Mental health awareness week:
Loneliness

Lonely is perhaps something we all feel at certain times in our lives. Perhaps the feelings of loneliness stem from loss, the loss of a loved one, the moving out of the children, an end of a relationship. Loneliness is not the same as solitude, one seeks solitude at times and there is no feeling that something is “missing” in our solitude.

But to be lonely is indeed difficult. I imagine these last two years of lockdown and covid restrictions has had a very adverse effect on our mental health. Not being able to go out much, missing that friendly chat in the local shop or park was cruelly denied us. There were no family get togethers, no Christmas for some, birthdays spent alone etc. I am sure that the last two years have badly affected our mental health and feelings of being isolated and alone. Now the restrictions have lifted I wonder if loneliness has become a way of life making it more difficult to go out there? There was a tangible sense of fear in all our communications, fear to hug, fear of getting too close to another person, fear of contracting Covid.

Does it feel like some kind of weakness to admit to being lonely? I think perhaps it does as with all mental health problems. Despite the fact that ill mental health is spoken of openly there is still a little stigma attached to it. Perhaps that stigma actually lies in us as well as with others. It is not a sign of weakness to admit to feelings of loneliness, but I wonder how many of us actually admit to it?

We all experience moments of loneliness, perhaps watching a TV programme alone and dearly wishing there was someone to share it with, in times of sadness a hug and a “everything’s going to be okay” would make it okay. Going out and doing things can make us feel even more lonely so we tend to isolate ourselves as seeing all the “happy people” can accentuate our feelings of being lonely.

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We have many telephone calls here at The Seekers from those who are lonely and perhaps we are the only means of communication they have. We are here to listen, to reassure, to hear and to pray for them, And really we can only do all the above, but for that moment it is enough and is greatly appreciated.

Perhaps the loneliest people would not dream of speaking about their feelings, would find it impossible to open up. What of them? How can we as fellow human beings help? We can smile, we can listen, we can pay a visit, we can make a phone call or send an email. We can chat to the stranger in the queue at the checkout, it may be the only interaction of their day. We can show kindness and caring, we can reach out.

And what of those who live with these emotions, how can we deal with it? We too can reach out. We too can admit that yes, sometimes we feel unbearably lonely, cut off from life, cut off from friends, cut off from family. Its okay to express these feelings although I must admit that just typing this paragraph felt a little uncomfortable as I too suffer from these feelings from time to time and to admit that is not easy.

But what of those who are housebound, who may go days without seeing another person. They can’t just “go out”, they have no choice. They may see a carer a couple of times a week who fly in and out and don’t really have time for many niceties, how can we help them? Some reach out to centres like ours, some to the church, some to groups and other charities.

The one positive thing we can do is to hold all those who are alone and suffering in our thoughts and prayers. Let’s pray for “all the lonely people” as The Beatles song says.

An article by Kathy Searle.