Many years ago, I had a good friend who had just gone through a very difficult loss and was overwhelmed with sadness. All I could do for the first few weeks was sit with her while she cried. Over time, she revealed the depth of her guilt and sadness and I realized that it was going to take her a long time to heal.
In a world that has become increasingly connected, you would think that it would be easy to fight loneliness. In reality, the opposite is true. Loneliness is still a big problem and it’s likely to get worse as more baby boomers reach retirement age.
One of the challenges when it comes to overcoming loneliness is that everyone’s idea of friendship is slightly different. In addition, each of us has a different level of comfort when it comes to social interaction.
Feeling lonely is difficult to talk about. At times, it feels like loneliness is not just a feeling, but, a reflection of our place in society. Maybe we feel like we should be able to “take control” or “just get out there and meet people.” That’s certainly what society would like us to believe. Or perhaps we feel like we are alone in our loneliness – that we are one of only a handful of lonely people.
As a society, we love to talk about what lonely people are doing wrong. Some of the advice that people give is productive and well-intentioned, but, today, I came across a quote that I absolutely disagree with. The quote was by Joseph F. Newton, who said “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.”
People tend to think that overcoming loneliness is all about building connections with other people. As a result, most of the advice that you will hear when you tell someone that you are feeling lonely can be paraphrased as “what’s the problem? Just get out there and meet more people.”
I want to share a secret with you. Like many women over 60, I am dealing with loneliness. Some days I just feel a little isolated from the world. Other days — well, I don’t like to talk about those days. Let’s just say that there are times when the quiet corridors of my mind are dangerous places to wander.
As I walk, I see doors to little dusty rooms, holding sharp memories. Worse are the big brass doors that hold my fondest memories. These barriers stop me from spending too much time in the past, when every day was filled with my family, friends and laughter.
If you are wondering how to overcome loneliness, you may want to start by looking around your house. It is often said that your home is a reflection of your mind. They say that the choices we make in how we decorate, who we invite into our homes and how we spend our time reflect our personality and values. This is true to an extent, but, did you ever think about the fact that the opposite is also true?
Did you ever consider that the way that you organize your home may be contributing to your feelings of loneliness, or intimacy after 60?
It’s ironic that the winter holidays, which are meant to be filled with relaxation, love and peace, often turn out to be a time of stress and tension.
Loneliness is a terrible emotion. It steals the fun from life, hurts our health and prevents us from following our dreams. Unfortunately, it is also a taboo subject, which few are willing to discuss in public. So, we let it sit quietly in our hearts and convince ourselves that we are alone in our loneliness. I want Sixty and Me to be a part of the solution and, as a first step, I reached out to the members of our community to ask them about their own experiences with loneliness.