Author Topic: Grieving Through Loneliness  (Read 22476 times)

Joe Piazzo

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Grieving Through Loneliness
« on: February 06, 2007, 04:10:09 PM »

At the center of loss lies the feeling of longing, the realization that he or she is gone and not coming back.   In the face of  emptiness we virtually may want to cry out, "Where are you?"  And the reply is only an echo.  "Where are you, where are you . . . where?"  Longing and loneliness: a set of feelings common among those who grieve.  As we shall see, even months after we suffer a great loss and feel that perhaps we should be feeling better, the loneliness can still haunt us. Let us turn our attention, then, to how we can deal with the feeling of being alone. 

Why the Loneliness Lately?

Because grief is a universal emotion people think they know how it feels for everyone else, and in one sense the generalization is true.  Your loss is different from the lost of everyone else. The way you loved the one you lost, and the way he or she loved you, is not identical to the love known by others; similar, but not exactly the same. While it is meant to be comforting when folks tell us that they know the longing we're going through, the truth is that we have to go through it ourselves, and that can be lonely indeed.

What can make dealing with loneliness so very isolating is that putting our feelings into words is hard.  The grieving want to define their pain in the hope that, through definition, some meaning might develop and help make sense out of why things happen the way they do.  That is why grieving is so very individualized.  But how do we explain the feeling of missing?  How do we describe what no longer exists?   

Someone shared this account of loneliness.  "I felt totally alone the minute he
died. Death robbed me of my life-long companion.  At his last breath, as his spirit went fleeting from the room, I felt my own heart race and stop, race and stop again; and it seemed that it would be stopped forever, waiting for me to decide whether there was any point in my going on." 
Loneliness can make broken hearts heal slowly.  Longing is especially hard on anyone who spent a lifetime with a soul mate.  The bereft include a woman who says of her late husband, "He took care of all the finances, and I know nothing about it; I am so lost."  Included also is the husband who says of his late wife, "She did all the cooking, but it's more than I can't cook, I just do not want to eat anymore."  And then there are the children who wonder what life will be like without their parents.  For the missing one is the mother or father, the grandmother or great-grandfather who bridged generations and knew the comforting value of traditions in an increasingly volatile world.
Sometimes family members and friends begin to feel distance, if not total aloneness, even before their loved one is gone.  This happens, for example, when the patient was reluctant to talk about his or her illness, and the family did not have the opportunity to deal with the reality of what was happening.  For these survivors, the missing can be profound, the loneliness sudden and jarring. 

In other cases, people are fortunate in being surrounded by family and friends at the hardest of times.  Yet even in the presence of others we can feel alone.  The attention they showed us may have delayed the onset of our loneliness, but their company may be less frequent now.

When Will the Loneliness End?
Perhaps you are feeling truly alone for the first time.  There are good reasons why we may have the feeling of loneliness more now than before.  The relatives have returned to Florida or North Carolina, to the Caribbean or Kansas.  The sympathy cards arrived daily at first, but last week, there was just one -- from an old friend who read the obituary in the alumni magazine. Bouquets that filled the apartment with scents of lilies and roses have been tossed out.  Consumed are the baskets of fruit the neighbors brought over.  People at church or synagogue seem to inquire less often now; preoccupied, they have lives of their own.  The telephone rings less frequently.  At work, where recovery from broken-heartedness is expected to progress according to a time sheet, life goes on. Yet, we will not feel better according to a timeline determined by others and we cannot just opt out of feeling lonely.

We move through the loneliness.  Movement is one of the most effective ways that grief can be resolved.  To move beyond the place we are now in - emotionally -- does not mean that we forget our dear ones.   Rather, we want to progress through the longing, through the loneliness, to arrive at a place where the memory of loved ones is not emotionally disabling to us. It is not that we wait, frozen in isolation, before moving on.  It is rather that we move through the longing, taking cherished memories with us, and go forward.

To move through an agonizing time is to grow spiritually.  Growth is often a painful process.  Loneliness is painful too. Reason this through, if you will, and you will most likely arrive at the conclusion that growth holds more promise than longing.   But of course reasoning works better when we have a partner with whom to dialogue.  Your partner in dialogue may be the one whose loss you are grieving.  So this gentle reminder: loneliness has no place to go -- but you do.       

Where Will the Longing Lead?
The encouraging thing about understanding our grief is that the experience of longing for someone can be as much about the future as it is about the past.  This is what it means to live through the loneliness, to be able to endure while feeling the longing and at the same time move forward.  Where, you may ask, will this spiritual movement lead. Movement unfolds knowledge.  This is literally the meaning of the Greek root words for diagnosis - "knowing through."  You will find that knowing through - or going through -- the loneliness will develop new insights.  These include a deepening appreciation of the one you lost and a fuller understanding of what it means to honor their life by how you live yours. The future may be frightening to us now; it is unknown and beyond our control.  But the future may also hold better things than we can now imagine. There is life beyond loneliness, and life if full of surprises.

Nothing is really fixed in time. The universe is still unfolding.  Love cannot be preserved as a memento but is alive and dynamic.  The dynamic makes it possible for us to look back while taking a chance on what lies ahead, to remember and at the same time anticipate what is yet to be - the future that is amazingly unfinished and profoundly to be hoped for.       

This meditation was written by
the Reverend William Purdy, STM, DD

Copyright (c) 2004 All rights reserved.

This publication is made possible by a gift from Roland DeL. Rinsland, Ed. D.

« Last Edit: October 25, 2010, 01:22:49 PM by wpurdy »


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Re: Grieving Through Loneliness
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2007, 10:43:02 AM »
Rev. Purdy
This was one of the best pieces I have ever seen on the important aspect of the grieving process. I appreciate it very much.

The awful experiences of my mother's demise started two years ago this week. Coincident with her trouble were some troubles of my own. The fiance I had at the time announced her exit right after my mother went into the hospital for the first time (the first of many) and she took with her my future step-daughter and some people who I thought were close friends. Needless to say, the impact of all of that is somethng I have still to come to terms with. It was and is a lot to take.

So, loneliness, mourining my mother alone, is my most personal and most painful dimension of it all. With so many bad things coming at once, I often still question what God is trying to tell me. Why has so much been ripped away from me? I often felt guilty feeling bad about anything, especially as my mother needed me through her trials. But now that she is gone, the more complete spectrum of painful issues are all I seem to have left. It is very hard to sort it all out, let alone get through the day at times.

With all the hospitals and nursing homes I saw in these past 2 years,it is hard to believe that this ever increasingly cold and callous society we live in will offer any solace or comfort or even hope. I feel hopeless, a lot. I feel lonely, a lot.  I understand why people commit suicide, drink and whatever else; the pain is enormous. It can and does consume people.

I don't want to just complain about it. I wish there was a way for the countless multitudes that must surely be going through the same thing to support each other, and I don't mean groups that meet once a week. Those are anonymous experiences and it is very hard to feel really connected to anyone. They can even make you feel worse.

Feeling like I am out of ideas,
John Nevin


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Re: Grieving Through Loneliness
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2007, 11:54:59 AM »
 Dear John:

Your response to Rev Purdy, for me was moving.  How very difficult it must have been for you.  Not only did you lose your mother, but you also experienced the loss of your fianc?, and friends which for me is as painful. 

I too have experienced the loss of a family member and this at times is bitter sweet,  as they have suffered so it was best for them to move on to a place they would no longer feel the pain.  Thought their physical presence is not with me, who to say they are not close. 

The decision for a friend to move out of our lives, for whatever reason,  can be even a greater pain, as it was a  conscious choice on their part and in your case a rather cruel one, or so it seems.  However for all you know it may have been the right choice, if someone can not stay by your side during a family members illness, where would they be during yours,  if there were to happen?  Perhaps they would have demanded too much of you while your mom was ill and then you would feel guilty for not being there for her.  It is easy for me to write that you need not always question why something happened, but try to see the good in it, difficult as this is.

You sound so very sad, and for this, even though I do not know you, my heart is touched.  At time it does seem as if we live in a cold and callous society, then we met someone like your self who is a kind soul, and we realize there is good among the evil.  Though you many understand why people take server measures to alleviate their feeling of despair - I hope you never chose to do so.  You need to be of sound mind and body, to help another person, searching for a hand to hold. 

You were not complaining but expressing a point of view, for this someone need never apologizes.   Just remember there are many people out there who feel the same, not just at a weekly gathering, but in our everyday lives.  We just need to reach out to them.  Maybe you could volunteer with the grief center.   The piece that you wrote, showed me that I am not the only one who feels like giving up at times and that comfort me, because I am not alone or odd for thinking or felling the way I do, every now and again. 

I was told once that God never gives us more than we can handle.  I do not always believe this because life can feel like an abyss of despair at times, yet there are moments when someone reaches in to pull me out and for that I am grateful.   I just need to remember to extend my hand to the next person, they may not want it, but it is there?.

Take care and I hope in time you will feel not so lonely.