Grief and the Holidays: Our Love Hate Relationship with Loneliness
Updated: Apr 17
It’s true isn’t it? You love being alone but then you feel lonely. Loneliness is like a Tardis. It truly is bigger on the inside that it is on the outside. So we are going to dissect it just a little bit.
There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Most people like to be alone (some more than others) but no one wants to be lonely. This is something we battle with in grief on a bunch of different levels especially at the holidays. The best way I can describe it is:
We feel loneliness in our whole being, while smiling at
the people we love, wishing we could be alone.
We aren’t afraid or sad to be alone – in fact, it is often preferred but we do grapple with this idea of loneliness, and it is happening on two levels.
We will spend the rest of our life regarding life experiences through perspective of our passed loved one. This type of ache and loneliness will always be part of who we are. It does change over time to hold less sadness and more endearment, but it will always feel a little lonely.
“If only Joe was here”
“I wish I could ask Joe.”
“Joe would have loved this…”
“I can hear Joe laughing now”
This type of loneliness is one that we have to hold onto and go slow with. This is part of that life long journey with grief that ebbs and flows. It will not be felt for a few months and then a moment shared between a dad and his daughter that just crushe
s us for a week. Journey slowly with this one. It truly is the type of loneliness that even new love, new beginnings or big transitions cannot erase. Be gentle with yourself because this type of loneliness holds so much of your sorrow for what was, what is and what will never be.
In the Moment Loneliness
This is the type of loneliness that happens when people pretend like nothing significant has happened and it bubbles over in anger and frustration. It is the one where we are most likely to snap at our loved ones for…well…anything really.
“No one gets it”
“Its like Joe never died”
“Has everyone forgotten him.”
“I wish someone missed him as much as I did.”
We often find ourselves at a crossroad inside this type of loneliness. It is when we don’t want to be alone but we cannot be around people anymore. And we feel like we must make a choice between grinning and bearing it or going home to our sanctuary.
What if you can do both? What if you decide before you head to the party, that you are going to take your own car and that you tell the host that your energy is a bit of a downer this year. That you would love to stay for dinner but would like to go home before the dancing starts.
Balancing this moment can be exactly what we need to feel the luxury of love and laughter and friendship for just a while but also creating space for all the emotions that rise to the surface because of that love.
So – while we have this love hate relationship with loneliness, really breaking it down into manageable pieces is helpful:
1) How do I want to feel love from my family and friends this year?
2) How can I balance my connections so that they feel good instead of forced
3) How can I go slow and gentle this year?
Be ok with leaving early, be ok not going to the big party but perhaps meeting people for brunch, be ok sharing what you can when you have the energy to do so.
The next part in our series is Finding Allies – this is really about enlisting friends to help you along the way. Subscribe below if you don’t want to miss it!