for release Friday October 7, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Are You Too Lonely?
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on loneliness.
Recently my husband had to work on Sunday and I felt kind of lonely. It was a strange emotion for me to feel—after 23 years of having three kids in the house and more going on than I could keep up with.
As someone else said, “Well, he’s lucky he never had to work Sundays before.” That’s true, but this came on top of working many six day weeks and ten hours a day. He was working 13 days straight on that stretch, and it was mandatory. We weren’t complaining because many others are out of work.
As a writer, I usually don’t mind being alone. I think and work best when alone, and certainly writing is something that you generally do by yourself. So usually I don’t mind it.
But I have a new appreciation for widows, widowers, divorcees and singles. Especially if your situation is not by choice. In those cases loneliness doesn’t last a single day or even a week, but is day in and day out, month after month. For people who have been married 40 or 50 years, losing a spouse after spending the major part of one’s life together is like tearing away half your body and personality. It is a huge loss.
Sometimes the elderly who lose a spouse after many years are chided, “Oh, you should just be thankful for the years you had together” or (worse) “Everyone’s got to go sometime.” But in addition to losing and grieving the loss of a loved one, a person has to make huge life adjustments. It means a whole different way of thinking.
Loneliness is often accompanied by depression. The good news is that such depression is usually situational and over time, it will get better. The bad news is that depression is a wretched, painful, “I can’t see any way out” state to be in.
What do you do if being by yourself is almost a constant state, at least while you are at home or off work? What if there is no one to share the daily ups and downs of life? How do people really cope? Do the “tricks” that counselors suggest work?
Loneliness of course really has nothing to do with your matrimonial state. You can be married—and feel very alone and lonely. You can seem to be the life of the party, and dying inside. You can be very busy, going all the time, and at the end of the day, realize, you have not really connected with anyone in a deep or personal way.
Holidays often trigger feelings and awareness of loneliness, particularly when it looks like everyone else has a big family which gathers, parties to go to. Divorced parents who have to take turns with the kids over holidays may experience a particular kind of sadness and loneliness.
One woman shared how going to religious services made her feel extremely lonely when her husband was working, now that her children are all grown. She confessed that prior to her children leaving home, she had never even recognized the problem herself. She had not been aware of other persons who were sitting by themselves, or who may be spending long evenings alone and would welcome a call, visit or an evening out. So, new awareness caused by our own life situation can be a catalyst to do something about the loneliness of others, and help create companionship and community.
The Bible tells us that even Jesus wanted to get off by himself at times, in order to pray and focus. I’m sure there were times, too, when he actually felt lonely, when no one understood or knew what he was all about. That is a deep kind of loneliness.
One way to cope with loneliness is to simply accept it—usually the first step in any “self-help” plan. Acknowledge it and admit it—and you pack it down to size. We want to get rid of uncomfortable emotions right away. Sometimes emotions have something to tell us and teach us. At first glance you think you are lonely because your husband died, but if you look at your loneliness, you may come to see that you have also cut off any friendships and contacts you do have with others by wallowing in aloneness and sadness. You may think you are lonely because you got divorced, but maybe bitterness is making you no fun to be around.
The normal advice, then, it so reach out to others. Some web pages on loneliness suggest “Think about everyone you know and you have ever known. Maybe you think a certain friend or relative wouldn’t want to hear from you. Try contacting them and see what happens next. If they don’t respond, go down your list to others. Just reaching out and communicating can help you start to feel better.” This website has lots of other tips: http://panicdisorder.about.com/cs/loneliness/a/loneliness.htm
For a free booklet, Journey Through Loneliness, write to: Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va., 22802, or e-mail email@example.com (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 862 words; end material = 105 words
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