August 29 th


Transitions, loss & five ways to combat loneliness


“Who are you?”  said the Caterpillar. . . .

“I-I hardly know, Sir, just at present,” Alice replied rather shyly, “at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.” 

— LEWIS CARROLL, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 


Transitions pave the way for new beginnings. And on the way, as Alice implies, we typically experience loss, confusion, and loneliness.

I work with clients who are undergoing profound transitions. While change and transition are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. According to organizational consultant William Bridges:


  • Change is situational; it is a shift in one’s external situation reflected by outer events. E.g., relocation, promotion, job loss, marriage, divorce, birth, death, onset of illness, and so on.


  • Transition is psychological; it reflects an internal re-orientation and self-definition that includes disengaging from the old, moving through the ‘no where’ between old and new, and then embracing the new.


While we have all kinds of tools to plan for external changes, transitions are interior experiences that often blind-side us and catch us unaware.

I have watched clients, friends and family struggle with decisions to leave their job, find a new job, start a new business, take their business to the next level, find a new partner, dissolve a marriage, and manage illness. And I have struggled with these issues myself.

The challenge is that these decisions to take action, while seemingly simple when viewed from the outside, produce a wide range of complicated, unsettling and confusing feelings on the inside. Internally, when we are in transition we experience a series of psychological births and deaths. Transitions usher in literal and psychic loss.

The two greatest losses that I see as people grow are the loss of identity (who am I now?) and the loss of meaningful relationships (where are “my people”?).

One of the primary experiences my clients report is a palpable sense of loneliness. And while it is not surprising that loneliness would accompany transition, it is quite unnerving.

Loneliness is defined as “the condition of being lonely”, as “solitude”, as “isolation”.  In fact, loneliness is a sense of chaos and disconnection that springs from emotional or social isolation.

Emotional isolation occurs when we have lost touch with ourselves and with what we need to thrive. We have disconnected from our bodies, from our feelings, and from our own wisdom.

Social isolation occurs when we appear to be surrounded by people who seem not to understand us (or when we are quite literally socially isolated and not present with other people). When we are not surrounded by people who mirror us unconditionally and non-judgmentally, and support our process whether or not they understand it, it is easy to feel alone.

In my experience, the way out is through. To that end, here are five ways to work with and move through loneliness:

1.  Become aware of your loneliness. Acknowledge it. Name it.

  • What are its qualities?
  • How does it show up in you?

2.  Befriend your loneliness. Welcome it. Allow it. Practice non-judgment.

  • Acceptits existence as part of the process of growth.
  • Remind yourself that it’s normal.

3.  Invoke curiosity.

  • What do you notice in your body?
  • What feelings arise?
  • What thoughts bubble up?

4.  Contemplate loneliness. Understand it as a universal human experience.

  • Read about others’ experiences with loneliness, loss, and perseverance.
  • Remember it is a natural part of the cycle of life.
  • See it as a sign that you’re being called to the next level of growth.

5.  Act. Take conscious and creative action.

  • Change things up. Go against the grain. Try something new. Welcome the discomfort.
  • Join a group. Seek out like-minded, like-hearted others.
  • Engage a coach. Make meaning of your current experience. Design new directions.
  • Make regular social plans. Keep the commitment. Whether you feel like it or not.
  • Take up a body-based practice. Exercise. Yoga. Bodywork.


When have you felt lonely? What has helped you move through it? As you read this list, what would you add?

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  1. love this post Laurie! xxxx

  2. Laurie, I just love this post. I wish I had met you 20 years ago. Having gone through career change and the onset of illness, I have experienced a lot of what you discuss here.

    I have worked with all the suggestions you have here. For me, the most important was to act. For me (that Type-A personality), taking action was grounding. It thoughtful, intentional action, but it gave me the sense of control in my situation, even though I was well aware I had no control over my illness.

    • Laurie, I love that we spell our name the same way. 😉 I wish I had known this 20 years ago myself! One of the best things to come from my own confusion, pain and struggle is the ability to give it voice and be of service to others. I know that’s what you do too.

      I know what you mean when you say that action offers a sense of control, especially for Type A personalities (that would also be me!). What I have noticed is that it’s when I let go of control, that things flow.

      As you say, conscious action keeps us grounded. And it’s also important because without intention, action can be just another means of distracting ourselves.

      The beauty of these five steps is that they support all personality types. For example, for some people reflecting is not a stretch, but taking action is. For others, action brings comfort while reflection and stillness are deeply uncomfortable. Thanks for reading and commenting. xoxo

  3. Tina Pruitt says:

    Laurie, this post is very poignant for me. The last 4 years have brought 3 cancer diagnosis, a separation, relocation, early retirement, social isolation (with people, but not part), food/drink changes, lifestyle change, new business launch, a divorce, and pretty much simply “no stone left unturned” in the way of transitions. Through some new avenues, and a lot of commitment, I am overcoming the isolation element by surrounding myself with like-minded people and putting myself in situations that are meaningful to me.

    Thank you for this post and the tips….I will definitely read this through a few more time….

    • Tina, thanks so much for reading and for sharing some of your own story. I’ll bet you have a lot to add about how you have been moving through these transitions yourself. I would love to hear more. I am glad this post touched you. I too will be referring back to this post. They say that “we teach what we most need to learn” and I need these reminders as well. xoxo

  4. Laurie, as I read your post I am thinking of a friend who has just lost her mother who was 51 years old. It was so unexpected that it has sent the entire family reeling. They all are feeling lonely even with the thousands of others who have tried to support them as best as they can. I am glad there are people out there like you that they can turn to. thx. 😉

    • Heather, I am sorry for your friend and her family. What a tremendous loss. You’re welcome to share my post with them. Thanks for your kind words. I hope your friend and her family get the support they need to grieve and heal.

  5. Honestly, I can’t tell if I’m never lonely, or if I’m so lonely all the time that I’m just used to it. LOL I work on my own and I love that – I never really feel the need to connect with other people, possibly because I have lots of potential and current clients and I’m always meeting new people through networking and reaching out to others. I think I combat it that way. But then there’s the other type of loneliness, where you feel no one understands you – and I’ve ALWAYS felt this, even as a child and adolescent and young adult. Even as a married woman, I often feel like no one understands me…so am I never lonely or just used to it? I wonder if there’s a way to find out…..

    • Jess, thanks so much for visiting and commenting. I thought I replied to your comment but I don’t see it here.

      I totally resonate with feeling like no one understands you. I have felt this way much of my life too. More and more, I think my perception is an invitation to embrace and accept myself. It seems that whenever I do that, suddenly I am surrounded by people who reflect that back. Perhaps the greatest opportunity in loneliness is the invitation to reconnect with oneself.

      To your question, I suspect that rather than getting used to being lonely, you have shifted to a new space within yourself. A place where you are more comfortable with who you are. Curious what you think?

  6. Laura Gates says:

    I love the way you are so clear in how you present things. And of course it triggers for me all the transitions I have been through and am going through. The loneliest time of my life was a divorce in 1993 where I felt like there was no one. That created the catalyst for huge life changes. Now I feel like I am transforming constantly. Realizing that there is no “there” I am trying to get to helps to navigate the changing tide!

    • Laura, thanks for the feedback and for your personal sharing. Yes, loneliness does serve as a catalyst for new growth. And I, too, feel like I am transforming constantly … maybe it’s in the air. 😉 It does indeed help to remember there is no “there”; there is just “now.”

  7. Scott Powers says:

    This really made me stop and think about the times when I truly felt alone; when I lost my Dad in college, when I got divorced and was broke, and when I left all friends and family to move from NH to LA. Each time brought an upswing of tremendous growth, almost like that lonliness was a rite of passge to find the best in myself. I had never even put that in perspective before until just now.
    I’m still absorbing my West Coast move, and still an outsider trying to find my groove to some degree. We still go through our bouts of being homesick and missing our friends and family, but ultimately it is worth the evolution. I like how you put it, to see lonliness as being called to the next level of growth. Very profound!

    • Scott, thanks for sharing your stories. I’m glad reflecting on this helped you see the loneliness in a new light. I really like the way you have framed it: that it was “almost like that loneliness was a rite of passage to find the best in myself”.

      I often wonder if we all don’t feel like outsiders to some degree? I agree that evolving is worth the toil. And seeing it as calling us to our next level of growth … isn’t that an energizing kind of challenge? It’s like we’re being invited to wake up. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you took something powerful away from this post.

  8. Suki says:

    The last time that I felt lonely was six years ago when I moved to Australia with my husband. We live in a small country town and everyone know everyone. So it made me feel outcast. I really miss my family and friends. I cried almost everyday for two years. Then I changed my mind. I told myself I want to love this town, I want to love these people and I want to call this place is my second home. Once I changed the attitude from negative to positive. Things are getting better and better. I have more friends, I feel happier and I don’t feel lonely as much as six years ago. I still feel lonely sometimes being apart from my family. But the good thing is I realize that how much I love them 🙂

    • Suki, I can imagine how hard it must have been to move away from your family and friends to a small town where everyone knows everyone. I can feel how isolating that must have been. And your story shows the power of a shift in mindset! I love that you were able to make a decision to love this town and call it home and that it worked for you. I think it is also important is to embrace the loneliness as a natural part of life. We are so used to resisting difficult feelings but resistance creates more of the same. I like the way you have reframed your loneliness and being far from your family as a sign that that you love them so much. How sweet. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  9. Yvette says:

    Laurie, what a timely post!
    I’ve gone through my share of transitions, 10 years ago my husband and I just took off to London and lived there for two years. We didn’t know a soul, it was a rough transition I missed family and friends, really tough, but it was a once in a lifetime experience that I just couldn’t say no to. So, my way out was just like you said, through it. Most recently, I’m going through social isolation, my immediate family and close friends just don’t get this entrepreneurial journey And so, its been hard for me to cope with everyone around me telling me to go the safe route (get a job like everyone else) and all the negative energy around that. I will definitely read this through a few more times and see how I can incorporate your suggestions. I need to cope with this one as the people around me just don’t get it and never will. GReat post!

    • Yvette, I resonate with the social isolation of the entrepreneurial journey. You describe it well and while I think it’s a universal story, that doesn’t make it any easier. It seems all the more important to surround ourselves with people who do understand what we’re doing and can support the journey and the adventure. And I am also finding that it’s important to let go of the hope that the other people in my life will get it while reminding myself that we are all just doing the best we can with what we have. Thanks for sharing. Hope my tips are useful. If you think of other ideas please pop on back and share them. 🙂

  10. Jeanette says:

    Thanks so much for this Laurie! This is one of those posts that offers value as both a first time read and something I can revisit.

    Like most people, I’ve been through many changes and transitions in my life, but I really think that over the last two years I’ve come to a much better awareness and understanding of the transition piece. I think that is mostly because I’m learning to better handle both the social and emotional loneliness that can accompany transition. Which is a good thing – amazing in fact because I feel that having made (and still making) certain transitions in my life has made me a much happier, confident and whole woman.

    I love all your suggestions and I have found the awareness and non-judgment pieces truly effective in my life. Thanks.

    • Jeanette, thanks for letting me know you enjoyed this post and that it’s one you would revisit!

      As you point out, we undergo a multitude of transitions. Awareness and non-judgment are so useful in making the journey. Glad to hear you have been managing the social and emotional loneliness that accompanies transitions and that you’re feeling more whole. That’s a huge part of my work, facilitating wholeness. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  11. Jenn Burton says:


    Fantastic break down on to move through loneliness. Your actionable steps are right on. I am currently transitioning, so it was an extremely timely post. Thank you!

  12. Kathleen says:

    ahhhhhhhh…. look at all the lonely people… du du du du du du du du…
    The Beatles. Eleonor Rigby. Loneliness is such a part of our human journey. I so appreciate you making it your focus…. most especially your recommendations for developing a relationship with it. It brings to mind the altars of the ancients who felt that whenever a strong state of being came upon us, it was a god/dess… and it was time to tend to their altar and value the gifts/messages they held for us.

    Loneliness has always been for me a call to return to myself. Similar to depression. Initially it may arise from the pain of those I do not have or cannot be with… and ultimately it turns in to the self I have lost touch with. For me, when I tend through writing or painting or movement, giving this ‘feeling’ its expression so I can learn from it and be guided by it… the profundity of its presence appears and my loneliness disappears.

    I think if each of us could fall madly & wildly in love with ourselves, our sense of loneliness would recede. And I think that loneliness is the call to do just that.

    Love your work, Laurie. I deeply appreciate honoring the more challenging side of life as a gift rather than a curse.

    • As always Kathleen, I am awed by your wisdom and the way you have described loneliness as a call to return to oneself. This is so poignant! And your brilliant invitation to fall madly and wildly in love with ourselves is a wonderful antidote. And yes, writing, painting, movement and other forms of mindful presence reconnect us with ourselves.

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I do see the challenging parts of life as messengers. These messages are gifts if only we can decipher the lessons. I am so grateful for your wisdom and sharing. xoxo

  13. I remember I went through a long period of being lonely. Not by not having people around me but by having the wrong people around me that I wasn’t me. I lost trust in people when I was younger because I got hurt real bad by a group of friends. As an adult it was hard for me to let people really know me. I was used to being by myself since I was an only child. But as years passed I realized I was really lonely because I wasn’t expressing me and I wasn’t with people who really understood me. Those were hard times but it was just the suggestions you made that got me out of it. Now I love the women I am around and I have a wonderful husband who totally gets me. Thanks for doing your work and sharing it with the world.


    • Alara, you point out several clear examples of circumstances that can create loneliness: people who don’t understand us and a lack of fully expressing ourselves. So glad to hear you have used these strategies to move through it yourself. Thanks for fully expressing yourself and sharing your work with us and the world! xoxo

  14. Aaron A. says:

    I guess fate is what brought me to your post. I understand your feeling because I used to think that I am lonely as well. I was an anti social person because I never trust anybody before due to some incidents in the past. It was difficult to face this world alone and sometimes I do think of ending my own life. However, I was not brave enough to do so. Therefore, to have some close friends and close family members to talk to when you are feeling down is very important. I understand that and I tried my very best to fight it. First step is always difficult but I did it anyway. I hope other lonely people out there will do the same too.

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your experience. Loneliness is part of the human condition and reaching out to others is an important part of the process of moving through. Glad to hear you are reaching out. I think it takes courage to examine your condition and move through it. It sounds like you have been doing that. Congratulations!