“Healing yourself is connected with healing others.” – Yoko Ono
The loss of a loved one creates a void in your life that impacts your mind, body, and spirit. Your vision of reality, your dream of a future together, and that feeling of connection has been erased. You are left to put the pieces back together alone. Where you were once two traveling the road of life, you are now one. You are left alone to reconstruct a new life and purpose for living. You may have close family and friends that meet your needs and are there for you. However, you may still feel lonely.
Transform loneliness with connection
It’s normal to feel lonely for a time after your partner’s death. The feeling of isolation and loneliness at the beginning of the grieving process often provides a temporary cocoon of comfort and relief for some. But if the loneliness and isolation lasts too long, you may need help. Judith Orloff, MD, defines loneliness as “a feeling of separation from a nurturing source, being unable to find a ‘right fit’ in life.” Her Emotional Tool Kit includes other topics, too: depression, anger, fear, etc. She suggests transforming loneliness with connection. Another great resource is writer Daniel Grippo, author of Loneliness Therapy. Grippo claims that “this little book, with its wise elfin characters, is designed to help you find ways of connecting with yourself, with others, with God.” He believes that there is life beyond loneliness, and I agree. Make no mistake; it takes hard work and courage to move from loneliness to connection again.
Tips to help you move from loneliness to joy
Little steps — Be brave: Connect with one or two friends
Your friends and colleagues are worried about you. If you have been in isolation, they have not heard from you. Be brave and take the first step to connect. Friends come in all shapes and sizes; no two are alike. Here are some ideas:
- Look through your condolence cards and choose one or two people who need a response from you. Make a date for coffee, lunch, or dinner with one of them.
- Pick up the phone and start a conversation. If you have trouble talking, ask them what they have been up to.
- Want to connect to the community but are not ready to engage in socializing? Look around your home for things to donate. Feed NC could use plastic or paper shopping bags. Humane Shelters for pets could use towels, bleach, trash bags, and paper towels. Just drop them off.
Big steps — Have courage: Connect with a small group
Now you can move on to connecting with more than one person. You have spread your wings and been brave enough to take the first step. Reach down deep and pull out your courage to move forward on your healing journey. Here are some ideas for small groups to join:
- Join a book club if you like to read. You can listen at first and then later take part in the conversation.
- Volunteer at your church. Reach out and ask if there is anything you can do to help that would get you out of the house.
- Join a Bible study.
- Join a Grief Share Group, and connect with those who are experiencing the loss of a loved one just like you.
- Support the Little Smiles program that works with doctors and nurses to bring a smile to the face of children undergoing serious medical treatment in local hospitals. They are looking for little blankets for children. Founder Margi Kyle lives in Huntersville, NC. Website: https://littlesmilesnc.org
Bigger steps — Find joy: Connect with an organization
You have been brave and dug deep for your courage to put loneliness behind you. Good job! Now it is time for the BIG LEAP — FIND JOY AGAIN. You can do it. Take the time you need. Remember, you take your past and the love with you as you continue your journey. Here are some fantastic organizations with many different resources:
- The local Senior Citizen Club in your area — Enjoy writers’ workshops, craft opportunities, swimming, bridge, and more.
- Davidson Village Network — This is a senior-focused network that supports seniors with activities. One of its missions is to help those who are lonely to feel part of the community. Website: https://davidsonvillagenetwork.org
- Your local library — Libraries offer so many options to choose from and something for everyone.
- Mooresville/Lake Norman Exchange Club — There are multiple opportunities for involvement with this group that actively supports the needs of the surrounding community. Meetings are at the Charles Mack Center in Mooresville on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month. Call us, and come join us as a guest for lunch and learn what we do. PS: I am a member, so please tell them you saw this invitation here. Website: https://www.mooresvillelknexchange.org
REMEMBER: You will have successes and setbacks. You will move two steps forward and one step back. Your goal is to find JOY in your life by connecting with others and a community of caring individuals.
Don’t Give Up — I am waiting to hear your stories!
Orloff, Judith. Emotional Repair Kit: 50 Tools to Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions. 2009, Potter Style (division of Random House Inc.)
Grippo, Daniel, Alley, R.W. (illustrator). Loneliness Therapy. 2002. Abbey Press, St. Meinrad, Indiana.
Photos courtesy of Cheryl Barrett
Cheryl A. Barrett, RN, MSN, NC-BC, is a retired nurse with 30-plus years in a variety of settings: clinical bedside in ICU, staff educator, academic instructor both didactic and clinical, supervisor, home care education, editorial director of a nursing magazine and is a board certified integrative nurse coach.
In 2018 she published Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation, inspired by the death of her husband. She won the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year, 2018 in the category of Palliative Care and Hospice for her book. She is currently creating a companion workbook for those experiencing grief and loss.
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