Updated: Dec 9, 2020
How is it that you can be in a room full of people, some of them your closest friends and family, and still feel lonely? This is grief. The despair and loneliness can be overwhelming.
Loneliness is the loss of social connection. It happens when a person's social needs are not being met. I think we've all experienced the decline in calls and visits since our child died. In the days following the loss of our child, the phone is ringing relentlessly, the door bell chimes at all hours, and there is a steady stream of visitors coming to pay their respects and support you. What follows this onslaught of support is a steady decline of visits and sometimes silence.
The world stops spinning for us, but life keeps moving on for everyone else.
I can count the number of friends and family who check in now. A few friends who have suffered their own losses know how important it is to keep saying Katie's name and recognize all the hard days and I appreciate that with all my heart. Then there are those people who believe the past is the past and don't want to 'upset' me, so they don't connect as much as they once did. It's really hard and really lonely.
We are a reminder of what can happen. Our child has died. Some people just cannot look at us, afraid that this horrific thing may happen to them.
I've made peace with that. I know not everyone is equipped to help me and that our connections or common ground may have changed. I get it. But I also know that as a human being, I have social needs. In the beginning, my biggest social need was talking about Katie and even after 3 1/2 years, I still like to talk about her.
What's the best way to manage this awful feeling of being so alone? Well, it's not simple but here are a few things that helped me.
5 ways to feel less lonely.....Some of this is a bit of tough-love, so bear with me.
1. Make some plans when you are feeling up to it. Having a reason to get out of bed, get dressed and meet someone or get out of the house is important. It doesn't have to be every day but try to plan something so that you have a sense of purpose each day. I remember in the early days, I planned to do three things each day. Honestly, that was all I could handle. Some days my list would include doing a load of laundry or dealing with paperwork, but it always included connecting with someone in some way.
2. Change your expectations. As soon as I quit expecting others to 'be there' or take the lead in our relationship, the more peace it gave me. This allowed me to let go of a lot of anger. By choosing this mindset, it gave me a sense of control. It can be really tough though, I admit it!
3. Social media can be a godsend. While I have a love/hate relationship with social media and how our society has become so reliant on screens and technology, it was a great way to communicate when I couldn't talk. It always warmed my heart to get a text from someone who was thinking of me. The reverse is true too. We can send emails or texts to others. Sometimes that back and forth without the face-to-face interaction can be a comfortable way to interact.
4. Remember that any relationship is a two-way street. I know, I know....people should just be there. But...Nobody can read our minds. We may have chosen to be alone in the early days so our friends may think that is how we want to remain. There may be days or moments when you are up for social interactions and times when you are not. How can everyone around you know what our needs or desires are? Pick up the phone, send a text, or reach out to people when you are needing a visit. Your friends will be glad you did. Often, they are walking on eggshells waiting for some direction.
5. Find a support group of like-minded bereaved moms. I cannot stress this one enough. Don't wait. Search out groups on social media if you are not up for face-to-face meetings just yet. Read the posts, comment, share your feelings, and reach out to individuals that you feel connected to. When you can, find a group in your area that meets in person. It truly is a safe place to be. Every mom in that room will understand everything that you are feeling. I remember being so scared to go to my first support group get-together, but it was truly the best thing I did for myself. I remember being inspired by the women I met. They gave me hope that I could survive and eventually get back to living.
I wish this path was easier. Really I do. It's a stew of so many feelings that are boiling and bubbling together. Feeling alone is normal and very common, but you can do some things to lighten those feelings as I've mentioned. So, if you are feeling lonely, make a plan right now. Connect with someone today, even if it's someone new.
If you are looking for a group to connect with, I invite you to like my Facebook group. We are not a big group, but the moms in that group are survivors. We encourage one another, post articles and tips to help each other out, and most importantly make sure that no one feels alone. Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/childlossgriefsupport