how to get my house clean despite sleeping all day because of I was grieving my husband’s death.

I asked one woman in choir to take me under her wing, that I was desperate for a mother figure. Best decision I ever made. We are very close friends and I’m glad God highlighted her for me. My only regret is we didn’t meet earlier.

What village?
When I lost the house, I needed help painting and packing. A former mentor said, “You have to remember: People are busy.” I just don’t remember than anywhere in the Bible but there it was. The ugly truth. People didn’t have time to be compassionate. The village was too busy to help one another.

What I really wanted were Amish friends where the whole church and town would stop what they were doing, help me prepare to sell the house by painting and cleaning then pack and move me. No such luck. A few people dropped by to help but that was it. I was left to pack up a 1,600 sq. ft. home with a two-car garage and move into a 600 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment.

To my new church’s credit, a few church elders corralled a few good men who did the heavy lifting. I was incredibly grateful.

It’s not only about me …
My only motivation for getting out of the house were the kids. Other kids were there so I redoubled my efforts to get there to be free of their care if only for a few hours. I was determined to make my kids’ lives as normal as possible despite my problems.

I knew people and volunteering were keys to my survival. Cutting myself off would be social suicide for all of us. Team sports were critical for the kids. I volunteered to offset costs or if it was simply mandatory. It made a huge difference to them. They saw me demonstrate my love and not simply give it lip service. I cared about them and their social lives. I remember how important it was to me while I was in school so I made it a priority for them.

I modeled how to have friends but not just any friends. I had to show them what good friendships looked like. What they learned was being popular was not important. I showed them good friends were not a popularity contest. Good friends were few and far between. To have good friends is to be a good friend, care deeply and love sacrificially.

I demonstrated volunteering in our community was for our greater good and very important. When I reached out my hand to help someone I didn’t know, I was making connections that can change lives for the better including my own. They saw me sponsoring women. They came with me to 12-step recovery family events and watched me setup/tear down, clean up, etc. They learned my favorite words were, “What can I do to help?”

One more thing
I modeled that it’s okay to call our family therapist our best friend. He was in it and remained committed to us for life. He said he had us on belay and he was right. He was the anchor we needed. He was the “God with skin on” we were searching for.

Posts in 2017 series
Managing abreactions, exhaustion and letting kids be kids
Modeling healthy friendships despite profound loneliness
Breaking the cycle of loneliness takes work
Go outside and play today!
Women, Blacks, Latinos have higher rates of abuse
Managing compound-complex parenting
Drinkin’ and druggin’ make parenting even harder
Risky behavior, self neglect aren’t life sentences
When food becomes a weapon
Managing rage, ground rules around kids
Managing hostile relatives, false accusations, head games
Parenting: If it’s not hard, you’re not doing it right
Third Annual Worldwide Parenting with PTSD Awareness Day is here!

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