There are four states of being alone in grief: loneliness, aloneness, alienation, and isolation. I won’t have enough time to dive deeply into this within a short Grief Notes. However, if you’re part of our groups, we will discuss this in-depth and how you can face loneliness in supportive ways.
Loneliness: The Craving for Connection
Imagine feeling like you’re standing in the middle of a bustling street, surrounded by a sea of faces, yet a profound sense of emptiness gnaws at your soul. This is loneliness, a yearning for meaningful connections.
It’s the kind of loneliness that makes you ache for someone to truly listen.
When you’re submerged in the depths of grief, it’s easy to be trapped in this desolate space. It’s the kind of loneliness that makes you ache for someone to truly listen to your emotional turmoil, to understand the whirlwind of feelings that have taken residence in your heart.
This loneliness leaves you yearning for a healthy connection, someone with whom you can share your innermost thoughts.
But there’s an even deeper layer to this abyss – existential loneliness. It’s the sensation of drifting into a world without purpose, feeling disconnected from everything and everyone. Altogether, there are three distinct forms of loneliness most grievers experience. We’ll talk about this during Friendships in Grief in the upcoming weeks.
Alienation: The Pain of Being Misunderstood
In grief, the feeling of alienation is all too common. It’s like standing on the outskirts of a group, watching everyone else revel in their happiness, while you feel like an outsider because they just don’t “get you.”
It’s as if you’ve become an afterthought, no longer invited to events, or even worse, treated as “other than” because your sadness has made you different. You no longer feel like you belong.
Isolation: A Desperate Retreat
Isolation is like building walls around your heart and retreating deep within them. It’s when you intentionally or subconsciously withdraw from the world. When someone is drowning in despair, hopelessness, helplessness, or fear, it’s often because they’ve over-isolated themselves.
They’ve severed connections and left little room for others to reach them. They become prisoners of their solitude, avoiding help and the embrace of those willing to offer comfort.
But isolation doesn’t just take an emotional toll. It’s detrimental to your physical health as well. The American Heart Association warns that it increases your risk of heart-related complications and can harm your brain.
The Myth of Self-Isolation
Supportive relationships don’t leave us wanting to isolate ourselves.
Grievers and trauma survivors tend to argue that self-isolation is healthy because “they don’t do people,” “people are unkind and terrible,” and “I’m better off alone.” These are all myths and, unfortunately, the result of not knowing how to meet healthy people, choose them as friends, and then build healthy connections with them.
Supportive relationships don’t leave us wanting to isolate ourselves. They encourage us to connect and give us a sense of comfort.
Aloneness: A Sanctuary for Healing
Now, imagine being alone but not lonely. It’s akin to sitting behind the wheel of your car, taking a solitary swim, playing a soulful tune on your instrument, or dwelling in your own space. This aloneness isn’t about feeling isolated; it’s a nurturing solitude.
The gentle quiet allows you to protect and replenish your mental, emotional, and physical energy. It rejuvenates your spirit after a long, exhausting day or when you’re navigating grief. It’s time well spent and a valuable opportunity for self-care and growth.
So, as you navigate the winding path of loss, remember that these four states are all part of the journey, but you don’t have to be trapped in the darker corners.
Seek out the connections that will warm your heart, and don’t be afraid to embrace the transforming power of aloneness. In this balance, you can find the ability to face the whirlwind of grief.