Summer and Spirituality: Uplifting Those Who Live Alone

By Gwenn Voelckers

The anticipation of warm summer evenings. New growth. Budding possibilities. What better time to seize the moment and make vital changes — especially those healthy transformations we vowed to undertake six months ago on Jan. 1.

Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Did you write them down?

I know I did, but they now appear on the horizon as a distant memory.

If you agree with me that June just might be the month to begin your self-improvement quest, I have a suggestion for your summer “to do” list: Renew your spirit.

I say this because, almost without exception, the women and men I’ve met who have successfully found their way after a divorce or the death of a spouse have been bolstered by a healthy spiritual life. They regularly attend worship services, find comfort in prayer and hymns, and faithfully observe religious holidays.

Others march to a different drummer and nourish their spiritual life in private moments, listening to music, communing with nature, reading or writing or just sitting in quiet meditation.

However it’s expressed, my observations tell me that those who nurture their spiritual life fare better when challenged by life’s transitions. I consider them fortunate because they take time to renew their spirit, and in doing so, find the inner strength to navigate uncharted waters and to help others along the way.

Even when their own sense of self-worth is fragile or failing, I’ve seen devout divorcees and widows reach out to others with encouragement and prayer. Spiritually grounded, their empathy runs deep and their desire to support others is steadfast.

Last month, I heard from a woman whose husband abruptly left her and their two teenage children after 27 years of marriage. She was in shock and consumed with pain. She shared with me how comforting it would have been to hear from her minister and church friends, but they didn’t know her situation. She had stopped going to church. It had been years, and that spiritual touch-point had fallen by the wayside.

Similarly, a neighbor of mine confided that he stopped going to temple after he lost his “bride” to lung cancer. Mad at the injustice of it all, he couldn’t bring himself to attend services without her. This led to years of isolation, during which he was overcome with loneliness. I wasn’t surprised when he talked of numbing his pain with alcohol.

My message to both was simple: Renew your spiritual connections.

It’s easy to imagine how difficult it might be to contact a minister, priest, rabbi or other spiritual adviser and ask for support after being absent from services for many years. But any religious congregation worthy of its mission will respond with open arms. A warm embrace is waiting for those who walk through the doors.

Likewise, if other doors beckon –if nature or poetry or yoga feed your soul — go forth and embrace those opportunities. My spiritual battery gets recharged when I take time out from my busy schedule to be still and mindful. My quiet time in an inspirational setting allows me to contemplate my most deeply held beliefs. I emerge grounded and motivated.

The power of a spiritual life is mighty. When you pursue your spiritual goals and teachings, life can be more manageable and your ability to cope with loss, loneliness and everyday struggles is strengthened.

No matter how you pursue a spiritual connection, I encourage you to make that connection or re-connection now. Today. An idea bigger than yourself, a set of convictions, and the company of people who share your beliefs can lead to a richer, more meaningful and peaceful existence. You do not have to go through life alone. And that is a godsend.

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Alone & Content” empowerment boot camps for women held throughout the year in Mendon. She is the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.” For information about her boot camp, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak call 585-624-7887, email gvoelckers@rochester.rr.com, or visit www.aloneandcontent.com

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