Q: As much as I hate to admit it to myself, let alone to someone else, the truth is that I am incredibly lonely. My husband and I separated nine years ago. Our only child left home three years afterward.
My former husband has since remarried and started a new family. Our daughter has also married, followed her husband to Australia and is about to have their first child. The child means that our daughter will be spending less time and effort to visit in Canada.
Otherwise, I have only a few friends and I do not go out much to either church or community activities. Mostly, I stay home, toss and turn my way through bedtimes and feel generally sad much of the time.
Obviously this has to change. I need to get on top of my loneliness.
A: Loneliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What is lonely for some people is not for others, and while some people count the names in their address books to figure out whether they are lonely, others measure the intensity of their interpersonal relations, preferring the intimacy of one or two friends to the magnitude of popularity.
It is not for me to say which is right. What is interesting is that in your case you seem to have found your own personal loneliness on both scales.
You have neither the magnitude of the crowd nor the satisfaction of interpersonal intensity to challenge those nightly lonely feelings. I can understand why you might consider changing your life a bit.
As with any change you want to make in your personal life, the first step in dealing with loneliness is through an appointment with your family physician.
Researchers who have studied loneliness tell us that lonely people tend to struggle more than most with both their emotional and physical well-beings. Many of those who are lonely are depressed and need both medication and counselling to work their way through their depression.
Others who are lonely are struggling with physical complaints. They cannot be joyful and cheerful and all of those other things that attract other people to them when deep down inside they are writhing with pain and discomfort. They need medical care.
As difficult as it might be at times for you to engage in projects, the antidote to loneliness is often simply activity. The more that you can get yourself moving around and involved in activities, with or without other people, the less likely it is that you are going to be victimized by the desperation of loneliness.
Interpersonal relations follow you once you are moving around. You don’t, for example, go to a gym in search of friends. You go to exercise. And once you do that the byproduct often as not is some friendly smiles and engaging chats.
The common thread through loneliness is the interpersonal distance to which the lonely hold themselves apart from others.
Lonely people are less likely to open their hearts and souls to friends and family. They think that is hard. But you can learn to do so and of course the place to start is with a personal counsellor with whom you feel comfortable.
Learn about yourself with the help of your counsellor. Learn why it is that you are reluctant to engage in intimacy with another person. Who knows, that loneliness that seems to be so prevalent in your life might simply disappear.