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Recognizing the Difference Between Feeling Lonely and Being Alone

“Maybe surrounded by
A million people I
Still feel all alone
I just want to go home
Oh I miss you, you know”  

~ Michael Bublé “Home”

When Michael Bublé released the song “Home” in 2005, the lyrics practically pierced my soul.  How could he put into words exactly how it felt to be a military spouse? 

From Lily and Dove Photography:https://www.facebook.com/lilyanddove/

Over the course of a decade, three deployments and countless TDY’s, the one piece of advice I wish I had been given was how to prepare for the loneliness. 

It does not matter if you have children, family, or close friends nearby; and it does not matter if you immerse yourself in your community to the point of exhaustion. No matter what you fill your schedule with — travel, play dates, school classes — the loneliness always sets in. 

It is not the physical space that you fill with people, but it is the loneliness your heart feels for missing someone else; the person who you trust with your secrets; who is your rock when the world hits calamity stage. He or she is missing. 

We do not even have to speak, but knowing my spouse is within our home fills me with a sense of calm.  Thus, when he is gone, the countdown begins for the months, days and hours until he returns to fill that void.   

In my younger and ignorant days, I thought I could easily fill this void with other people. 

I remember trying in vain to not feel so lonely. I would schedule spouse lunches, play dates, workout classes — things that sounded fun, things that sounded physically exhausting. 

Yet the crowded rooms and the questions from friends — how you are doing? How long has it been since he left? How long till he returns? did nothing to actually help fill that void while my husband was not home. 

I was surrounded by people every day and still felt a vast space between me and them. 

Just like Bublé stated, I felt alone though I was surrounded by people all the time.  I was overextending myself. 

What finally did help some was learning to take time for my own mental health.

I recognize now that being lonely is not the same as being alone.   

Instead of scheduling my day down to the minute, I actually started to adapt my schedule to a slower pace. We still got out and did many events with family and friends, but I made sure that every day and every week there was downtime.  I made sure to have time to having meaningful conversations, to watch a movie, to meditate or do anything that made me feel happy.  Sometimes that meant reading a book or enjoying a hot cup of coffee without trying to run out the door or go through an exhausting mental list of my to-do list.   

It seems odd that in order to avoid loneliness I spent less time with people, but for me it was a mental break that allowed me to appreciate the interactions I did have with other people.  I was more present in the things we did go to, and I had more satisfaction at the end of each day. 

While being apart from my husband was hard, the days got easier.  I felt lighter when I did connect with others; I felt more patient to answer all the same questions each day. 

The loneliness no longer felt overwhelming. 

If you are looking for help, check out these resources. 

Military OneSource

Tricare Mental Health Information

National Network of Depression Centers

Mental Health America Affiliate Resource Center


Sarah Slater is a military spouse and professional working mother of two crazy kids. Along with her husband, she has made it her priority to see the world, making it their goal to test their marriage on traveling with said two kids! Though they might not be the perfect functional family, they are perfect together as they hop over Europe and the rest of the world to experience food, life, and, of course, love!

Traveling is Sarah’s passion, and she loves sharing her stories of triumphs and failures in the hopes that other families traveling with kids will find something useful.

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2 Responses to Recognizing the Difference Between Feeling Lonely and Being Alone

  1. Avatar
    Heather August 22, 2019 at 9:45 am #

    Beautifully said Sarah.

  2. Amy
    Amy August 27, 2019 at 12:59 pm #

    Enjoyed this post Sarah.

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