7 Tips To Cope With Loneliness When Childless Not By Choice
Childlessness not by choice can be lonely for multiple reasons. There is the physical loneliness of it and then there is the mental loneliness. Not having a child around your home like you wanted can feel lonely. If you’re single, you might not have a partner, and friends get busy so spending time at home is not unusual. The physical loneliness, others relate within their own context. The deepest, darkest, feeling of loneliness can be within a marriage where two people are distant and one of them is not mentally in the marriage. Being lonely and being alone are not the same thing. If you are physically alone for certain holidays or events, people recognize the loneliness and sometimes they address by validating your feelings. Friends and family try to support you, the same way you try to support them in their loneliness. We have all experienced physical loneliness. There is an awareness and a set of expectations within cultural norms of how to address this type of loneliness. This doesn’t minimize the painfulness of it, nor does it imply it isn’t an extremely hard emotion to experience. Solitary confinement, the most extreme form of physical loneliness, is considered torture. We are a communal species. We are meant to be around others, interact, gather, eat, and be merry. Those who are alone are at greater risk for mood and anxiety issues. We know the importance of being around others. When we notice someone is physically alone we try to help.
Mental loneliness is a different animal. You may be around others physically, but you experience that feeling of not being seen, not being understood, not feeling like you are truly connected to others. In our culture, family is often used interchangeably with connection. Family is also used interchangeably with having children. Children equals family is the message that is sent to society. In the childless community you will often see content that reminds others that you don’t need children to have a family. You don’t. I consider my dog and I to be a family. Anyone that sees it differently can suck it.
When your family does not include children the feeling of loneliness is beyond the physical. The loneliness is experienced as not being included in certain traditions that are important to the culture. Not being a part of certain conversations related to the specific realities of having children. Not experiencing certain milestones that come with being a parent and feeling like the odd person out as friends conversations turn to their excitement, or stress, related to these events. This is particularly true in female circles where it is almost assumed a woman of a certain age has children. The classic example is the Sex In The City episode with Carrie and the shoes that lead to her marrying herself to recoup the shoes that were stolen. There is a reason that episode stands out and is still referenced two decades later. For those of us still single, the episode where Miranda’s mom passes away and she is alone walking behind the casket and Carrie joins her is also seared into our memory. Carrie had other single and childless friends. That changed, like life changes, and throughout the entire six seasons she had a friend who had no kids the entire time. Samantha had Carrie’s back when it came to prioritizing friendships. In the real world, many women who are childless are the only childless friend. When they contemplate growing older without children, watching their friends have and raise kids, feel their friends availability change during those busiest years of parenthood, they are mentally alone. There isn’t other people to share those fears with in a mutual and way. At times, you can even feel the sense that others are thankful they aren’t you when you describe your feelings around childlessness. Because of this, many of eventually stop sharing those feelings. This is loneliness on a different level.
How do you cope with this type of loneliness? For long term coping seeing a therapist can be helpful. A childless affirming therapist, if possible could be a good option. As a therapist and a woman who is childless, I see this knowledge gap within the therapist community. It is the reason I have opened this practice, to be able to help those who are childless not by choice work through the unique issues related to childlessness so they can lead a life that is meaningful, purpose, and fun. I do this from a lived experience perspective as well as from a professionally trained therapist perspective.
There are also things that can be helpful in the moment when feeling loneliness. The seven suggestions below are meant to help someone in the moment. To help in that instance when you are experiencing the loneliness. Try them out the next time you are feeling lonely. You can also watch a video of me explaining these coping skills at my YouTube channel Sonder Sisterhood.
- Watch your favorite show
- Take a walk
- Listen to your favorite hype music
- Read a book
- Listen to a podcast
- Take a nap