It’s all too easy to have the mindset that loneliness comes down to what type of person you are or what your current situation is, but who does it really affect and why?
When I was growing up the most obvious ‘group’ to be affected by loneliness was the elderly. My granddad passed away shortly after I was born, which meant my Nan lived alone for almost 40 years. She was quite isolated living in the countryside having never had passed her driving test, which combined with losing many of her friends as the years progressed left her spending a lot of time by herself. In many ways she was very lucky, especially having her family so close by. With many families now living in different areas of the country, or world some of our elder generation don’t have the luxury of having their family nearby to provide support. This makes the work that charities like Time to Talk Befriending do so amazing, as they provide a lifeline to so many elderly people.
The truth is that loneliness can affect any of us and comes in many shapes and forms. Personally, I think loneliness is a really hard thing to admit and something I struggle with, as it feels like a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Those that know me may struggle to understand how I could be lonely, as I have a great set of close friends and although my family lives miles away they have always been there for me. However, it doesn’t make any difference how many people I surround myself with, but when they leave I still feel lonely. As I’m beginning to realise this tells me more about the person I am and perhaps I should worry less about how it’s specifically connected to the situation I find myself.
In order to gain some different perspectives on loneliness, I spoke with a few of my friends and family. I learned that although all of them are fundamentally different in terms of their current situation, there was definitely a common theme that loneliness is a feeling within, rather than connected to the lack of company. Some people commented on feeling lonely even when they had the company of their closest friends and family. That sometimes loneliness comes from a lack of purpose and not being understood by those around them, and therefore the inability to be understood led to further loneliness.
Whether you’re a single mum struggling to juggle all the pressures of life, someone who works alone, or you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, feeling isolated due to the pressures of school/work, or the stresses that come with illness, I think it’s important to remember that no one is sheltered from loneliness. If we start by opening our eyes and trying to understand what others are going through, hopefully, we can improve the way we support each other.
I’d like to dedicate this to a friend from university who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. His friends and family are trying to raise enough money for life-saving treatment in the U.S.
Matt, whether you see us every day or we’re a friend from a part of your life that must seem so long ago, we are all thinking of you and we will do everything we can to get you the help you need!
Please please give whatever you can to help Matt, it would make the best Christmas present to him and his family.
Thank you so so much