Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of losing a loved one is the awful sense of having been left alone. The loss of the presence, the personality, the person with whom we had blended so well leaves an acute sense of loneliness.
It is easy to feel lost, abandoned even, with no idea where to go. All sense of purpose seems to have evaporated. We feel very much like a ship without a rudder, and the seas do not feel like friendly seas at all. It is hard to keep going, to even try at times like these. Yet we know we must, and so we do with the hope that one day we will be able to make sense out of it all.
While loneliness can seem formidable, it is not inescapable, and it can indeed become our friend. Being alone gives us the time we need to get in touch with ourselves. To listen to our deep needs. To nourish our soul. Being alone provides the space we need to find the route that goes within so we can hear the things that can only be heard in the deep silence of our soul.
Loneliness is a fertile arena for growth, for introspection, for reflection. There is no denying our attention has been captured. Whether we like it or not, this is new territory and explore it we must, for that is the only way out. So we begin, hesitantly, a step at a time, climbing, stumbling, perhaps even falling. As we move through this new terrain we discover, step by hesitant step, new vistas, new meanings, new purpose in life.
In the process, we may find ourselves weighing things which perhaps we have not thought about for a long time. What is it that really matters? What is it that gives meaning and purpose to our life? Where can we find hope for the future, or even the desire to go on? These are all things we ponder as we work through the process, as we gain a toehold on the mountain we now must climb.
Change does force us to look at life through a different prism. When it does, priorities get rearranged. What we thought was important before may not seem to matter now at all, while things we may not have thought about for a long time loom quite large in front of us. It’s a balancing process really, weighing this against that as we seek to find what rings true within us.
Even our beliefs may change. What we had thought before may not seem quite so in these new surroundings. The nature of our reality has taken on new proportions. Our insight does, too, bringing us to new horizons which we feel impelled to explore. It is very much an interior process, a spiritual journey that can lead us into the deepest part of our being.
Yes, this may be the winter of our soul, but even though all may seem barren and empty, it is very much a fertile time, a time of preparation, a seed-planting time in the inner recesses of our being. As we enter into the process of self-discovery, new ideas and new concepts begin to surface. New insights beckon from some distant horizon. Gradually we find ourselves letting go of the past as we enter into this new season of our lives.
In coming to understand ourselves better, we begin to understand others better also. We become more aware of their pain, their sorrow, their grief. We are more aware of our shared humanity, of our common goals and dreams. As this awareness grows, so does the desire to reach out. Their pain becomes our pain even as their joy is our joy. It is then we find we really were never alone. It only seemed so. Our sense of connectedness has changed, but it has not grown less. It has become more. It has broadened, and through the very nature of our struggle, it has also become enriched.
True, things will never be the same, nor would we have come this way by choice. Yet having found ourselves in this place, this new place, this growing place, over the passage of time we begin to make friends with it. The space with which we once struggled, which once seemed so empty becomes for us an arena of possibility, a place where potential can be explored. It affords us a time to rest, to heal, to renew ourselves as we prepare for whatever direction our journey now must take.
In the process, our transformation begins. Without ever really knowing it, changes occur within us. Our sense of identity becomes more clear, and as the emotional fog we have been in begins to lift, so also does a new sense of direction begin to appear. Gradually the loneliness, the emptiness which once seemed so acute becomes transformed. The quiet becomes a haven. The silence becomes our sanctuary. We begin to welcome the times when we can go within, when we can retreat from all that is in the outer and simply rest in the peace we have learned to find within us.
Solitude, then, becomes the gift that springs from seeds of loneliness, that grows in the fertile soil that grief creates. It is the beginning of a new way of life as we embrace a clearer sense of identity, a broader sense of purpose, a deeper sense of connection with all people. Now we know that while forms may change, life itself does not end. Even though separation may seem to have occurred, relationships are still in tact. All is not lost, only changed.
If we are patient, then, our loneliness changes into a healing space. Within that space solitude emerges. As it does, we discover we need never look very far for our answers, for they are within us. They are the truth of our being, kept safely for us in our deepest heart of hearts. They do indeed reveal themselves to us through the peace, the love, the presence, and yes, even the joy we find as we return time and again to the sanctuary of our soul.
Thank you so much for sharing your precise and profound observations. Loneliness was the curse of my first 4 decades on Earth. As it turned into a very happy solitude, an ability to love myself (and love others and life even more from there) it has become the greatest blessing of my life.
This being said, it is important to realize that in order to work with loneliness in this profound way we need to be able to cope with the restlessness that prevents us from staying in solitude.
In case readers of this article feel a need for support in that process, I have just recently created a downloadable guide for just that – for coping with the restless aspect of loneliness – at http://halinagoldstein.com/blog .
Many warm greetings –