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Why Are We Ashamed Of Loneliness?

Why Are We Ashamed Of Loneliness?

Jacey EckhartOne of my favorite deployment movies is Sabrina, not the 1954 version with Audrey Hepburn, but the 1995 version with Julia Ormond. Granted, there is not a single military person in the entire movie. No ships. No planes. No weapons. No sand. All there is in the movie is Sabrina, acting out what so many military spouses feel.

If you haven’t seen the movie, young Sabrina has been sent off to Paris. She struggles at work, but she struggles a lot more in the gaping hours after work. It hurts to look at her. Sabrina’s boss finally pulls her aside and says, “You seem embarrassed by loneliness, by being alone. It’s only a place to start.”

The first time I saw the movie, I felt that embarrassed by loneliness. I felt like I shouldn’t be lonely. I was married to a fabulous guy who loved me like the sun—even though he was always at sea. I thought there was something terribly wrong with me.

There was: I was lonely. Researchers now tell us that loneliness is a primal demand—like feeling hungry or thirsty or tired. We are supposed to feel those feelings and DO SOMETHING. As in, right now. As if the survival of the species depended on it. We don’t feel ashamed of being hungry or thirsty. We grab something to eat. We open a bottle of water. We sleep when we need to sleep—in bed or on a plane or slumped against a car window. There isn’t any shame in those things.

And there isn’t any shame in our loneliness either—especially during deployment. This is the brain signaling to us that we need to make a connection with other people. What I love about Sabrina is watching her model the things I need to do next. Sabrina sits in cafes. She goes out with friends. She explores the things that she likes. She is still a bit lonely. The same way I am without Brad. The same way Brad is without me. And, really, that’s OK. Because it’s only a place to start.

–  Jacey Eckhart is a military/life consultant based in Washington DC. She is the author of The Homefront Club: The Hardheaded Woman’s Guide to Raising a Military Family and the voice behind the Military OneSource CD These Boots.” Check out more columns and her speaking schedule at

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