“Lonely or Alone?” by Sheryl Gehrls
|Principle #9: Grief can cause debilitating loneliness. When I focus only on myself and my needs, I believe the lie that no one cares about me. Because focusing on others will help me process the grief, I choose to seek community, and to share my story with others, thereby helping them to grow and live well.
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” – Hebrews 6:10
Have you thought much about the difference between loneliness and simply being alone? There is a significant difference! One implies solitude—which is not necessarily bad. Solitude is, in fact, a very needed spiritual discipline if we are to draw close to God and grow in our relationship with Him. Loneliness, on the other hand, implies that being by myself is somehow painful and intolerable. Even thinking about loneliness conjures up sad feelings and rather morbid images.
Since becoming a widow, I’ve realized that being alone doesn’t necessarily lead to loneliness; and conversely, being lonely isn’t always a result of being alone! My alone times can be filled with any number of things that bring joy into my life. Playing with my Cavalier Spaniel, taking long walks on the trails, gardening and flowers, reading, scrapbooking, knitting and crocheting. These are activities I do by myself, but they don’t make me feel lonely. Quite the contrary, they can bring sparks of joy into my days.
However, I’ve also found that I can be in the middle of a large group of people and find myself feeling very lonely. Why is that? Sometimes I just feel disconnected from humanity in general!! I go to church and wonder where to sit. I go to dinner with friends and wonder what to talk about. I go to ballgames and wonder how long before I can go home?! What’s wrong with me that I feel so separated from everyone?
As I’ve been considering this, I’ve decided that loneliness has a great deal to do with how I’m thinking at any given time. When my thoughts begin to wander to all the things I’ve lost, I’m taking an initial step down the path to feeling lonely. I begin to wish I could change things and go back to what we used to have. I start thinking about what I no longer have and how alone I am. Ruminating on those losses over any length of time eventually leads to feelings of grief, sadness, depression, and despair.
II Corinthians 10:5 tells us to “take every thought captive”. There’s a reason that this is so crucial for us. Grabbing ahold of those wandering sad thoughts and bringing them into submission to the truth is the primary way I can avoid sinking into the mire of self-pity, feeling bad because I’m alone. Telling myself the truth about being alone is a significant tool for dealing with loneliness. As Believers, we know that we are never alone. Jesus has promised to walk with us through all the experiences that life throws at us. Sometimes we may not feel His presence, but His Word assures us that He will never leave us or forsake us. When we feel that loneliness creeping up on us, we can turn our eyes to Him and know that despite what our emotions tell us, He holds us in the palm of His hand and will help us to carry every heavy load.
Here are some other practical ways we can deal with loneliness. Telling someone you’re feeling lonely is one of the most obvious and effective ways to dispel these thoughts. Coping with loneliness is one of the hardest parts of being widowed. Most people don’t really understand how difficult it is to lose a spouse until it happens to them. For our part, we don’t like admitting our vulnerability. Breaking down these walls and admitting that we need some company can go a long way towards re-establishing normal relationships in your life.
Another way to combat loneliness is to join a support group with others who understand what you’re going through. Or join a class just to fill some of that empty time. Loneliness is a complicated feeling to shake off when you’re home alone with no one to talk to! Call a friend for lunch or coffee, or just take your dog to the dog park where others are doing the same.
Dealing with loneliness take a big dose of courage and tenacity. During a time when you want to curl inside yourself and not talk to anyone, it becomes essential to your well-being that you force yourself to take those thoughts captive and fill those empty spaces. Find others who need your company. Look around for those who are alone and need your help. Giving of yourself to others is a sure way to move those thoughts from ruminating to joyful living.
What have you found helps you to combat loneliness? What things have you brought into your life that bring those sparks of joy once again? Does reaching out to others or volunteering to serve somewhere help you to feel less lonely? We’re always interested in hearing your thoughts on these topics. You can comment here or email me at email@example.com