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Life Transitions: Why Change Can Make You Feel Lonely and What You Can Do About It

Times of transition — whether from a sad event or a joyful one — often affect our social connections and can leave us feeling adrift.

Human beings like routine; it’s comforting. That’s why a change in your everyday activities can often trigger feelings of loneliness.

It’s normal to feel lonely during times of transition. As you adjust to your new situation, it’s important to acknowledge that your life has changed without judging yourself if you are struggling.

There are also simple things you can do to feel better during a big life change. Read on to learn how to manage your feelings and find ways to build — and deepen — social connections.


Transitioning from “coupled” to single is challenging at any age. You may experience bouts of sadness or feel angry about how your life has changed. Even if you wanted the relationship to end, it can still feel strange to be without the person you saw every day for so many years.

During the early stages of your separation or divorce, it’s especially important to take care of yourself. Although you may find that you’re easily distracted, good health habits will help you stay focused. Try to get enough sleep, eat regular meals, and take walks to clear your head.

Recognize, too, that one of the biggest emotional challenges of divorce is the feeling that you’re losing your identity, especially if you were married for a long time.

This can be a chance to get to know yourself again. What is it that YOU like to do? What are YOUR goals? What works best for YOU? Many newly single people “date” themselves during this time, rediscovering who they are.

Support groups for people going through a divorce can help tremendously. Not only will you meet others riding the same emotional waves, but you’ll also find referrals and resources to help with the financial and legal aspects of your divorce.

To get a snapshot of how you’re doing, consider taking this Fisher Divorce Assessment Scale. Plan to take it when you have some time to think through your answers — there are 100 short questions to answer in this helpful assessment.

Becoming a Caregiver

Woman feeding mother at table
Caregiving is rewarding, but it can also contribute to emotional stress and isolation

More than 1 in 5 adults in the United States — that’s 53 million people — provide assistance to aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. Caregiving is rewarding, but it can also contribute to emotional stress and isolation. You may feel that no one understands your situation. You may withdraw from social activities because of time constraints or lack of motivation.

When caring for a loved one, remember there will be good days and bad days. Support groups can provide you with a much-needed sounding board. Sharing what you’re going through with others facing the same situation can help you feel seen and avoid caregiver burnout.

It’s important to give yourself and your loved one the gift of self-care. Prioritizing your own physical and mental well-being can make a big difference in the quality of both your life and your relationship with the person who receives your care.

There are many organizations offering caregiver support, from the National Alliance on Caregiving to Meals on Wheels to Medicare. Many services are available for free or at a low cost, too.

Change of Scene

Whether you’re moving to be closer to loved ones or relocating for financial or health reasons, pulling up stakes later in life can often feel like it signals the end of an era.

As you sift through which belongings to take with you, you’re bound to experience a flood of memories. You may even find yourself dwelling on “what could have been.” It’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling.

At this age, it’s also common to feel as if moving represents a loss of control, especially if you can no longer care for yourself at home.

Here’s how you can take charge of this transition to feel better:

  • Make a Plan

    You can’t declutter a lifetime of memories and mementos in a day. Start small, either with one closet or with a category like books.

  • Focus on the Positives

    What will you gain from your move? No more yardwork? Help around the house? A new town to explore? Write the positives down and tape them to your mirror or refrigerator so you see them every day. You can also add a photo of your favorite thing about your new home to help underscore what you have to look forward to.

  • Make It Fun

    Make a scrapbook or keepsake box to capture your favorite memories.

Packing can feel overwhelming. Start by estimating how many boxes you’ll need with the packing calculator on You can also look for free moving boxes online from people who just moved on Craigslist, U-Haul Box Exchange, Freecycle, Nextdoor and Facebook groups. For more tips on what to do in the weeks leading up to your move, follow this checklist.

Before you move, share your new address and contact information with your neighbors, friends, and family so you can stay in touch. Finally, once you get to your new home, use your active listening skills to get to know your new neighbors and begin building new connections.


Ah, the golden years! After years spent looking forward to retirement, it’s liberating to no longer have to “punch a clock.”

At first, it might feel as if you’re on vacation … but after a few months, it’s normal to feel a bit lost. You may be bored having more time on your hands, or worried about expenses, or missing the person you thought you’d share this time with.

Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help. First, try to structure your days. It may feel strange to pencil in time for your morning coffee or running your errands after lunch, but establishing a regular routine can help you adjust.

Second, explore a new hobby, volunteer for a cause you care about, or join a group for retirees. It’s a great way to stave off feelings of loneliness stemming from not seeing your co-workers every day.

Third, if you find yourself going stir crazy or needing a bit more of a financial cushion, part-time work or freelancing might be just what you need to enjoy this new chapter in your life. AARP Foundation offers resources that can help you get started.

A Helping Hand with Grief

Grief often accompanies big life changes. Learn what older adults and their caregivers can do to manage the grieving process and find additional support.


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