How to shut down loneliness

I’m sitting in a park in Old Quebec surrounded by ancient buildings. Bells are ringing with abandon from all directions and a nearby fountain is whispering, “Breathe deeply, my friend.”


Photo: Marlys

Today is my wedding anniversary. Even though I am bereft of my husband, Gary, I am celebrating our special event with a cruise up the Saint Lawrence River and out into the Atlantic — from Quebec to Boston. Alone.

Here on this park bench, my thoughts are swirling every which way: remembering all the good years Gary and I had together, reflecting on my current contentment, anticipating what the future may hold.

And I’m practicing what I preach:

Picking up courage

I blog from time to time about picking up courage when we least feel like it. Honestly, when it comes to packing a bag and boarding a plane and flying through multiple time zones—alone—the thought of stepping away from the comforts of home can be unsettling.

And so I booked this cruise. And fought back the anxiety. And pretended to have courage. And every time I go through this process, I grow … well, braver.


Old Quebec (photo: Marlys)

Slowing down

I didn’t sign up for a hoard of sight-seeing excursions at the ports along the way. Instead, I plan to walk into each town with a book in my backpack, visit the significant sites, and then find a Chai tea latte and sit outdoors – reading, thinking, writing, shooting photos, people-watching. 

There is the verse from Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God.

I am sitting—still—in this beautiful park square within the walls of Old Quebec, knowing that God is God and He has choreographed a beautiful dance for my remaining days on earth.

Slowing down while on vacation — now there’s a novel thought.

Practicing gratitude

I have lost so much. And yet I have much to be grateful for. Which means I will never stop counting the gifts and all the ways God loves me.

1) Freedom to travel; 2) Recent news that family is moving back to Oregon from the Far East; 3) Melt-in-your-mouth seafood; 4) Friends and family who believe in the beauty of my dreams; 5) Interesting fellow travelers; 6) The leaf-turning beauty of this northeastern countryside; 7) Gorgeous live piano-and-violin music onboard ship.

And that’s just today. Because in actuality, the gratitude list is quite long.

Embracing being alone

A friend, whose husband died two years before Gary, once said to me, “I’m lonelier now than at the beginning.”

I didn’t get it back then, but I do now.

It’s almost as if I needed to get settled into widowhood, as if I needed the reassurance that I could manage car maintenance and travel details and our business affairs on my own. And now that those things are manageable, there’s more time to experience a bit of loneliness.

And so, I choose to embrace any discomfort that might come from being alone as I create new adventures.

And by doing so, loneliness is defeated.


Le Château Frontenac shot from Terrasse Dufferin (photo: Marlys)
Le Château Frontenac at night (photo:
Overlooking the Saint Lawrence River (photo: Marlys)

What if?

You’ve heard it said, “Practice makes perfect.”

What if, when we find ourselves alone in life, we could practice gratitude, and brave-making, and slowing down, and embracing the aloneness?

Would this help carry us through lonely times?

From my experience, absolutely.


Do you get to pick your family?


Welcome, Autumn! 50 inspiring thoughts


  1. Michelle Bader

    So well said! You give me courage to journey ahead!

  2. sally slick

    Oh Marlys – my brave, beautiful, wonderful, loving friend… I am so grateful to be your friend and to be able to follow along on your brave adventures…. Thanks for being you!

  3. I love you, Marlys. You are so much further along the widow-road than I am and you encourage me by your life and words more than you can know. You are brave and victorious because you trust in God’s goodness and promises … and I am committed to following your example. Wherever He leads, I’ll go.

    • Julie, you are and will continue to be one of those women encouraging widows walking this journey after you. I love this attitude: “Wherever He leads, I’ll go.”

  4. I know what being alone in life is all about. I lost someone special Dec. 28 2007. I know you are being brave steeping out on this cruise. I also know God and Our Lord Jesus Christ and The Holy Ghost are with you as well. God is with us each all day long. He is the perfect traveling partner who will let you know if you ask him. I love the pictures of old Quebec. that part of the city has always tugged at my heart as I have never been out there yet. Just relax and do things your way slow and easy. God bless you !

  5. I have a friend who recently lost her husband. Your words remind me of the pain she is experiencing. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Thank you for sharing the lovely photos, too. Praying today is a good day.

  6. Beautiful Marlys. So poignant and honest. I’m proud of you for commemorating your love for Gary with this trip. And resisting the urge to fill each day with meaningless activity. You are facing the pain and letting God fill you in the stillness and aching loneliness. Hard to do! He is using your obedience to fill your life with beauty and gratitude that ministers to all of us. Thank you.

    • Well said, Beth – I am “resisting the urge to fill each day with meaningless activity” and “letting God fill me.” And He has, indeed, filled me to overflowing. So grateful.

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