Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is not first a place but a state of mind and heart.
(Richard Foster “The Celebration of Discipline”)
In my last posting I shared some “nuggets” I learned from the first week of a Bible study called Wisdom for Widows. Today I’m continuing with the second week of the same study. This week’s topic was Isolation.
Let’s review that first week’s theme to give the acronym from which the study was created:
W idows – Comprehend the Bible’s portrayal of God’s heart for the widow
I solation – Learn how to face the biggest obstacle – Loneliness
D ecision Making O vercoming M arriage
F orgiveness O pportunities R elationships
W ealth I ntercession D ifferences O rganization W orship S ervice
Information taken from “Wisdom for Widows” by Mary Ann Kuechler
Sometimes widows tend to think of themselves as the only lonely people. However, there are many people in lonely situations. Along with the widows and widowers, those divorced and/or separated from their spouses deal with the same loneliness.
Did you ever stop to think that even some married people have no real relationship and still live lonely lives? If we really take a look around us and study others, we’ll see there are many who live in isolation. There are latch-key children, teens who just don’t “fit” in, immigrants, many homeless people, prisoners, and those who have never married. Even those in Christian service can find themselves leading lonely lives. Illness can separate us from others. Did you know we are one of 800,000 in our ranks as of today? I certainly didn’t know that, and I realize now I’m not the only one who’s alone.
It would be too much to try to share everything discussed in the study this week, but I’ll review some nuggets meant particularly for widows. In our situation, we know the cause of our loneliness is the loss of our spouse.
Some women in their loneliness choose to keep themselves from others. This decision by itself isn’t good. Often the pain of loss keeps one from going out and about, which only adds to the isolation. Choosing solitude as a way of life and staying away from others on a consistent basis is a wrong choice.
However, choosing to be away from others for solitude and meeting with God is a spiritual discipline we all need. Some of us choose to go on silent retreats such as I have written about in a prior blog. Spending time with God, reading His word, and talking to Him are all spiritual assets and help in healing. It should be a part of our daily routine. When we spend extended time alone thinking only about our loss and not feeding our soul and spirit encouragement, we add depression to our lives. Time spent reliving what we once had with our spouses and what we no longer have will expand our feeling of isolation. “Loneliness is always a negative experience while solitude is often positive and renewing. “ (J. Oswald Sanders “facing Loneliness” p15)
It’s true that widows face challenges they had no idea they would face. Most of us don’t know how to fix a leaky faucet or repair a broken hinge on a door, to mention only a few things. Some of us had never even hung a picture alone! When we face these everyday things, it certainly can make us aware that we’re “alone.” Eating alone, going places alone and handling finances are just some of the things that add to isolation.
In our study, Wisdom for Widows, we discussed seven “cures” for overcoming loneliness:
- You need to know, and accept yourself for who you are NOW. Know yourself. I had to learn that I was no longer part of the couple, “Phil and Kathy.” Widows are no longer married women, the other half of someone. I had to learn who I really am. The reality of who we were does not resemble who we are now. This doesn’t happen overnight. I remember the day that I realized that I’d become just “Kathy.”
- Move from living FOR the dead to living WITHOUT the dead. This sounds harsh, but we do have to learn to live beyond our deceased loved one. I learned what “I” liked to do, which was sometimes different from I did as a married couple. Someone in our group said she likes to listen to different music than her husband did, and now she does. There are little things you may start to change in your life, and that’s all right. Give yourself permission to do so.
- To face the most difficult times you need to form a plan. One lady shared that Saturdays was always her hardest day. Her husband had always planned that day, and they did things together either at home or away from home. After her husband passed away, Saturday came and she had no idea what to do, adding to her loneliness. She started making a list the night before of what she would do that day. In fact, that’s a great idea for every day. Before you go to bed, plan the following day. It gives you a purpose to rise each day and helps you not to wander aimlessly, feeling lost. One lady suggested leaving a paper and pencil in every room. When you’re in the room and you notice things you want to do, or should do, you can jot them down and have a reminder of these things. It was also mentioned by one lady that she couldn’t handle going to weddings alone. She learned to ask if she could bring a friend or even her niece. This allowed her to not sit alone and helped to alleviate feeling lonely or left out. Maybe you would want to ask someone to go grocery shopping with you or walking with you. Whatever you find the hardest to deal with, develop a plan.
- Find someone needier than yourself and reach out to them. Write letters to lonely people such as prisoners or someone who can’t get out of the house. Go visit a neighbor or take a meal to someone if you have enough energy. (Grieving takes a lot of energy). Pick up the phone and call someone who’s alone or suffering. Look for opportunities.
- Develop new relationships or renew old relationships. This can be difficult. I found that as I reached out to other widows, I, in turn, gained new friends. As you heal, you may want to start a small widow’s group. I’ve found that even though the fifth anniversary of my widowhood is approaching, the fellowship of other widows is very special for me. There is a common bond. We glean from one another. It’s a good way to develop those new relationships. I always say, “No one understands a widow better than another widow.”
- Don’t live in denial. Sometimes a widow doesn’t want to face the death of her husband, and she postpones her grieving. However, this just delays the grieving process and eventually makes it even more painful.
- Face your pain and don’t run from it. Grieving is painful, and the crying that goes with it is unwanted. Some widows run from allowing themselves to experience it. If you’re running away from your pain, you must turn around and face it. God gave us our tears to release our grief.
Remember, being a widow does get better, but it’s never the same. Learn to be the captain of your life. And, most important, reach out and be a comfort to others, and you will, in turn, be helping yourself to remove your loneliness.
“Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.”
God bless you,