Create and Embrace a ‘Family of Friends’

By Gwenn Voelckers

Living alone after a significant life change can be daunting.

It was years ago, but I remember feeling lost and disoriented after my divorce.

At first, time alone felt overwhelming, but eventually I discovered an invaluable source of support and companionship: my family of friends.

As I navigated this new phase of my life, I realized that cultivating and nurturing this chosen family became essential to my finding joy and contentment on my own.

It took conscious effort, but the rewards were immeasurable. My new network of friends became my pillars of support, understanding, fun and recreation.

They helped me transition from a shared life to a solitary one — one in which I found tremendous solace and strength. You, too, can make this transition with the help of chosen friends and meaningful connections.

Taking the first step

The first step in creating my family of friends was to step out of my comfort zone, which at the time meant sitting at home alone on my couch watching Seinfeld reruns. I decided to follow my therapist’s suggestion to turn off the TV, sit quietly and think about what brings me joy (or what used to bring me joy).

Music came to mind.

Like a familiar refrain, this idea played in my head until I worked up the courage to call the Eastman Community Music School in Rochester to inquire about their New Horizons music program for older adults. One week later, I joined their “Green Band” for beginners and have been making music and new friends ever since.

Let your interests, your loves and your values illuminate the way forward and you’ll find yourself immersed in engaging activities and fulfilling friendships.

Nurturing new-found connections

Creating a family of friends isn’t just about meeting new people; it’s about deepening and maintaining those connections.

Regular communication plays a pivotal role.

I made an extra effort to reach out and stay connected to my new companions through texts, emails, phone calls, meeting for coffee, etc. Consistency is key, as is timeliness.

Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm by responding quickly to messages. Let others know you care by showing up early for events and by sticking around afterwards to chat and get to know each other. Be curious. Ask people about themselves and be open in return.

Strengthening connections requires ongoing effort, just like tending a garden helps it flourish.

Letting your guard down

Allowing others to see the “real me” during a vulnerable time in my life felt scary at first. But opening up became easier as my relationships grew deeper and more authentic.

Sharing my feelings, fears and hopes with my trusted friends and hearing their stories and experiences created a secure and safe space for mutual support and understanding.

Just recently, a conversation I had with a budding friend revealed a shared sadness about losses within our respective families of origin. I felt less alone while talking with her and after we hugged goodbye, I was filled with feelings of gratitude and inner peace.

Shared vulnerability and empathy can pave the way for close, life-long friendships. They are within your grasp.

Celebrating your chosen family

The decision to create and embrace a family of friends is a powerful step toward reclaiming agency over your life and fostering a sense of belonging.

It isn’t about replacing your biological family, but rather expanding the definition of family to include those who genuinely uplift and support you.

Savor the joy these relationships bring you. Relish the moments of pure happiness and genuine laughter. These moments are precious and will remind you that — on your own — life can still be vibrant and beautiful.

In closing . . .

Let me reassure you. While living solo after years of sharing your life with someone may seem overwhelming initially, it’s also a chance for incredible personal growth and newfound connections.

Embrace the journey and remember that in the midst of this change, there is immense potential for joy and contentment in the presence of a loving and supportive family of friends.

You’re not alone — your family of friends is there to take this journey with you, bringing warmth, laughter and unwavering support all along the way.

Gwenn Voelckers is the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.” She welcomes your thoughts on this column. Feel free to reach out to her with your questions and comments. And if you have any ideas for future columns, she would love to hear them! Just email