Loneliness—How Can It Help Me?
One of the toughest changes to navigate in life is the death of a spouse. It is usually not one that is planned for, welcomed, or many times even anticipated. It makes its appearance either suddenly or gradually, steals our loved one from us, then disappears leaving us to deal with the realities of grieving, loneliness, memories, making decisions alone and all the other adjustments that come as a result of living life without our partner. As someone once said, a married person is "only one heartbeat away from singleness."
One of the frequent and sometimes ongoing emotions a person who has lost his/her spouse will feel and must learn to adjust to is loneliness. It is a common reality, yet a difficult thing to accept. Martha Felber, in her book, Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies , reports that friends would ask her, "What hurts the most?" She said her answer was always the same, "Loneliness for my loved one." Death leaves a hole that no one else can fill. You feel cut off and abandoned from your loved one. Loneliness, though it can be extremely difficult, is not all bad! Several things can be learned from loneliness.
- I will experience loneliness as a newly single person.
- It is normal to feel lonely.
- I will not die of loneliness (although it may feel like it sometimes).
- Substitutions will not dissolve my loneliness.
- I will grow through the experience.
Here are some suggestions to help deal with the reality of loneliness. They are not meant to be the total answer, rather, are offered as a source of practical recommendations to manage the lonely feelings and help turn the results of those feelings into positive, constructive personal outcomes.
- Accept Your Loneliness - Most of the time we want to run from feelings that are difficult. The challenge is to understand and accept that loneliness will teach us more about who we are and who we are becoming. We can learn from this uncomfortable invader.
- Run to God - He Understands Loneliness - It is helpful to know that God the Father and Jesus the Son both experienced loneliness when they were apart for thirty-three years while Jesus was on the earth! Talk to Him and learn to listen for His comforting voice in scripture, music, preaching, the care of a friend etc.
- Look for And Spend Time with Friends - It is ok to admit that we need friends, especially during times of loneliness. Be open and honest with them about the difficulty. One of God's most prized gifts to us is a good friend!
- Recall The Good Times - Intentionally remember, even make a list of the pleasant memories you shared with your spouse. What first attracted you to each other? What qualities did you discover later? What was your favorite time of the day? Favorite foods, places to go, etc? Consider family times, vacations, holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, special occasions etc. Yes, these can be difficult memories, however, the joy from these will also bring comfort and pleasure.
- Explore Your Interests - Make time to explore the things that excite and interest you. What do you like to do? What do you like to watch? What would you like to learn about?
- Find A Place to Belong - If you are not in a healthy church that accepts, affirms and genuinely cares for people, begin looking for one that will do this, as well as teach you the principles of God's Word that will enrich your life and spirit. Some churches have support groups that may prove to be beneficial.
- Exercise - Regular exercise may help you feel better about yourself and your situation. Exercise usually raises one's self esteem.
- Set Some Goals - Determine objectives for yourself that will improve your life! What books would you like to read? Where would you like to visit? What things would you like to do with friends? What abilities would you like to strengthen? What things would you like to buy? (Consider the areas of physical, financial, mental, social and spiritual.)
- Keep A Journal of Your Thoughts - Writing your thoughts on a regular basis can prove to be a comfort when looking back upon them later, especially when considering the positive ones you experienced and the lessons learned. "A journal is not only a record of events that touch and transform us; it is a private space in which we can meet ourselves in relation to others and God."
- Trust Your Loved One to God's Keeping - God knows your loved one! He is acquainted with his/her life. An excellent quote says it well. "If the compassionate power of God could bring about the existence of the world in the beginning, and if the living God... is unshakably faithful, then that same compassionate power can be trusted not to let persons perish into oblivion but to engage in an act of new creation at the end. In this perspective, faith in the creating God gave rise to the conviction that the Creator Spirit keeps faith with the beloved creature even in death.”
With all this in mind, loneliness can actually help us if we chose to let it. The fact that loneliness will occur is a reality. The continued depression and sadness that could occur, however, does not have to be!
Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies, Martha Felber, (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN) 2000, p. 70.
Suddenly Single, Jim Smoke, (Fleming H. Revell Co, Old Tappan, NJ) 1982, p. 41.
Pathways of Spiritual Living, Susan A Muto, as quoted by A Decembered Grief, Harold Ivan Smith, (Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, MO) 1999, p. 62.
Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Reading of the Communion of Saints. Elizabeth A. Johnson, as quoted by A B C's Of Healthy Grieving, Harold Ivan Smith, (Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, MO) 1999, p. 63.