When you are grieving, of course you miss the person (or people) who died. You miss their ongoing presence in your life and all the ways they were part of your past memories. You also imagine the ways in which they would have been in your future, and you miss that too.
Loneliness is that sense of separation from something or someone important. It’s the sad realization of being without; feeling abandoned, isolated, and alone. This is perhaps most obvious when a spouse or partner dies, but it’s also part of any other loss as well.
The loneliness you feel as a bereaved husband, wife, or partner relates to their role and your history together as a couple. You miss their company, which reminds you of the years of companionship and togetherness you shared. You miss the opportunity to grow old together and face all the joys and sorrows that accompany every lifetime. You miss the way you divided the tasks of life and may wonder how you can now take on what they used to do.
The loneliness you feel as a bereaved parent also relates to past, present, and future. Remembering their earliest times brings the heartbreak of loss and the pangs of separation from your child. And of course, you long to see your child grow up and become all they would have been – and all you have imagined. You miss who they were, who they would have become, and the profound relationship you shared.
There is also loneliness when you are a bereaved sibling. If you have lost your only brother or sister, you may feel isolated in the sense of not having a partner to share holidays or to navigate your parents’ old age. If your sibling group is now missing someone, that sense of being incomplete can last a long time. Both their role in the family and their relationship with you is now gone and you feel that emptiness.
And when we lose a parent or parents, we feel loneliness here too. Of course, it’s different if this happens when you’re young or at a much older age, but the sense of separation from someone vital is real. And if the relationship was a very close one, you may feel like you’ve lost the one person who cared for you the most your whole life.
There is one more type of loneliness that is important to acknowledge – missing the person we used to be before our loved ones died. Questioning “Who am I now?” is natural but the process of answering is difficult.
Our identity does change when we lose someone we love. Whether the death was abrupt or anticipated, this identity shift doesn’t necessarily become apparent at the same time for everyone. And it doesn’t happen on any particular timetable. It’s a process that evolves individually.
You may wonder if you’re still a parent if you’ve lost your only child (yes, you are); you might rail against being classified as a widow, widower, or orphan. Were you more positive, hopeful, and excited pre-grief? Just who is this person who must now experience life so differently and what happened to the “me” I thought I knew?
These are all questions we commonly ponder. They are part of the “Adapting” facet of the grief process, as we try to get used to our new reality. I have wondered if I can ever get the old me back again, and realize I don’t think it works that way. But I can incorporate select aspects of the old me into this present reality if I choose to work on that.
Even though sadness still sometimes covers me like a heavy blanket, I’m learning to reconnect with peace, gratitude, and even joy by practicing strategies that help me grow into the person I want to be. I’m learning to identify and nurture these areas of growth while understanding the sad parts are valid too.
If you would like to work on nurturing new areas of growth after experiencing loss, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You don’t have to go through this alone.
Wishing you peace and healing,
Read The 4 Facets of Grief
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Essays on Grief Resilience