When We Need Community the Most: Where Is Everyone?

Jann FreedLiving Leave a Comment

Several of my recent posts have been on the need for leaders to build community in workplaces because of the growing disease of social isolation.  In fact, I was recently giving a talk at a technology conference about the importance of “disconnecting to connect.”

But where is everyone when we need them most?  Where is our community of people we thought cared about us?

As I stressed at the conference, we need to build the community before we need it, but our society has some interesting norms surrounding the aspect of community.  I read a thought-provoking article about this topic and I can’t stop thinking about it.

When people get married, there are parties to celebrate, wedding showers, and friends come together in a variety of ways to show their joy, love, and support of the happy couple.  There is a strong sense of community when it may not really be needed because of the joyous occasion.

But what happens when people get divorced?  When the couple is “decoupling–no longer a couple?”  Where is the community when we need it most?

Often friends don’t know what to say or they feel they need to take sides.  People don’t know what to say so they often don’t say anything.  When people need support the most, few people can often be found.

I shared this article about the lack of community with a friend of mine who is currently going through a divorce–not of her choosing.  She would rather have stayed married or at least had a chance to work at it or discuss the issues before realizing there was someone else involved.  Her response was that this article nailed it exactly.  This is an excerpt from the article:

“We often think of “divorce” as an event. We talk about people “getting divorced.” The truth of the matter is that divorce is a process. It’s a journey. We think of “falling in love” and courtship as a journey. The truth of the matter is that falling out of love is also a journey.

There is a divorce of intimacy.
There is a divorce of social circles.
There is a sexual divorce.
There is a communication divorce.
There is a divorce of dreams and hopes.
There is a divorce of family rituals.

What we talk about as “getting divorced” is often merely the last stage, the legal one. Before that, there have been many other divorces.”

My friend said she felt so lonely and did not feel she had the support she could use right now.  Many of her friends are professional friends and she does not want to vent to them for fear it would affect her business relationships.  But in times such as these, friends need to rally around and provide the community so people don’t have to “let go” of so many things all alone.

I am writing this so that I continue to think about how to support friends who might need the support and I can be more intentional about being there to help.  Since you are reading this, think about who you know and how they might need your help.

The article closed with these questions and comments:

“If we are a community, we should be together through thin and thick, for better and for worse. We stand together in the valleys and on the mountaintops. How do we make it possible for us to stand together when each of us goes through the valleys?

Why do we celebrate together but suffer in silence?

It made me realize that we have no rituals for suffering, for breaking up, for hurting. I am not sure what those rituals would look like, but it does seem like something to seek.

How do we create a sense of community that makes it easier for us to reach out to one another to let each other know that we are struggling in the most intimate parts of our lives? That we can share our vulnerability and hurts more freely with one another?

How do we make it easier to ask for help and support, before things get so bad? When they have gotten so bad? Through the so-bad? And on to the beyond-the-so-bad?”

Who might need your help and support right now?

If you need a community now to help you, who can you ask for help and support?  

Do yourself a favor and ask for help when you need it.

NOTE:  The next podcast in my series Becoming a Sage will be released this Friday, June 9th.  I interviewed Dr. Tim Ihrig, a doctor and expert in palliative care.  Learn why we should know more about and care about palliative care for ourselves and for those for whom we care. Watch for it in your email inbox.  Please let me know your thoughts as feedback is welcome.