LONELINESS EMBRACED

grieving Apr 20, 2022
Loneliness in Grief

ON BEING ALONE

David Knapp

 Loneliness took on a whole different perspective to me after my wife, Ruth, died. Yes, it was a huge blow to my world to watch her take her last breath and then feel the hole in my soul she left behind.  I had never experienced such a hard emotional blow to the heart. The uncontrolled sobbing began. Our bedroom was uncommonly quiet that first night. I barely slept.

The following week was full of activities that required my attention. Our four kids needed my care, there was a funeral to plan and execute plus greeting and grieving with many friends and relatives. By the third week, however, the demands shifted. The busy days that numbed the pain of grief faded. I found myself wandering around the house like a toddler looking for his pacifier. It became apparent that it was time to go back to work. To a degree my familiar schedule helped me cope with the emptiness I was experiencing.

The school where I was teaching had an all-school social about a month later. I went by myself, of course. I hoped that by attending I could fill a gap in my hollow inside. I was glad to be back out in society again even though I was alone. About halfway through the evening I began to feel so lonely, even with a large crowd of people that I knew, that I left and went back home.

I realized that my loneliness was reaching beyond the painful grief of the loss of my wife.

In the following months I learned that loneliness was more than a mental state. It was an emotional experience produced, in my case, by the loss of my best friend and lover. Just as I needed to work through the grieving process, I also saw that dealing with loneliness took special attention and effort.

One of the early things that helped with loneliness was to accept it as “normal” and that I was not going crazy. The truth that “Time is the griever’s friend” also factored in as an aide in understanding my loneliness. Between the needs of my children and the efforts of some close friends, I experienced how meaningful activities were beneficial in coping with loneliness.

With the wise counsel of a trusted friend, I soon learned that I should intentionally reach out to others when loneliness felt overpowering. I could not wait for them to come to me. This intentionality in processing my loneliness slowly helped me adjust to my new life without Ruth.

For those of you reading this that might be Bible readers, I was drawn to an interesting list of how to process loneliness from Jesus’ words to his disciples. It’s known as the Upper Room Discourse found in the Gospel of John. There I discovered that Jesus cared enough about his friends to prepare them to function without him after He went to heaven. They would be alone. During that sermon he referred to His death and departure eleven times and then gave 15 suggestions on how to function alone (without Him). It was enormously encouraging.

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