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I am a widow. I used to have a happy home, a child, and a life. I lost my only child. And, I am an only child. I have no living family. We moved for my husband’s work and then he passed away. I was without the support that family and community can give. Stranded. I tried to find work, but I’m too young to retire and too old to get hired. I’m regrouping and recreating my life. Suggestions?
I’m sorry to hear about all of the loss you have experienced. Being alone is one of the most difficult experiences we can face as humans. I want to reassure you that even though you have faced profound losses, you are not alone and your life isn’t over. I want to give you hope. Let me suggest some ways that you can regroup and recreate your new life.
You’re right that you need to connect to a supportive community. Since it’s not going to happen through your biological ties to family, it’s something you’re going to have to seek out on your own. This isn’t going to be something that happens organically.
It’s unfortunate that our modern society doesn’t naturally produce a sense of community. Even though we are more connected electronically, we are more disconnected physically and emotionally from one another. When we feel alone, it’s normal to long for others to notice and reach out to us. We want to be included, but it’s scary to take these risks when we feel so vulnerable.
It might be tempting to isolate and become a spectator to everyone’s carefully edited lives on social media. This is dangerous because you might start believing that your life is so much worse off than other people. It’s easy to isolate, numb, and avoid the risk of building new relationships. Because you’ve faced so much loss, the thought of building new connections that could eventually disappear might cause some hesitation.
Recreating your life will begin by connecting to all of the available supports that already surround you. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that none of us are ever alone. He said:
Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of [Easter] is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”[i]
We are not built to be alone and our God has not left us alone. It takes tremendous faith and courage to notice how much you are surrounded with people, both seen and unseen, who are here to aid you in this earthly journey. We are social creatures who thrive in community. I hope you’ll make the courageous choice to build relationships again.
There are three places where you can begin building a new community: a job, a church, or volunteering. These are places that gather like-minded individuals who share a common purpose. Not only do you need others, but others need you and your life experiences. You can offer a depth of compassion and understanding for loss that most people don’t understand.
You are not too old to work. You are not too damaged to volunteer. There is nothing keeping you from building a new community. You have a place at the table and all you need to do is show up and let people know you’re available to serve, help, and contribute.
These connections don’t need to start out as deep and meaningful. They may start out as superficial and shallow, as most new relationships do. You can still receive tremendous benefit from being around others, even while building meaningful connections is moving slowly. The more you share and contribute, the sooner you’ll start to have more meaningful connections.
Your life can be rebuilt. Preside Dieter F. Utchdorf gave a stirring address in the April 2016 General Conference about God’s ability to rebuilt broken lives. He promised that, “It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. There is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.”[ii]
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@lo************.com
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.