Alone In A Crowded Room – Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

A mom leaves an event full of lovely women, laughter and fun only to stumble through the door at home in tears.

This was me several times last week.

For much of my adult life, I’ve struggled with loneliness. I’m surrounded by people – good people. But often I stand in a crowded room and feel unseen. 

And alone.

As an introvert, large social events and groups tend to be a challenge. I’m much more comfortable with just one or two people. In many groups, I tend to sit back and listen instead of jumping into the conversation. As a result, unless someone asks me a direct question, I may not speak at all. Often, I go home feeling like I had things to say and I regret not speaking.

That regret becomes frustration. That frustration opens old wounds. I don’t feel heard. Or seen.

Did it even matter I was there at all? Familiar feelings of loneliness rise – powerful and painfully real.

Still, other times, these feelings of loneliness rise up out of nowhere, uninvited, and without cause. 

These feelings aren’t based on truth. They are a result of me believing a terrible internal lie – that I wasn’t wanted or needed.

The truth is, I was invited to the event I spoke of earlier. My presence was welcomed. My words and thoughts would have been welcomed as well. No one said or did anything unkind or cold to me. Loneliness doesn’t always show up when it makes sense. Often times, the feelings are real, but they don’t make sense at all.

Why do I still feeling lonely?

Usually it isn’t others who make me feel lonely.

It’s me. 

But that doesn’t change the overwhelming way feelings of loneliness hurt. Experience has shown that left unchecked, loneliness can be paralyzing. Focusing on loneliness robs my days of joy and causes me to pull back from relationships – further perpetuating the problem.

When loneliness surfaces, it is imperative that I take purposeful steps to battle against it. As I said before, I am still struggling (even as I write this) with loneliness and perceived rejection.

These are a few ways I’m learning to address loneliness when it comes up.

Seek God

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

A good friend is a beautiful thing. But no friendship can rid me of loneliness. When I’m lonely, what I need most is more of God. Whether I ‘feel’ His presence or not, I need to press into Him by reading His Word and praying.

When I feel lonely, the enemy’s lies seem like truth. I question my worth. I begin to suppress God’s truth about who God says I am. When this happens, I need to tell God my thoughts, even though they go against what He says.

‘God I know You made me without mistake. I know I am fully loved and fully known by You. Yet, right now I feel inadequate, unloved, unworthy and rejected. I feel so alone and unseen by others. Help me to see myself and this circumstance as you do. Will you help me believe it and walk in truth?’

Often, pouring out feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and self-loathing at God’s feet brings peace. It is hard to be in God’s presence and believe lies. Being with Him opens my eyes to truth and helps my soul rest in His comforting arms.

In the midst of loneliness, the focus is on me. I desperately need to worship God. Worship turns my focus outward and upward. He is still God, and He is good – regardless of any emotion or circumstance I may be in. When I remember God’s character – His goodness, faithfulness and kindness – and how He has revealed Himself to me, it becomes hard to feel alone.

Kari Jobe’s ‘I Am Not Alone‘ has helped me worship this week. What comfort there is in recalling that God never leaves me and always goes before me!

See A Friend

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Isn’t it strange that when struggling with loneliness, I tend to isolate myself?

Isolating myself happens when I believe and accept the lie that no one cares if I’m there or not. In all honesty, even after spending time with God, I sometimes still feel lonely and disconnected. Isolation only makes things worse.

In these moments, I need a good friend. I am grateful to have several women in my life with whom I can share hard things. One friend, in particular comes to mind – she lifts me up, encourages me, and points me to Jesus. We don’t see each other that often, but when we do, it is like no time has passed between us. We do spend time catching up on daily life, but we always spend time talking about what is on our hearts.

Time spent with a good friend lifts the soul.

God gave us the gift of fellowship so we can be mutually encouraged by one another. But we need to be IN fellowship with others to experience it. 

Last week, after a rough morning wrestling with emotions, I called that friend. We met at a park with the kids. Kids played. We took a walk. We talked. I shared my heart – she listened and then spoke truth and kindness into hurting places. I left feeling recharged, refreshed and so very grateful. Time spent with her is life-giving. Friends like this are a priceless gift.

As an introvert, I know I need more one-on-one time with good friends. This time has to be built into my life on a regular basis because life is BUSY. Schedule it. Show up. 

BE A Friend

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Sometimes we long for deeper friendships, but we haven’t made it our mission to just go out and BE a friend.

Friendship is a two-way street – if we want people to be there for us, we need to be there for them! Cultivating deep relationships takes time and purposeful effort.

Check in with that friend about ‘that thing’ they mentioned last time you talked – the appointment, interview, struggle, celebration or milestone. Notice when a friend is unusually quiet and ask how they are doing. Then be prepared to make time to listen to how they’re really doing. 

Often, I feel the most lonely when I’m busy. Some seasons, like after having a baby, may just be busy. It happens to all of us. But sometimes, we allow good things to make us so busy that there is no margin for people. When this happens, we need to make some adjustments to maintain valuable friendships. Examine your schedule and priorities to be sure you’ve left room for people. 

Let people know you care. Be available to others. Being connected to others in daily life opens the door to have conversations about what is on your heart.

Start with one person. Who will it be?

 

This post was shared at the Salt & Light Linkup #23, head on over to see tons of encouraging posts!

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A Little Girl And A Big School Bus – Embracing The Moments (And Emotions) That Remind Us Our Children Are Growing Up

A Little Girl And A Big Bus - Embracing The Moments (And Emotions) That Remind Us Our Children Are Growing Up | thisgratefulmama.com

Two weeks ago our four year old sunshine girl climbed the stairs of a school bus for the first time. Unexpected mom-emotions threatened to overtake me as my mind raced with thoughts of all she would experience – good and bad – while away from me.

She’s growing up.

She rocked 3’s preschool and has been away from me for countless bible studies, Sunday school, and more. But as I watched her climb onto that big school bus wearing that giant-flamingo backpack, she looked so small.

Isn’t that my baby up there? 

Parenting is full of these emotion-fueled moments – when we realize our children are growing up and stepping a little further into the world. These moments remind us that we cannot control our kids or their experiences.

She didn’t hesitate as she turned back, grinning with sparkling eyes as she waved goodbye.

She didn’t hesitate. So why was I?

I stood, choked up and snapping pictures. I waved furiously with a smile plastered to my face as the bus drove away.

The bus rounded the corner. The only evidence it had been there at all was the plume of exhaust and my husband, mom and I gazing at an empty street.

Sunshine girl was on her way to school with a bus load of new friends. Without me. 

Year by year, our children will spend more time at school and activities, with people other than us. They gather life-skills and knowledge and are slowly equipped to become independent, functioning adults.

Independent. Of us. 

And what of us, their parents? Once their ‘whole world’ and providers of everything they need – we’re gradually needed less and less as our role continually changes.

We proudly cheer them on, celebrating new freedoms and opportunities while acknowledging that there is less we can protect them from. We’re grateful they don’t grow up overnight, even if looking back, it feels like it did.

And this is all right and good. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

Or unemotional.

Our emotions are real and powerful. And sometimes emotions creep up out of nowhere and threaten to knock us off our feet.

We need to adapt and learn to not only accept but embrace these moments and the emotions they stir up.

Stop Comparing

Your emotions are yours. They don’t belong to your neighbor, friend, or that mom over there that you don’t even know.

Stop comparing. Every parent feels emotions and processes them differentlyWhat you feel as your child climbs onto the school bus is ok.

A Little Girl And A Big School Bus - Embracing The Moments (And Emotions) That Remind Us Our Children Are Growing Up | thisgratefulmama.com

You don’t have to apologize for crying, even if you’re the only mom ugly-crying on the curb as the bus drives away.

Quit worrying about what everyone else is doing and give yourself permission to feel it all.

So now we admit we have these emotions and we’re not worried about what everyone else is doing. Now what?

Own It

We love our children. So it makes sense that our emotions can be fierce. Letting go and watching our children step out into the world is hard. And excitingAnd scary.

Stifling emotions never really works. They just bubble out later in another way or at someone else, with increased intensity.

Feel something? Own it.

So what if you’re an ugly-crying mess at the bus stop? So what if you’re the only dry-eyed mom in the crowd? So what if summer was so long and tiring that a part of you feels like celebrating and maybe a twinge guilty about that (or maybe you feel no guilt)?  So what if you’re suddenly crying in Target 3 hours later because you just miss them?

What if your kids see you? While we do need to have wisdom and discernment about how and what we share with our children, it is ok for them to see you express what you feel.

In these milestone moments, watching you feel and process emotions in a healthy way gives your children permission to feel and process their own. 

A Little Girl And A Big School Bus - Embracing The Moments (And Emotions) That Remind Us Our Children Are Growing Up | thisgratefulmama.com

 

Process It

Do your emotions surprise you? Days before school started, I expected to cry at the bus stop. Then, that morning as we stood waiting for the bus I felt only excitement. I was happy and exited – not sad at all!

Then she took those first steps up and WHAM!

When emotions surprise me, the best way to work through them is to process them. Feel them. Think through them. Talk about them.

This does require time and energy but is too important to pass up.

Go to God – Night or day, God is always available. Our loving Father loves to comfort His children. No matter the emotion, He already knows. When it comes to emotions I feel as a parent, it is such a comfort to know that God created our children and loves them even more than than I can. He listens and provides peace and comfort beyond our understanding. Try it! Pray through emotions and spend some time reading His word. He won’t leave you hanging.

Talk to a Friend – One of the reasons we need community is to process real-life with people who are willing to be authentic. We need to know we’re not alone and to be encouraged by other parents. Be honest. Cry if you feel like it. Speaking how we feel out loud is powerful.

Write – When home with kids all day, I can’t always process emotions out-loud with another adult. Journaling or blogging about what I’m feeling helps me find clarity and understand what I am feeling and WHY.

Celebrate 

One way to take the edge off of our emotions of sadness, longing or fear is to celebrate milestones – even if just official days like the first/last day of school and birthdays.

That said, we don’t need to celebrate everything. Celebrate events that are significant to your family and priorities. Celebrating puts the joy back into even the most bittersweet milestone.

A Little Girl And A Big School Bus - Embracing The Moments (And Emotions) That Remind Us Our Children Are Growing Up | thisgratefulmama.com

Celebrate with a meal, a sporting event or activity, a gift, a handwritten card, or an intentional conversation. Celebrate to remind your children that you’re cheering them on and proud of them.

Be Present

Finally, no matter how emotional you feel, at some point, you need to step out of your own head and step into the time and place you’re in.

I spent a couple hours dwelling in my own swimming emotions and thoughts before doing anything productive with them. Once I began to process them, I was able to step back into the day and be ready and excited to hear all about that first day of school. If I’d kept it all in, I’m not sure I would have been any good to anybody – just a puddle of tears and self-pity.

Be present with those right in front of you. Don’t let your emotions put you in a funk that steals quality time from you and your family.

A Little Girl And A Big School Bus - Embracing The Moments (And Emotions) That Remind Us Our Children Are Growing Up | thisgratefulmama.com

 

A Little Girl And A Big School Bus - Embracing The Moments (And Emotions) That Remind Us Our Children Are Growing Up | thisgratefulmama.com Embracing Moments

 

Infant Silent Reflux Is Not Silent – 10 Survival Tips for Parents When Your Child Does NOT Sleep

Infant Silent Reflux Is Not Silent - 10 Survival Tips for Parents When Your Child Does NOT Sleep | thisgratefulmama.com

There are infants who sleep through the night right away, or even within a few months of bringing them home from the hospital.

We were not that family.

Read more about our experience with infant reflux:

As I’ve shared before, our firstborn had silent reflux. Acid burning, pain abounding…heartburn. In our experience, reflux is worse at night, and greatly affected his and our sleep.

When many parents say they had a hard night, it means the child was up a few times, perhaps staying awake for a (whole) hour, or that perhaps they were up at 4 am for the day. Let me be clear that I am not diminishing how this feels in the morning – tired is tired! But I think it is fairly safe to say most babies and parents manage one solid 2-4 hour stretch of sleep per night, most nights. They are tired, but are usually functional the next day.

When I say we had hard nights, I mean that most nights, he did not sleep. There were 3-5 hours stretches of crying and discomfort followed by a 40-minute nap. But even this short stretch was interrupted by writhing and painful screams.Then we repeated the crying and short nap, or he was up for the day. He did not sleep a 3-hour stretch until 10 months.

As his nursing mama, neither did I. And often, neither did my husband.

We tried everything. We held him, we tried walking, co-sleeping, swinging, bouncing, singing. In desperation we tried crying it out but it was short-lived and agonizing for mom and baby  – a hurting baby cannot self-soothe, nor should he have to.

Nothing worked.

We spoke to doctors, lactation specialists, other parents and read books, articles and blogs by sleep consultants. There were many great tips, but none helped our son sleep.

If you think that sleep-deprivation is hard on your body and mind, imagine how it affects a baby – they are supposed to sleep twice as much as we are!

He, and we were exhausted – a term I no longer use lightly.

After 10 months, his sleep ebbed and flowed along with his silent reflux symptoms until FINALLY at 15 months, he slept through the night. This too came and went, but his sleep generally improved so MOST nights were silent nights.

That is, until the reflux returned with vengeance when he was 2 1/2 and I was 7 months pregnant with our second baby. Then his sleep success derailed and we recognized old patterns of returning pain and chronic coughing. This was no sleep ‘regression’. It was sleep succession. But we will save the story of toddler reflux for another day…

Because our sleep experience was a struggle, my goal is to share how to survive – to endure, to wait for healing, and to do everything in your power to encourage sleep. But more importantly, my goal is to empathize, and encourage parents that sleep does come, even if not right away.

10 Survival Tips for Parents – When Your Child Does NOT Sleep

1. Schedule YOUR sleep

While parents may not need as much sleep as a newborn, they do need consistent sleep. When your child doesn’t sleep, sleeping when the baby sleep doesn’t work. Consistent sleep-deprivation has consequences. Parents need to make their own sleep a priority. Be creative. When our son was young, I worked. Some days I went home and slept for 2 hours before picking our son up from daycare. OR, I’d work a few longer days, and take off early on a slow day and sleep for (gasp) 3 hours! If you don’t have daycare as an option, read on…

2. Enlist help

While not all parents have volunteers to stay up at night with the baby so the parents can sleep, most have someone who will come during the day. Ask for help. And accept it when it is offered. Don’t be prideful. Don’t shrug it off. Sleep is necessary and important. Ask them to come over and snuggle your child. Be sure they understand your child might cry the whole time. Our son’s grandparents, aunts and uncles and our close friends were willing. We weren’t good at asking.

3. Be transparent

Nothing good will come from pretending everything is fine. Don’t sugar coat what is going on. While there is a fine line between explaining the facts and complaining, if you aren’t truthful and transparent, your sleep-less existence will be lonely, and without help. And, others will not understand why you suddenly traded your social life for sleep.

4. Request advice from professionals

Assuming you are already navigating reflux treatment, don’t neglect to see lack of sleep as a symptom that needs to be addressed. When sleep is this difficult, more than just a pediatrician may be needed. Request a consult with a GI doctor, ask for a sleep study, or meet with an occupational or sleep therapist.

5. Try new strategies

I cannot advocate the ‘cry it out’ method because we learned that a hurting baby cannot self-soothe. They hurt and need help. However, there are many other great options to try. It is a good idea to try different sleep positions, but instead of buying a bunch of rockers, swings, crib wedges or chairs, borrow them. Research them. We used a Nap Nanny (no longer sold, but this Dex DayDreamer™ Infant Sleeper is today’s equivalent product) with an angled back to help with reflux. It was the only place our son ever slept at all for most of the first year. Please note: the most important comment on these sleepers is to never place them in a crib. They are intended to use on the floor for baby’s safety. 

6. Join a support group

Did you know there are GERD support groups all over the world? You can find the Reflux Rebels or Reflux Support Group on Facebook. The Facebook groups are generally closed, which means only group members can see your posts. You will find people struggling with the same issues, encouragement, and wise advice from real-life experience.

7. Don’t wake the baby

If your baby does not sleep, DO NOT interrupt sleep for any reason. The theory that sleep begets sleep is true in our experience. There is no event more important than your child’s sleep if they NEVER sleep. Do your best to set conditions for sleep and then protect that schedule. If that means leaving early, coming late, or not attending something, SO BE IT.

8. Pray

The best comfort I found during this time was prayer. And scripture. It is no surprise to God that you are tired or struggling. He sees your child and He sees you. Let Him carry you, and trust that He will bring both healing and sleep in His time. AND, know that your struggle has purpose, even if you cannot see it yet. Trust His plan, purpose and promise that He is working in all things for good of those who love Him…

9. Hang on to hope

Our son struggled for much longer than we wanted him to. And there were days we thought he would never, ever sleep through the night. But he did. And now he sleeps hard, and well. Eventually, even your child will too.

10. Know you are not alone

Other moms have endured what you are enduring. Find them. They won’t waste your time with advice that won’t work, they’ll instead spend their time listening and encouraging. They will understand that not all problems can be fixed with a book, herbal remedy, fancy swing or sleep-training method and they will remind you that some problems  have to resolve with time.

Survival Tips For Parents When Your Child Does NOT Sleep | thisgratefulmama.com