The Unique Loneliness of Grief

Most people don’t think in depth about the idea of loneliness. Loneliness is one of those concepts we assume we know. We equate it to the very definable concept of being alone, which means “without other people”, and thanks to “lonely people” archetypes — like the spinster with 10 cats and the misunderstood teenager — we think we know exactly what loneliness looks like. The trouble is, loneliness is actually subjective (i.e. different from person to person), so there’s no way anyone can truly know what it looks like.

In the Encyclopedia of Mental Helath (1998) researchers Daniel Perlman and Letita Anne Peplau define loneliness as,

The subjective psychological discomfort people experience when their network of social relationships is significantly deficient in either quality or quantity.”

In other words, loneliness occurs when a person’s social relationships don’t meet their interpersonal needs or desires. I want you to note, the above definition says nothing about the state of being alone, rather that loneliness is a feeling of discomfort that arises when a person subjectively feels unfulfilled by their social relationships.

Loneliness is dependent on what a person “needs and desires” and this measure is personal and varies drastically from one individual to the next. Based on this definition we see that prototypical characterizations of “loneliness” are misguided. Individual loneliness is defined by what a person wants in contrast to what they have. So whether a person has 100 great family and friends, if they long for something or someone they don’t have –like an intimate partner, a friend they can open up to, a group of people who “get them”, a family, etc – they are liable to feel lonely.

“Something or someone they don’t have….”

If you’re grieving you may feel this has become the story of your life.  There are aspects of bereavement that make loneliness seem inevitable and unsolvable. Primarily, the fact that what you desire is your loved one and what you have is an emptiness molded so specifically to your loved one’s likeness that no one else could ever fill it.

People who are grieving are at a disadvantage when it comes to loneliness because the person they long for is forever gone. I’ve come to understand that loneliness after the death of a loved one is many things. Above all else, it’s the ache of having loved someone so much that pieces of you became them and pieces of them became you. When they were taken from this Earth a piece of you, your heart, and your history went with them and you were left behind to live a life that feels forever incomplete.

Now that your loved is gone there are parts of you that no longer make sense; the roles you both filled, the jokes and memories you shared, their part of the routine. What do you do with all these things now that your loved one is gone? If the common experience of feeling misunderstood and alienated in grief weren’t enough, you have now lost one of the few people in this world who really truly “got” you. You feel alone in a world full of a people….you feel lonely.

Not to make things seem worse, but once your brain starts thinking in an “I’m on my own so I have to look out for myself” kind of way, it may be primed to guard against others by interpreting their actions negatively and by pushing them away. When this happens feelings of loneliness, you guessed it, can perpetuate feelings of loneliness.

The loneliness of grief is not easily solved. It takes time and effort.  Hardest of all, it requires acceptance.  In order to lessen the loneliness you have to find a way to accept what simply is and find fulfillment in the reality available to you.  You will never fill your loved one’s void, that simply won’t happen.  Instead, you have to work slowly, slowly to fill in the abyss.

How do you do this?  I sadly can’t answer that for you. I guess I would say that, when ready, open yourself up to the love of people in your life.  You don’t have to let go of your loved one, but simultaneously decide to accept the company and support of others and maybe, if necessary, seek out new people in the process.  It won’t be easy and it won’t be perfect, but perhaps in time the hole left by your loved one will be filled by the love of many.

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April 12, 2017

61 responses on "The Unique Loneliness of Grief"

  1. Today marks four years since my mother died. I feel disenfranchised in my grief within my family because Mother was 89 years old, I was 64 years old when she died, and my grief seems “foolish” because she was as old as she was and I was certainly not young…losing a parent in one’s senior years is not understood or valued. My grief has been solitary and lonely. I am not angry and I certainly understand what it means to grieve well, and I have done so, but an ignored sadness on a “hidden anniversary of the heart” is isolating and very painful. To be misunderstood is a very lonely path to walk.

  2. I had lost my mother to brain cancer December, 2018.
    Watching her whither away, never getting to go on the vacation she highly anticipated… I took care of her. By myself. My father passed a few years ago. It’s just me left, and I will be celebrating my 28th birthday (and would be my fathers birthday as well) on February 12th. I feel so alone and disconnected, like a totally different person.
    I’m still working on taking care of the things in her home, the house I grew up in. It’s like a giant time capsule.
    Along with her pets, and bills.
    I can only seem to remember when she was sick, dwelling on those painful moments. Moments she was connected to tubes, and I would give her medicine, and she couldn’t talk or respond at all. The pain. Her seizures… regrets.
    I’m in between getting my own place again, or leaving this state, and traveling the world.
    My internal struggles.
    I miss her…
    This article was a good find. It had helped me gain perspective, and hope, even motivation in a way.

    Grieving is part of the human condition, and one way or another, we will all experience it.
    At some point in time, we must gain our control over our own lives, and begin a new chapter.
    And with this chapter, new beginnings.
    Get the most out of your life.
    Our loves ones wouldn’t want us to be suffering, and would wish for us to find peace, accomplishing our goals, and fulfilling our dreams.
    Stay strong, ladies and gentlemen.

  3. I lost my mother a week back. She was 57 and suffering from multiple myeloma (form of bone marrow cancer). She gave it a wonderful fight having fought this cancer for a decade. Being a single child, I was extremely close to her. Other than being my mother she was also my best friend and confidante. I do not remember a single day in my 32 years of existence when I didn’t speak to her at least once (mobile phones had come when I moved out for college and work). Life seems so meaningless and full of void right now.

    I have a strong family support- my loving father and wife and other relatives. But somehow, I just feel crippled thinking of that I would never speak to my mum again. There would be good and bad days, occasions, anniversaries, birthdays and festivals. Nothing would remain the same. My mother was a super energetic person who would manage all these things in our family. Loneliness is driving me crazy and when I talk to others, I feel irritated that nobody is able to understand me.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head when you describe the feeling of not being understood by people. Without people who can understand what you describe as feeling crippled following your loss the resulting isolation and loneliness is horrible and at times terrifying to the point where you feel like youre going mad because of having to hide the suffering. The feeling of irritation with others makes sense because when they cant reach out to you in your grief they start to seem lacking and shallow and the effect is to heighten the loss of the person you really connected with. Finding people who you can have good connection with is difficult but I guess that its important to find those people whether on helplines or in the real world even fleetingly as they can help you restore lost faith in people amidst the solitude of grief.

  4. To all the ladies, Connie, Wendy, Pam, Renae, Terry, Carol and others that have lost their husbands I can relate to your pain as I too lost my husband of 38 yrs 3 yrs ago and it is still difficult and painful to move on, and I truly believe that only time will be your friend and ease up your pain a little as years go by. I have noticed that around year 5, it becomes less painful and easier as I witnessed my own mother and friends handled the loss of their spouses reaching year 5, suddenly felt lighter and they finally accepted their loss better and were dealing with it in a much better way. so I am hoping it will be the same for me when I reach that time. I am trying to change the narrative I play in my head by recalling wonderful memories, tell myself more positive messages as our loved ones would not want us to suffer. they are and will always be part of our lives and in our hearts forever. I did go to grief counseling which helped me a lot and I also joined a group MWC (Modern Widows Club) (Founder Carolyn Moore) which provides a wonderful nurturing environment in helping widows move forward while remembering and honoring our loved ones. You may want to find out if there is a chapter near where you live. Sending hugs, please take care of yourselves. Josie S.

  5. My husband if 42 yrs, died in April 2018′ My heart is d I broken.
    I haven’t been able to move on. I long for him every minute of My waking hours. He was the most kind and loving man I had ever known. He told me the first time he saw me he fell in love with me. It only took me two weeks to fall in live with him.
    I believe That God brought us together. My life will never be the same again s in.
    Watching the one you love more than anything else in the world dying from cancer and CACHECIA ( wasting of the body , is gutwrenching , when you know there is nothing you can do to save him. Watching his body looking like a holocaust victim.
    He was skin and bones. I felt so helpless and so alone
    My sorrow was so huge and I tried not to cry in front of him. I did not want him to give up. But he was dying and I believe he knew that, but he never ex pressed his feelings to me. We were both trying not to say things to hurt each other. I will forever live him. We had no children, so our life revolved around each other. We had the most wonderful marriage and I thank God everyday for giving him to me.
    But he had just turned 64 before he had died. Too young to leave this earth. The only thing that keep a me going is to b r liver there us an afterlife and that one day we may be together again. Other than that I do not want to Live anymore. I just try to get through each day The best I can. My heart is so filled with sorrow and sadness and the need to stay away from people has become a daily thing.
    I do not like the things they say to me .
    None of my friends have lost a spouse so it is not possible for any of them to understand the longing that I have for my husband. They do not understand all the crying I do .
    My life just seems like an endless sea of sadness. This is not really living.

    • Hi Connie, I read your story about your husband. I wish I had something miraculous to say that would make you feel better but given that it’s 2:18 am and I’m reading articles on coping with grief and bawling my eyes out I’m probably not your best bet. I am however out here twirling around in my own state of grief as are many so I can relate to some of your feelings. I lost my Dad in June of 2017 and my Mum in 2018. Two of the greatest most loving parents and people on the planet…according to me anyway. Sure they were older and “lived a good life” BUT that reality doesn’t help me process the sadness and loneliness I feel. There’s very little friends or family can say that helps. In most cases they don’t say the right thing anyway so why share my grief with them. Geez I’m probably not making you feel any better. I’ve hijacked your grief with mine. When I read your comments I felt I had to reach out. I feel your pain to the extent that I can. We both feel sad, have experienced pain and loss and we have both watched people we love die. For these reasons we have something in common. I wish us both strength and light.

    • Hi Connie ,
      I am facing the same problem as you . My husband passed away three weeks ago . I am finding hard to cope , I cannot sleep at night . My life is only both of us without anybody all through the years we been marriage for 45 years. My only hope is to join him fast. I believed in a after life. Every morning I served him my breadfast and talked to him tell him to come and bring me with him.I wish you are staying near to me so we can met.

    • Hello Connie. My wife of 26 years died last Nov 2018 a day after my birthday. I agree with all the things you have said. It is a difficult thing we are going through but God is there to minister to us moment by moment and help us readjust and give meaning to our life. God bless us as we read Psalm 23- ‘tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they COMFORT me. God cares for the widows.

  6. Hi folks – I noticed almost all posts are female . Not sure if it’s because most men think feeiling sorrow, grief , loneliness after a death of loved ones is ‘ weak ‘ or what . Certainly there are many men out there that have had loses and feel like the rest of us on here . However , I’m not too proud , not feel weak as a man by saying I am struggling like everyone on this post . I lost my mom & dad , aunt & my brother all within a year of one another. Loved them all, the last to go & the one that hurts the most ? My mom .
    Always so strong , she loved life , took great care of herself , was 56, but moved like someone half her age & had a huge , caring heart . Trying to make this brief as possible , just grateful to share with others that understand the sorrow and all the other unpleasant emotions that come with .
    Im 31 , divorced , and caregave for all mentioned above .
    Finally , mom , my world . My reason for surviving the horrid deaths of the others . Diagnosed with stage 4 cancer , passed 3 months ago . She beat the statistics of her type cancer by living a year or so when given 2 months , tops , as the doctor put it . Nothing is the same anymore. After all the loses , friends don’t know what to say , so they disappeared .
    No family left here & all joy is lost . Feel as I’m just existing in hopes I’ll feel interest , joy , peace , anything again … pushing is exhausting & basically you know they aren’t coming back yet so hard to accept that . God bless you , all . I know how difficult it all is & I pray god gets us through this until he takes us home to heaven . Peace everyone.

    • Thank you for sharing Joey. I felt your pain reading that. I lost two young very close friends this year suddenly and it’s been a shock to be without them. The unexpected profound loneliness has knocked me for six. Something useful I read is that loneliness tells us something now needs to change so I’m moving back closer to my family. Hopefully will be the silver lining to the recent grief.

  7. Hi folks – I noticed almost all posts are female . Not sure if it’s because most men think feeiling sorrow, grief , loneliness after a death of loved ones is ‘ weak ‘ or what . Certainly there are many men out there that have had loses and feel like the rest of us on here . However , I’m not too proud , not feel weak as a man by saying I am struggling like everyone on this post . I lost my mom & dad , aunt & my brother all within a year of one another. Loved them all, the last to go & the one that hurts the most ? My mom .
    Always so strong , she loved life , took great care of herself , was 56, but moved like someone half her age & had a huge , caring heart . Trying to make this brief as possible , just grateful to share with others that understand the sorrow and all the other unpleasant emotions that come with .
    Im 31 , divorced , and caregave for all mentioned above .
    Finally , mom , my world . My reason for surviving the horrid deaths of the others . Diagnosed with stage 4 cancer 3 months ago . She beat the statistics of her type cancer by living a year or so when given 2 months , tops , as the doctor put it . Nothing is the same anymore. After all the loses , friends don’t know what to say , so they disappeared .
    No family left here & all joy is lost . Feel as I’m just existing in hopes I’ll feel interest , joy , peace , anything again … pushing is exhausting & basically you know they aren’t coming back yet so hard to accept that . God bless you , all . I know how difficult it all is & I pray god gets us through this until he takes us home to heaven . Peace everyone.

  8. I just lost my mom due to a massive stroke. In the beginning my friends seemed so supportive and now I haven’t really heard from them much, no cards ,no visits or anything. I’m so hurt. My mom passed away October 10, 2018 and I’m so lost and confused. It feels like no one really cares about me.

    • To me, grief seems like a long and lonely road. If you have family that are sympathetic and one or more close friends, at least you can take some comfort from that and count yourself very fortunate. There are some persons who through circumstances, etc. , do not have that human help and it makes the grief process very difficult and perhaps even more protracted. I know that gratitude is an attitude that we should pray to enlarge, but that is also a hard thing to do when feeling so alone, sad, and depressed. Hopefully, it may help to write one another here in this venue, because walking that long and lonely road does give us understanding of the deep pain and real anguish of grief. I hope you may sense my sympathy and my hope for your mental and emotional to be strengthened and stabilized. With best wishes to you.

  9. I lost my dad march 20th. 8 months ago. He died in my arms as i prayed with him 8 minutes after being taken from the ventilator. Im 47 and ive never been without him. I cry everyday still and i just cant beat this grief. I am a female veteran and my dad was so proud of me. I feel guilty driving his truck, parting ways with his belongings,…i still have his belongings from the hospital in the patient bag. I go to grief counseling but its not budging this pain im feeling. I want my dad back

  10. I lost my husband suddenly after 36 years of marriage 40 years together just 6 weeks it was so sudden one day he was here and the next he was gone I have had so much heartache in my life I am just not understanding why all this has happened to me first I lost my brother only 15 years old from a football injury I was only 17 at the time it was a very sad time than my first husband at the age of 20 left with 2 children to raise than my sister passed from the worst case of rheumatoid arthritis I her hand till she passed I lost a daughter on her 20th birthday and watched as they turned off her life support she was born with heart defects and was just tired from the fight my father died in my arms my Mom had a stroke and lived in Florida by the time my sisters and I got there she couldn’t talk we stayed by her side till she took her last breath and now I sit her at the age of 68 alone I watched my husband take his last breath just weeks ago on my living room floor from a massive heart attack my children and grand children are devastated this is not what I envisioned for the golden years of my life now what??? I’m so lonely and sad without him he was our families rock

    • ooh!i feel how sad you are dear, take heart and stand in the gap to pray for your family

    • I’m sat in tears reading your post.. What heartache you’ve had to deal with. I’m so sorry you’re feeling like this. I’ve suffered trauma and loss but nothing to the extent you have. I know the feelings will never fully go away but i hope one day you feel content and strong enough to realise what a strong woman you are. Your grandkids are very lucky to have you.

  11. My mom just passed away a little less than a week ago. She was my best friend, my everything. She passed away from a battle with stage 4 lung cancer. I took care of her for the last few weeks of her life (she lived out of province). Going back home to an empty bedroom where I would lay down after a long day at work and just talk to her, pour my heart out to her. I don’t have that anymore and it’s hard to go on. I don’t have many friends or family. The only few family members I began to talk to just before she passed for her sake, don’t even reach out to me. I haven’t heard from them since she passed. This has been the hardest thing I have faced in my life and I just feel so alone and lost. Everything reminds me of her and I don’t know how to get past this.

    • I have had a similar experience following two major losses less than a year apart. I had no support from family or friends which I found both shocking and depressing. People I had supported through losses in the past were not proper friends so I am still coping with not only grief but feelings of being let down/betrayed by so called friends and family members who I thought would be there for me. When youre feeling so vulnerable the last thing you need is to be effectively invalidated by selfish people. It causes you to question all relationships and to seek out truly kind people.

  12. My mother passed very unexpectedly 5 months ago and I too feel an open hole in my heart. My father passed many years ago and I have no siblings or romantic partner. I thought I was doing pretty well considering but suddenly the loneliness has kicked in. I have friends but it’s hard for me to be around them for any length of time. I don’t care about their broken washing machines or other trivial (to me) concerns. I believe this impatience with people will pass in time but until then, I’m hiding out in my house. Hiding out doesn’t seem healthy so I’m trying to figure out who I am now that my mother is gone. I’m trying new solo hobbies and just trying to find something that brings joy to my life. Right now I feel like my mom’s dog (I promised her I’d keep him) is the only one who understands…ha…crazy….Thanks for listening.

    • I just wanted to say that I am so with you on being annoyed when people start going off about trivial concerns. My father died in January, I am DEVASTATED, and to my friends, it’s like nothing happened. I can’t listen to you complain about nothing things when I am just being dragged down by sadness, people. Be grateful that those are the only problems you have.

  13. “You will never fill your loved one’s void, that simply won’t happen. Instead, you have to work slowly, slowly to fill in the abyss.”

    I don’t get it. You will never fill the void, but you have to work to fill it in? And later you say you can in a way… Can you please explain this?

  14. I lost my Dad in May this year and my partner 18 days later.I am in a deep hole of despair.I cannot work and find just getting out of bed every day a major achievement. I did have some supportive friends in the beginning but I feel they now find me too difficult and so I now isolate myself.I feel angry that they expect me to just move on.I cannot relate to them anymore and find it is easier just not to bother.This probably sounds selfish but I need to be able to grieve on my own terms and cannot live up to anyone elses expectations of grief following some time line.So all the loneliness of losing my two best friends has now snow balled into me feeling totally alone.I just cannot accept that I am now supposed to feel some sense of shame for not coping.It is a terrible time.

  15. I wish I could meet you guys one by one in person, we could hug and cry, and then go simply DO something life affirming together like a hike or a concert or row a boat or anything of that sort.

    This is the short version which will be told discombobulated style for brevity: 3 yrs ago my best friend died, it was a good death at least. Father got sick and died, it was a terrible death – nightmarish actually as my mother started declining into dementia but was in charge of his health care and kept undoing everything…dad was in incredible pain and I never got quality time with him as I was running around and he chose to ignore me and but chatted happily with my cousins etc.. right in front of my face( we had a good relationship previously ) Funeral/s was a nightmare as well due to mom and another delay for the military aspect of it…( one church one Arlington ) Went back to work and found my favorite client had died and favorite coworker had left. On my dad’s burial day I called my long term partner/boyfriend and he told me his mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and now ‘it was his turn’ . So literally every single day I listened to him and my mom and it was never enough for either of them. Felt awful for my bf but he also had zero comprehension what I was bearing. I could not do enough of what he wanted. Not one friend called me when Dad died, and I DO have friends. Nor a card…people just blurted condolences on Facebook. I got a card from work. During this same period of time an Aunt died, a favorite uncle died, another uncle recently died, and due to the crazy economics of this place my 5 closest and most reciprocal friends ( non of us fair-weathers ) moved far away to separate places. Of course my boyfriend’s mom died in the middle of this and I skipped my favorite uncle’s funeral to support him – not to kvetch about that but trying to do the right thing…anyhoo then all during this time trying to help mom find a retirement place, move her, empty and sell a FULL house – Dad was kind of a hoarder – plus SIX storage units – and this was the childhood home, many memories, etc…BF has to empty and sell a house too and after he realizes he is going to come into money, starts smoking pot ALL day every day and talking about moving out so we could live happily apart?? I figure we’ll have the big talk after my childhood home gets emptied and sold as I was up to my ears…Oh yes and then he wants to scatter his mom’s ashes in another country so I sacrifice my two week work break for that – no regrets there but oi yoi – anyhoo meanwhile tons of mom drama plus she ends up in and out of the ER for passing out…hence delaying the ‘you need to stop smoking so much pot and let’s discuss our future’ talk…during this whole time I got professional help but only helpful family was my mom’s sister who lives 3000 miles away. My own literally insane sister and her husband show up after a 20 year disappearance, ask for and take the silverware, do virtually nothing to help empty the house or help with anything – not even a scrap of paper did they move to recycling – and start having ‘lunch’ with mom and she thinks they’re wonderful!! Longs story but sis has a history of trying to snow relatives for money. So now I have this money grubbing insane sister I’m trying to stave off from ripping of mom’s money and mom with rose colored glasses starts pressuring me to get close to them. Mom also talks and repeats constantly, so she talks about my sister and complains about my dad over and over and over…flash forward cue my boyfriends smoking getting worse, then ten minutes before a meeting with agents about who will buy the childhood home, I find my bf’s lost phone in my car with text messages to some woman…yup he was trying to hook up with someone, it turns out right around the time I was running back and forth to the ERs for my mom. My long term relationship ends. Also during this year I try and fail to get a restraining order renewed ( guy really is insane ) and also get tested for and thank god am not positive for cancer.

    Throughout this time I try to eat right and exercise. I talk to friends and don’t blab about myself – honestly I want to get out of myself. The house sells and passes over, my boyfriend is gone – oh yes he also made me get rid of his stuff as he refused to come in and get it. The guy I thought was a partner for life. I find myself alone in the place where we lived with my family dead or crazy and my support network is literally gone. No nieces or nephews, no children, no husband, turning late 40’s. All this time I’ve exercised, tried to eat right, and lord knows I’m not perfect but I’ve tried to do my duties. I do what you’re supposed to do – exercise, sign up for a kickboxing class, plan activities. Throughout all that time I’ve talked to friends a bit and have not babbled exclusively about myself, in fact I’ve said I would just like to do ‘life’ type things and distractions…truly. Well everyone is gone and too busy even for a cup of coffee. All I want is some companionship. I start sinking. I keep trying to do the right things and reach out and ask literally for what I need. My birthday comes up, after 3 years of skipping it due to someone dying every year that time I tell two friends, look, if we could just have a cupcake with a candle in it, that would mean a LOT. I know it’s ridiculous, but it would really mean something to me. One friend says she’ll hang out with me so I plan a full day of fun. I look forward to it so much. I tell her to please please let me know if she has to work. She promises she’s free and we’ll do cake etc.. Day comes and she flakes for work. I spend my whole birthday alone sobbing. Not one friend calls but people say happy birthday on text and facebook. My mom calls, as do the estate lawyer, financial planner, and cousin to discuss family estate stuff. I still go to kickboxing, cry all day, and literally call several people asking them to call me. I’m not crying when I call. I say I just want to chat. These folks all know my history and about my long term now dead relationship. Nobody. Calls.

    I feel kneecapped. I can honestly say I’ve tried really really really hard not to be that self pitying boob and I’ve REALLY tried hard to reach out but for what. There are goals and dreams in my life too but it seems the only worth I have is when it comes to helping others. Now I am that self pitying leper. I read about support networks and friends and family and how that can help and cry more because all people goddamn do is text. I dream about dead people or my ex every night, or I simply dream someone hugs me. Fyi I do have a counselor who is the only consistent person in my life and it’s hard not to think that’s because I pay her. In fact the most consistent people in my life now are people who get money from me.

    I feel like a textbook case of doing the right self care things, and am failing regardless. This is how I find myself pouring my heart out to total strangers on the internet. What kind of world is this when everyone’s faces are shoved into texting and ‘meme’s and not a 5 minute phone call where it really would just be a chat. What has happened to real life and real company and real sight, smell, and touch? If I didn’t have my pets or knew I’d disappoint people I would kill myself and I’m not the suicidal type. Been strong for so long and now I am crawling through every day trying not to destroy myself. Crying for help to empty air!

    This is why I sincerely send everyone here blessings, and a REAL walk and a real cup of coffee with an actual person while we watch the birds fly overhead. Thank you so so much for hearing me…I truly wish you all the best

    • wow i am astonished by you holding up
      what a hell of a ride

      how are you holding up now. hope you have enough madness in you to roll with it a little bit

    • Madison do you have an email?

    • Hi Madison, I really enjoyed reading your very well written story. I can identify with many of the issues you spoke about, Stay strong and always believe in yourself. Take care Pam

  16. My husband and I married at 16 and 17. Married for 41 years. I grew up with him. He passed away 3 years ago and I still cant cope with daily things. I go to work because I have to support myself now, if that wasnt the case I would be home everyday feeling like a shell of myself, I cry at the drop of a hat sometimes so hard I cry myself to sleep. More often then not I hope I dont wake up. How long does this last, I know everyone has their own way of getting past this, but no matter what Ive done, even been to counseling, moved into a retirement community to try and make new friends and I come right back to not wanting to leave the house. I miss him so much I’m miserable all the time. My kids won’t talk about him, in fact nobody does, why is that? I bring his name up all the time.

  17. I have been thinking for a while which word best describes me: alone or lonely. To tell you the truth, you slip back and forth between those to categories. I was married for 44 years, married at age 19. The last 14 years of her life, she had declining health. I was the caregiver the last couple of years since she could not be alone for a very long time. I had to make some brutal decisions after a couple of back-to-back hospital stays where one doctor to the lead to tell me that the care could not continue and to select a hospice person to discuss her care. She had in-home care, and not at a hospice facility. The hospice nurse came out on a Tuesday, and my wife died in bed with me on Wednesday morning. She had awoken at 3:30 AM wanting a sip of water and for me to rub her back. When I awoke at about 6:00 AM, I could see she had possibly passed away. I wasn’t sure at first. I put a pulse reader on her finger and it said “OFF” and I was trying to figure out what that meant. Later, I understood the little machine thought it had slipped off the finger since it couldn’t read a pulse. We have all been through our private hell. It’s been 14 months now. Usually, I would be crying when I write a response like this. Something has changed. I took a 5-week trip to New Zealand. My son is building a new house out in the country. I am taking an on-line course. i drive my grand daughters around to different activities. I remind myself that my wife would not want me to suffer over her passing, and she would not want me to be alone. I plan to join Match.com. I am ready. I can do this. I have hope.

  18. My boyfriend of 17 years died almost 3 weeks ago. He had not been feeling well for almost 4 months, and was depressed still from the loss of his Mom over a year ago. I went to his apartment on a Saturday, one of our usual “date days” , and found him unresponsive on his bed, unable to speak and breathing with difficulty. I called 911, and he was taken to the local hospital. Backing up a little, the year before, he had a stroke and spent 2 1/2 weeks in a hospital about an hour’s drive from here. The experience was traumatic for a man with social anxiety disorder, and he was obsessive/compulsive “clean and orderly” as well. He was not bathed, or shaven during his hospital stay. When I Brought him home, one of the first things he did was to fill out a MOLST form, stating that if he was ever found unconscious again, he could be taken to the hospital, but only for comfort care. No life giving procedures. I was his health care proxy, and I had to enforce this MOLST paper for him. After almost 5 days in the hospital, he was taken to a local nursing home for Hospice care. He had previously told me on several occasions (we actually talked about it constantly) that he did not want to live. His world had slowly been disappearing, the family business was sold due to his Dad’s illness, then his Dad died and his Mom became ill a few years later. He cared for his Mom, as he had for his Dad, and when the stress of caring for her, and his own illnesses, (he also was severely bipolar) his Mom was taken to the nursing home. She was there for 3 months before being put in the care of Hospice. After her death, he sold the home he had lived in for almost 50 years with his parents. He made it clear to me after his stroke that if he had another stroke, or developed a terminal illness, he would be happy. He wanted to “Go Home”. With his MOLST form, and my promise to enforce it on his behalf, he died peacefully at the nursing home, knowing that he and I would lie next to each other for eternity. ( Some time before his death, we had our foot stones placed in his family plot, side by side. ) There were two plots remaining, we assumed for his sisters. When my boyfriend died, the funeral director was called, and when he got there, the sisters were quick to pull him aside and whisper something in his ear. Then he came into the room where I was sitting with my guy, and bluntly asked, “And who are You??” I told him I was the girlfriend of the deceased, to which he replied, “And how long were you in his life?” When I told him “17 years”, he told me that the second my boyfriend passed, my health care proxy ended, and that I didn’t count anymore. “The control of the body, and the funeral would be in their hands. ” I was devastated. Of course, he had to adhere to my boyfriend’s instructions as to his burial, that there to be no services, no visiting hours, he only wanted to be put into the ground. I asked if he knew about when the burial would be. “He said he would let the sisters know, and if they chose to “invite” me, I could go watch him be put in the ground. They never called, and I wasn’t surprised. My Sweetie had told me for many years, never trust my sisters. They were greedy, and vindictive. Because of his warnings, I had been driving by the cemetery every morning after his death to see if there was a hole being dug. One morning, 4 days after his death, I saw activity in the cemetery. I had missed him being put in the ground, but I got there to see the workers filling in the hole. They stopped for a few minutes so I could say my goodbye’s. Then I was informed that the sisters were insisting on my stone being removed from the family plot. It was their brother’s greatest wish that we be buried next to each other. Now, in spite of losing the love of my life, I am having to battle to keep my stone where it is. This is not over yet. Attorneys are trying to sort this all out, and I feel totally empty and alone. Why do people have to be like this???

  19. I never knew loneliness until my mom passed away unexpectedly. Now loneliness is a prominent emotion.

  20. My boyfriend just had a stroke and he has congestive heart failure unfortunately his family as in his kids won’t let me go be with him, or see him or communicate with him at all. I haven’t been away from him for 3 n a half years and now I’m so depressed, I feel empty inside almost like I want to die myself I don’t understand and I’m so lost without him

  21. I lost my husband of nearly 32 years about 6 1/2 weeks ago. I have adult children that are trying to be there for me, yet I am still so lonely. I have no one who can truly share the memories we made or plans that we had for the future. My husband and I relied on each other for social interaction because we both tended to keep to ourselves and were family oriented. Now, I must trudge on alone and wonder if there will ever be anyone that I will feel as comfortable with again. There have been moments where I wish my life would just end. How do we get through this? I am glad I have come across this site. Thanks.

  22. My mother died on July 12, 1976. I was 26 years old. My children never got to meet her.It does get easier with the passage of time. So many things she would say to me I CAN STILL REMEMBER TODAY.

  23. I can’t believe the grief I have. I lost my husband 7 months ago. We were married 52 years. He as my everything. He died suddenly of a stroke. I didn’t get to say goodbye. There is so many understand questions. I have 2 grown married children. Some days I don’t want to go on. All I want to do is sleep. I know I need grief counseling. I can barely function. I don’t eat well. Every night I tell myself that I will do better tomorrow but I don’t. This is the hardest time of my life.

    • Terry…….hugs to u. I am so sorry for your loss. My husband and I were married 20 yrs when he died suddenly of a heart attack. His death brought me to my knees. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you after 52 yrs.
      The first yr I didn’t leave my sofa if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Finally, after nearly 7yrs, I’m starting to live again. It’s going to take time….a lot of it. Grieve as long as you need. Trust me, it will get better. You will always have days when the grief comes out of no where and slaps you in the face. We have to learn to live w that, sadly. Praying God helps ease your broken heart.

  24. I find myself contemplating both “the absence of presence” and “the presence of absence” in my grief journey of (loneliness) losing my husband of 39 years. Grieving not only for what was lost, but what never will be. Acceptance is difficult, but necessary. Godspeed to all.

  25. Wow…this So accurately states what I am feeling. I am an unmarried only child(47 years old.) My mom passed away June 12, 2016, and I lost dad January 23 this year. Those 7 months with just dad were a mixed blessing, missing mom, but deepening our relationship. To have him torn from me by a broken hip was heartbreaking.

    Yes, I have many wonderful friends, and cousins, and aunts and uncle, but the mom and dad shaped holes in my life are sometimes unbearable. I enjoy myself at work and running errands, and spending time with others, but at some point, there’s always that time that I have to walk into the empty house. I was a caregiver for my mom’s venous stasis leg wounds for so many years, that it just seems strange to not have to change bandages and DO things for her. And I still havent figured out what is worse…the acquaintances who ask me if I’m enjoying my freedom, or the ones who say “it’s really lonely, I’ll bet.”

    Thank you for the perfect article.

    • Tracy,
      I understand your pain. I lost my mom on 2/16/15 and my dad on 10/12/17. I took care of my mom alone raising my children also for seven years with stage four ovarian cancer. It’s hard going from having so much to do to nothing to do. My children became adults and moved out and my mom was my best friend. Very small family. Just my sister and I and only one cousin. My sister and I live in different states. So not close enough to drive for visit. I spent last night crying off and on the whole evening. Sometimes I’m ok, and sometimes I’m not. Somehow, we will get through this.
      Sandy

  26. To My Family / August 15, 2016

    As I try to make sense of what happened in our family and its effects, I wish to share with you my feelings about Ma and Bah Bah.

    Looking back at our parents’ personalities, I can see a little bit of both of them in each of us. The good and the bad. Not only in our basic dispositions, but in how we may respond to the kicks and kisses of life. More significant than Ma and Bah Bah’s inherent traits, I believe, was how they reacted to their lot in life, not only to conditions from the outside, but their interaction with each other in coping with those conditions. Financial hardship seemed to reign and we had only glimpses of their true selves. What if Ma and Bah Bah had similar life conditions and experiences to ours? They had only basic education in a faraway country and alien language and had to toil and sweat to make a living in this country. But what if they were able somehow to get higher education and become professionals, like we were? Bah Bah surely would have pursued his interest in the natural sciences or technology rather than having to work in laundry sweat shops; and Ma had a dream of being a nurse or a teacher rather than working long hours in the laundry and later as a seamstress (although she derived great pride in her reputation as an excellent worker and the shop owners’ reliance on her expertise—I still have her work logs reflecting the minimal pay she got for a day’s work). But, alas, Fortuna dealt some pretty tough blows. Yet, perhaps we can say that Fortuna showed mercy to them after all, through us. Ma and Bah Bah both found solace through us. “Look at our children, they all went to excellent schools and they are all successful at their jobs because of our sacrifices,” they both said at one time or another.

    Their lives were filled with hardship: an early impoverished existence, a long stressful time of hand-to-mouth existence, and, sadly, the seed of love for each other (as I looked at a long-forgotten studio wedding photo of them facing an uncertain future) never had a chance to blossom, only to be slain by the hand that Fortuna dealt them. And so they didn’t have the tools to do other than take their life’s frustrations out on each other and, sometimes, on us. I accepted this in Ma and Bah Bah and since have forgiven them. We all saw and heard the dark side of their souls, the hatred and bitterness that manifested itself each to the other and to us, which pushed us away from them. Later, after Bah Bah retired, I noticed his hatred and much of his bitterness towards Ma had dissipated, but by then it was too little too late to garner forgiveness from Ma and ameliorate his lonely existence (I tried to help by providing him and Ma with funds for summer trips to various places and so did Mike with his family by their visits, having restaurant meals, and Ma’s vacation cruise). Woefully, Ma never lost her bitterness, especially while Bah Bah was alive.

    But why was that for her? I believe her early childhood experiences, without a living, breathing model of this newfound unfamiliar Christian religion adopted by her mother that had the martyr Jesus at its center (which really could have helped), molded her into an unforgiving person who would hold on to grudges and only remember the mistreatments. Her mother was not loving toward Ma, despite all the responsibilities Ma took on for her; so, Ma deeply resented that. Her siblings behaved thoughtlessly, as any youngsters do and, at times, and from her perspective, whether it was reasonable or not, she felt mistreated and suffered from feeling they treated her like their personal hired maid. For the rest of her life, she would rather not have any dealings with them or even be reminded of them, for only thus could she forget the past. Her demons would come out, though, when her memories were dredged up. I knew those ugly demons were always lurking there, just below the surface, and she knew it, too, and she tried to keep them at bay as best as she could. She told me she prayed that God always protect her from harm. She believed that God was always there for her because she survived it all. Those feelings allowed me a glimmer of a frightened little girl inside her, yearning for love and protection (I’m tearing a little bit right now as I remember those fleeting moments when I perceived that little girl. If only she knew enough to pray for delivery from the burden of those dark feelings).

    Despite the dark and gloomy years, she did have fond memories of her kind and loving uncle (from whom she often told me that she had learned a lot), her father (who loved her), and her high-school friend (one of the few who treated her kindly; I think she was the one who died from an incompatible blood transfusion.). I vaguely recall seeing her once when I was with Ma having lunch at an air-conditioned restaurant in Hong Kong; I still remember the cold air and the smells of the food. Ma ordered a dish of fish with tomato sauce for both of us; I don’t remember what her friend had. They talked and then we went back home (in San Tin or her parents’ apartment where we all had lived before moving to San Tin).

    My last five years with Ma were a blessing. After she was in the hospital a couple of years ago from a bout of very high blood pressure and she was put on medication for it, I think she realized that when she started all the negative talk (and thinking) about the past, she was riling herself and her blood pressure up, and so she eased up on that and was more able to enjoy the present moments. She would always make known to her apartment neighbors that, “He is my son!” I was not embarrassed at all by that because they understood she was proud. I’m glad that she was able to support herself comfortably without financial worries and that as long as she lived she saw us all still well employed, hoping and praying that our jobs would last till our retirements. I spent as much time with her as I could. Before moving to New London because of my job change, I had visited her almost daily because we lived only a few blocks from each other; after the move, I visited her twice a week: taking her blood pressure and eating meals on Wednesdays, and delivering groceries and medicine on Saturdays. “Here’s some money for the take out,” she would say when I brought her Singapore lo mein, or she would ask what I would like to have, “Rice porridge or Chinese seafood with ramen noodle?” “I feel like having rice porridge and please make enough for my next day’s lunch,” I would say and always thanked her for it. She made quarts of red bean drink for summer days; I brought her dumplings and chicken feet whenever I came back from Boston Chinatown, roasted chicken legs for the last few years’ Thanksgivings, and this Chinese New Year we had seafood hot pot with lobster. These small moments I wish you hadn’t missed with Ma are what I treasure. So it’s not surprising that I cried inwardly when I finished the remaining portions of her cooked rice for my lunches last week. I poured out a small portion of iced tea that she had made for me and went outside the office building with it; while standing in the hot humidity, staring at the summer sky, I cried inwardly as I gave thanks to her for my cold tea. There’s still a half a bottle of it in our breakroom’s refrigerator.

    The year before he died, I once saw that Bah Bah had tears in his eyes while he was looking up at the Brooklyn blue sky. I didn’t ask why and to this day I wish I had. I saw a tear in Ma’s eye while she was in ICU; I didn’t ask why because I sensed that she knew she was dying. I fervently held on to her hand and brushed her tear away and told her I was there with her. I was so glad for that. I share in Mike’s grief that Bah Bah died alone.

    As I was wheeling her into the Emergency Room for her workup after she had already experienced the cardiogenic shock, remembering the ER visit a couple of days before having to wait for hours and hours before seeing the doctor, she said to be sure to buy sandwiches for both of us from the vending machine because we hadn’t had our lunch yet.

    And those were the last few words she said to me.

    So, under sad circumstances, we came together. The four of us were with her at the end, holding each other’s hands, and for that I am very grateful.

    In the end, I pray that Ma and Bah Bah forgive each other, as they are joined for eternity.

    Oh, life. We think we have all the time in the world. But, now I am more aware than ever that we don’t. And with these thoughts of all of us, Ma and Bah Bah, and with prayers and hopes, let us go forward in peace with the knowledge that life is short, a new sense of compassion and love for Ma and Bah Bah, a more objective understanding of our upbringing, a deeper appreciation of the love in our lives, for our spouses and kin; and our own softening remembrances of things past.

    Love, Auggie

    As a follow up message to my family on the passing of our Ma.

    Wednesdays have become something of a melancholic time for me. That’s not so surprising because that was when I would usually go and visit Ma after leaving early from work.

    So yesterday afternoon, I took a break and brought my last cup of tea to go outside to be alone and feeling the last bit of summer heat. I thought about Ma while drinking the tea and then I suddenly realized that I already drank half of the last remaining cup of tea (a bottle of tea that she had made for me). After walking around outside my office building, I went back and put the remaining tea in the freezer.

    I was mildly depressed for the rest of the afternoon, while still working on regulatory rules against the deadline.

    While driving home, I had an epiphany. That inner voice that, once in awhile, made itself known and then carried on a conversation with me (and no, I’m not crazy. That voice has been like a guardian angel that reassured me on those occasions that things would be alright and not to worry about those major events.).

    It asked me to think about what actually happened from another perspective. Didn’t it gave me a chance to take Ma to the park on Thursday that she usually didn’t want to go outside for the longest while? Yes, we went out to the farmer’s market in the park that warm summer afternoon. Weren’t we happy? Yes. Didn’t she greet her neighbors who were sitting outside the Roger’s House? Yes. Didn’t she hear one of neighbors who saw us and said what a good son I was? Yes. Then that Friday, didn’t it allow Ma to have a transient coronary blockage and thus allowed us to spend more 12 hours together in the emergency room? Yes. And then afterwards, didn’t I sleep in that old bunk bed in her apartment before heading out to pick up our McDonald breakfast and her weekly groceries? Yes. Didn’t we have the Saturday breakfast together? Yes. Didn’t it allow Ma to live to call me that Sunday afternoon after she had her profound cardiogenic shock? Yes. Didn’t it allow her to live long enough to know that we were all there with her in ICU and that she didn’t pass away alone? I said yes. So, what more could it have done for me? And finally I said thank you!

    With love,

    Auggie

    • Auggie, I do not know you obviously, but your outpoured honesty about your relationships with your parents struck an entire chord of notes deep within me. My parents were raised during the Great Depression, and suffered many hardships at young ages from which they never recovered emotionally as well. Then my father fought in the Korean War, during which time his younger brother, also serving nearby, was killed. These traumas necessarily took their toll on my parents and marred their emotional lives together…. things I, as an only child, only began piecing together in their last years when cleaning out their home for them to sell, and discovering that each had saved love letters from the other from decades before — most likely unbeknownst to each other.

      It was in these final 6 years of life when I came to know my parents as people, and to embrace them as they were… And now, grieve their absence, as well as grieve that it took me so very long to “truly see” them for their true worth.

      Thank you for sharing your heart here. May the Lord bless and keep you, until the time we can be finally reunited in wholeness.

  27. I have been looking for an article about just this. I lost my mom about 15 months ago. At that moment my life stopped, my mom was my better half, my soul mate my best friend. Since loosing her, I have felt that apart of my soul died with her. I am married and I have a very supportive family, however I still feel very alone, I haven’t been able to open up to any one of them like I did to my mom. I know this is just the new normal, but its not fun, it sad.

  28. Thank you. Your post (and the comments) make me feel a little less alone in this. My mother was my everything- my best friend, my memory, my protector, my champion, my confidant- and now she is gone forever. I have no family now, and while I love my friends, they are not enough. “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone”, and she’s never coming back. It’s been three years, and I am trying so hard to find some sense of meaning and joy in my life, but I have yet to find anything to fill the void. I’ve tried to explain this is my friends, but I don’t think they “get” it or, maybe they do, but there’s just nothing they can do to help. And, after three years, it feels like everyone thinks I should be “over it” by now.

  29. Wow. This is right ON. Today is the 4 month mark of my wife’s death. April 3, 2016 began my horrendous sense of loss and LONELINESS. Although I have three grown children who love me very much, the emptiness I feel for my wife of 27 years haunts me. I feel like a leg has been amputated, and now I must adjust to limping through life. The Bible says, The two shall become one.” How devastatingly true that is. A big part of me has been cut out. Thanks so much for clearing my mind about the loneliness I am feeling each day.I look forward to reading more of your messages. Thanks.

  30. This is very much how I now feel. My lover husband and best friend of 52 years died in September . I can’t seem to resolve the loneliness without him. With children and grandchildren around me I can’t reconcile myself to the emptiness and loss I feel. Your article really resonated with me. Thank you.

  31. This is oh so true. I lost my 30 year old son just 3 months ago and have a husband and another son that I love deeply, but they are handling their grief in an entirely different way, so it is lonely for me. My husband and I are able to express our grief with each other, but I am so worried that my oldest son does not reach out to us at all. I know he is lonely and I pray everyday that he will come to us in his grief. Thank you for this.

    • I so understand where you are coming from. My 21 year old son died 4.5 mos. ago. My husband and I do grieve differently and my second son, is a typical boy and doesn’t emote much. He leaves for his first year of college next week and I worry about how the grief will impact this big transition.

  32. Oh so very true…
    Very worthwhile for me to read this, as it so accurately describes my current state. My 27 year old son’s life was taken 2 years ago and I & my family still struggle immensely, have come to the realisation that I am now a changed person, which increases the loneliness. I very much like the term grief friends as well. I feel closer to them than I do to my friends of long standing. I have learnt that I will have to learn to live without my son, but it will be a different me and not the me that I had always thought of being. Thank you for this article.

  33. This is the most gut-wrenching, yet accurate description I’ve ever read. After he died, I filled my journals with these exact words. Not as neat and concince, nor legible of course. But they were/are there.

    Nicely done.

    Cheers.

  34. Thank you for this. It could have been written for me. Although I have always been a bit of a shy introvert I never ever felt lonely until I lost my lovely husband Peter late last year. He really was my best friend, confidant and protector as well as a truly loving husband. Your words today have got to me more than any others and I am so grateful for them. Thank you.

  35. I miss my son more everyday….11 years after his decision to end his life…grief never stops for me….

  36. I truly did not understand that sadness and joy can exist at the same time until recently. I find joy every day when I spend time with my loving friends and family, but so long for my loving husband. Maybe my “hole” is slowly being filled.

  37. I am shocked at how your words express myself. I have been pinning for my son and wondering if it were normal. So thankful to read that my slow process of yearning is working towards acceptance, using new resources and that I am not alone in this endeavor. So appreciate you.

    • I agree completely. Just recently I was thinking that after 1.5 years of grieving for my son, I’m trying to hide my grief from people so I don’t make them uncomfortable anymore. I realized that I do feel alone in my grief, that maybe I prefer it that way.

  38. My husband took his own life 4 years ago after we had been married 32 years. We were childless by choice, but sometimes the loneliness I feel, the absolute lack of that person to connect with, is almost unbearable even after this much time. I enjoy my friends who have been wonderful, but most of them go home to spouse or kids and I face my solitary life. This essay is spot-on about how it feels.

    • Wow….Rhonda Grundy, my sincere condolences. I think your loss must be the toughest…..w/that extra complicated layer of sadness and lonliness. My loss not quite 2 yrs yet, but due to move to a new city which I love, still surprised @ how lonely life still feels. 21 yrs together, no kids. ( So much so I am back in hospice grief group). Blessings to you…..hang in there…..

    • I am so very heartbroken for you. Thoughts and prayers for you Rhonda.

    • You know exactly how grief does after losing the one who was close to your heart
      7years down the line my 15yrs old daughter took her life she was the youngest of the 5 children.They all grown up leaving in their own homes because she was the baby I presume she will be home right now. The gap she left me with nothing can fill it up. My hubby passed on 12yrs ago .Um just trying to survive this life but emptiness is above me

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