Loneliness is a topic that I have become personally familiar with over the past 12 months. Last year, after a busy summer that included lots of family adventures, moving from PA to NC, sending my baby chick to college and kissing my husband good-bye on August 29, 2018—our 26th wedding anniversary—as he departed for a yearlong military deployment, I returned to a super empty nest. My husband and I had agreed to keep journals during this year of separation. For our 27th wedding anniversary this year, still separated, I read through my journal entries in search of sweet reflections, which I found, but I also found a number of observations on loneliness.

9/3/18 – I’m realizing that my grieving of your absence, initially thought to be mild and short-lived, has just been postponed. I’m grateful for the respite that [baby chick’s] visit brought. I needed a break from the sadness that started creeping in even before you left. Maybe now I’m a little stronger to face it, embrace it, overcome it.

9/15/18 – What an uplifting, fulfilling day this has been! I still have 1 out of my 3 goals to accomplish today, and that will be done before I go to bed. I’ve lost count of all of the friends and family who have called or texted to check on me.

9/18/18 – You say you’re proud of how I’m tackling everything. I must say that I’m surprised I haven’t curled up under the covers (well, not much anyway). But yesterday was really hard. It felt overwhelming and dark, and I hate that I broke down while we were on FaceTime.

9/22/18 – First day of Fall, my favorite season. I used to try to convince myself and everyone else that Spring was my favorite, because that seemed like the right answer. But really, it’s Fall. I love the crispness in the air, the changing leaves, the warm sweaters, apple cider and fires in the firepit. So I guess that’s why I’m feeling especially lonely right now – I don’t have you here to share these things. It’s a raw feeling right now – I’m on the verge of tears most of the time. I almost cried during Pure Barre class this morning, when the instructor said to “leave it all on the floor.”

10/11/18 – It’s so good to be home. But so hard to come home to an empty house.

10/17/18 – This week has been the first really “normal” week since you left, with Forum and the Italy trip behind me. I’m trying to get into a rhythm, and I’ve had small wins, but I’m not where I’d like to be. Yes, I told everyone in August that the weight of the deployment would hit me this week and that I would give myself space and time to absorb it, sit with it, embrace it, and get over it. But I’m not sure that I fully believed it when I said it. And I’m certain that I thought I’d be further along by now. So I’ll try to listen to my younger self (from August) and just wade through the…is it grief? Depression? Facebook helped me along by showing a memory from 1 year ago, when the four of us went to Wagoner’s Gap. Like someone had slapped me. I’m so glad that [baby chick] is coming home this weekend—she seems to have a knack for showing up when I’m at a low point—and I hope I can be the comfort that she’s seeking. Wow, that was hard to write: admitting this could be depression, or that I may fall short meeting my daughter’s needs.

2/14/19 – I’m getting too good at indulging to make up for my loneliness—not a positive trait.

The good news is that I had forgotten about some of these feelings. I share these personal thoughts not for your pity. Rather, I hope it will encourage open dialogue and will open your lens to those who suffer—possibly the person sitting next to you. Lastly, I want to emphasize that I have an incredible support network of family, my HERO family, and friends, all of whom have been unrelenting in their constant support during this time.

UPDATE (9/27/19)

Since delivering these opening remarks on September 9th, I’ve been overwhelmed by the warm embraces and words of encouragement. To those of you who expressed feelings of guilt or sadness at not knowing what I was going through, give yourself a break. Like many others, I’m too good at putting on my armor and hiding my vulnerabilities. This experience has taught me to do less of both. So I’ll end with this encouragement: Get real with each other. Ask the questions. Connect!

1 Comment

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  1. Paul Terry 2 weeks ago

    Just an added note that the HERO members in attendance at this Think Tank were quick to give Karen a standing ovation given the impact of her opening remarks. I’d venture that it was a combination of her exemplary modeling of what it takes to get over the stigma of this topic alongside the recognition in the audience that they had just experienced such a poignant moment delivered with humility and eloquence.

    I took a moment, as the speaker following Karen, to reflect on how her opening presentation affirmed what I’ve long admired about Karen’s leadership. I think of her first as a servant leader, purpose driven with an abiding sense for doing what’s right. But alongside that is her authentic leadership, a leader with a special ability to be faithful to who she is. The kind of leadership that makes for enthusiastic followers like me.

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