As a Member from HFA (Hospice Foundation of America), I would like to share this story with you (published by Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, MDiv).
Carla had a loving husband and two young children she adored. She juggled her career as a teacher with her children's sports. She and her husband had an active social life.
Yet, to Carla, the loss of her mom made her feel alone. As she explained, I understood. Carla and her mom spoke daily and even worked in the same school district. Carla's mom was always there whether she deeded a recipte, help with the children, or advice about clothes. The were best friends. So when her mom died, Carla felt, for the first time, very alone.
As humans, we are not meant to be alone. We are social creatures. We form strong, powerful attachments. Sometimes a loss makes us feel alone, even when we are the midst of loving others. Some losses - wether it is a parent, child, spouse or friend - make us fell particularly vulnerable and alone. Loneliness is one of the more difficult problems we face in grief.
Rhianna felt she had to learn everything anew when her husband died. Cooking for one, watching television alone, even sleeping without her spouse of 50 plus years seemed like a new, uncomfortable experience. She too now felt very alone.
We often associate a range of emotions with grief, such as sadness, anger, guilt. Loneliness is also one of those emotions. Yet loneliness is more than a feeling; it involves a reorientation of our behavior - of how we live.
Recognizing and acknowledging that loneliness is part of the grieving process is an important step. But it is only a first step.
It is important to validate our loneliness, to acknowledge that the changes in our life are uncomfortable and that we miss some one who was important to us. We begin by recognizing the void in our life.
We now have to find ways to fill that void. We can begin by thinking about the times that the loneliness overwhelms us. For Rhianna, it was dinner time. Once she realized that, she began to find ways to fill that time. She was receptive to the open invitations from her son and daughter. In fact, it even gave her a sense of meaning to help her daughter and daughter-in-law prepare dinner and ready the children for bed. Other nights she invited some of her friends to join her at home. Some nights she ate at a local diner, soon joining a group of "regulars" who frequented the restaurant. Soon, she said, she looked forward to the rare quite dinners where she ate alone.
Still, there were times that she deeply missed dining with her husband - even sharing these new experiences with him.
That too is part of the grieving experience. We never get over our loss. One grieving mother once told me that the death of her daughter left an empty space in her. She said, "I have become good at finding ways to fill that space. But the space remains empty."
Grief is like that - a journey that continues. Yet there is one comforting truth. We do not need to journey alone.
Have you ever experienced the same feelings? Or do you know someone who might have? Maybe you would like to help others to cope with their grief by sharing your experiences with us.
Grief Counselor, Coach
Editorial Team of www.trauer-tod.ch