Coping With Loneliness In Grief
For some the loneliness after a bereavement can be felt instantly
It is perfectly natural to feel a sense of loneliness when you are grieving. You may be surrounded by loved ones who are there to support and comfort you but the physical and emotional void left by the person’s death, with whom you held a unique bond and connection can be accompanied by an overwhelming sense of loneliness.
For some the loneliness can be felt instantly, particularly if your loved one was the person you turned to for support when things were tough, or if you now find yourself living alone. For others the effects of loneliness may come later, after the busyness of organising funerals, etc is over.
It is not uncommon for people to feel resentment towards others as life appears to be carrying on as normal for everyone else.
You may feel that friends and family don’t understand your loss and the impact it is having on you, the pain you feel knowing they won’t be walking through the door again, the loneliness you feel at meal times, the loneliness you feel watching your favourite TV show that you always watched and laughed about together, realising that no experience is the same without them.
Grievers often isolate and avoid social situations. The thought of getting ready, going out and having to make conversation can be too much, walking into a room to meet other couples can be daunting. It is little wonder that all this and more leads grievers to stay at home. Staying at home feels easier and safer, particularly if you feel like no one truly understands how you are feeling.
Everyone experiences grief in their own unique way and at their own pace. If you feel ready to take steps to help with your feelings of loneliness, there are lots of things you can do.
Be emotionally honest with your friends and family. Tell them how lonely you are feeling. Being honest and sharing how you feel will allow them to offer help in specific ways, such as going shopping together, arranging to have a coffee or going for a walk.
Connect with others who have gone through a similar experience. Local support groups provide a safe space to share your story with like minded people.
If you don’t feel ready to go out, invite a friend round to visit you.
Visit your local library, as many libraries have information about activities and clubs in your area.
Look online (or ask a friend to do this with you) at www.meetup.com. They also have lists of local activities and groups that may be of interest to you.
Consider volunteering. Volunteering is a really good way of meeting others and getting out and about. Volunteering can also bring a new sense of self-worth and purpose.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional support to help you process your grief.
Helping others to overcome loneliness in grief
Sometimes people need guidance and support to overcome their feelings of loneliness that prevent them from reaching out by themself.
Invite your friend for a meet up, whether that be a gentle walk, a cup of coffee at a favourite coffee shop, or at home. Don’t be upset when they keep saying ‘no thanks’ or cancelling. Respect their decision. When my sister died I came up with every excuse under the sun to avoid going out. One day I felt ready to say ‘that would be lonely, thank you’, and my dear friend never stopped asking. I will never forget that act of kindness. Don’t stop asking.
Be a good listener. Simply listen with your heart and allow them to share how they feel, without interruption or comparing their loss with your experiences..
It can be hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving. Ask specific questions. When you have asked the question, remember to then actually listen to the answer.
It’s ok to ask them if they’d like a hug. They may not have had any physical contact from another human for a while and sometimes a hug can provide a lot of comfort.
And finally, if it feels appropriate, signpost them to the free articles and resources on the Grief Specialists website.
Jill Attree is a Advanced Grief Recovery Method Specialist, based in Dorset. Jill has helped grievers throughout the UK by listening without judgement, analysis or criticism - so that you can move forward through your loss. To help you create a brighter tomorrow. Find out more about Jill.