Loneliness and emotional sensitivity

Wasn’t sure what to call this post. What I’m trying to get at is this: I’ll see a headline in the NY Times about something like US combat dogs being abandoned in Iraq, and I won’t be able to read it. I mean I am viscerally unable to open the link. The same goes for stories about shark hunting (shark populations are collapsing), drowning polar bears (thank global warming), and leopards being kept in tiny enclosures as pets.

Is this just me? I think not. I think that loneliness, especially if it’s experienced on a long-term basis, really does sensitize you to suffering. And it involves this terrible vulnerability — you feel too much alone, too unguarded. And I think that sense of vulnerability leaves you uniquely attuned to people and creatures who’s vulnerability is being exploited & who can’t fend for themselves. This could mean street kids, or women involved in the sex trade, or whole families starving in Africa.

Do other people find this to be true? Do stories of pain feel like they’re aimed right at you? And is it one “domain” or many? In my case, I find I can’t read or watch animals-in-distress stories. The thought of watching a documentary like “The Cove” (about the dolphin slaughter) makes me hyperventilate. But I have read long stories about the sex trade and I find that, while they are disturbing, I can tolerate them.

What interests me about this “can’t look” phenomenon is that I think it provides me with a clue about how to start responding to my feelings of disconnection. Put simply, I have to start looking. I ripped a story out of a magazine last week about shark drownings, and it’s been sitting on my kitchen table ever since. I’ve now piled other things on top of it, but can see the photo (a man casting a net) peeking out from under a book. I intend to *read* this story. This may seem like a silly goal. Like, just read the story already! For others this may be a simple thing to do. For me, it isn’t.

I plan to study my reactions as I force myself to read things I normally avoid. (And it is mostly reading, since I no longer have a TV.) Perhaps the act of reading and learning won’t be as bruising as I expect it to be. Or maybe it will be. Either way, I’m going to start turning to the things I’m now studiously avoiding, all in the hopes that this act of what is essentially caring might make me feel more connected.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 14th, 2012 at 4:10 pm and is filed under the category Effects of Loneliness, Long-term Loneliness.

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23 Responses to “Loneliness and emotional sensitivity”

  1. Yoga Gurl said:

    I am so like this. Almost everyday I am forced to see something unjust/upsetting. Even today. Saw an idiot take his two small dogs connected to his bike on a six mile ride! The dogs were dragging. I said something and, of course, he denies any problem.

    This happens to me all the time. But it’s been this way since I was a little kid. So I am not sure if any loneliness is causing me to feel this way (I dont’ feel particularly lonely today) but rather maybe sensitiveness leads someone to become more lonely? I wouldn’t be surprised with the latter…because when you are really sensitive, you are affected by people’s reactions, attitudes, behaviors more than most and are more likely to avoid because of it.

  2. I feel exactly the same way about exactly the same kinds of stories. I can read an article about a brutal human rights violation and be sad and outraged, but just seeing a headline about animal cruelty can actually send me into a deep depression, sometimes lasting weeks.

    I’ve never connected it to loneliness before, but you make a very good point. I’ve often wondered if I just don’t have as much sympathy for people as animals, but maybe on some level I’m just connecting with that sense of aloneness and helplessness these animals must feel.

  3. hmm, interesting question. I’m not so sure that just becoming more informed about the difficult issues will help one feel connected. Quite the contrary, it can lead to feelings of helplessness and despair! Getting involved in the issues, working to end the particular horror, now that is where the sense of connection begins, as one meets other like-minded souls who care. For instance, I don’t read about the horrendous abuse of animals raised for slaughter, I already know enough about that to have stopped eating beings years ago. I also work to promote a veggie ethic whenever I can. And have connected with other folks who also believe meat-eating is all about animal suffering. There’s the feeling of connection. That’s the way it works for me!

  4. I have the same reaction. I cannot watch violent films or hear about animal abuse or child abuse or rape.

    I think you’re right, that chronic loneliness does sensitize us to others’ suffering. Maybe what predisposes us to loneliness is already a hyper sensitivity, and that’s what makes it difficult to be exposed to these horrible things – rather than the loneliness itself.

    The way I view it, I know myself and my limitations. I always say, I don’t want to know how horrible human beings can be. This goes for abuse, rape, torture, whatever. When I have seen movies with horrible violence, they have scarred me for life, and honestly, I would be better off never having seen them. So now I am more careful. I try to be kind to myself.

    Emily, I would encourage you not to force yourself to be exposed to things that really upset you. Be kind to yourself. Do what’s right for you. Personally, I think it’s better to connect with people who are compassionate, rather than expose yourself to people who are cruel. Take good care.

  5. Very interesting. I react the same way and have also wondered whether I’m less sensitive to people than animals. But I think it’s the helplessness of animals that gets to me because I feel the same for children but not quite as much for adults

  6. My goodness, I feel very sensitive to animal suffering as well. Please let me share a very recent story.

    I take the bus to and from work and on Thursday evening, there was a pigeon, that appeared to be injured resting motionless near the bus stop. My heart went out to the little guy and I literally felt physical pain at the sight of seeing him there; all alone and possibly injured and hurting.

    The next morning, the poor little fellow was still there and again, I felt awful. I called a friend who worked for the city and ask if the animal control people would help rescue an injured pigeon and she said yes. I made four other calls and found that an emergency vet clinic in the city takes these poor little creatures and they look them over and hand them over to a volunteer who has a pigeon aviary who then nurses them back to health and then releases them. I then called my husband and we were ready to initiate “operation pigeon rescue”. My husband advised me to make sure the little guy was still there before he drove out with gloves, a towel and a box to collect him.

    I went to the bus stop and lo and behold, the little fellow was gone. I walked up and down the street for five minutes looking for him and make sure he was safe.

    Afterwards, I feel foolish, but upon retrospect, I did the “right thing” because here was an injured creature, no less deserving, that was clearly in distress and I felt obligated to assist.

    So, I can certainly relate to the stories shared here and can tell all that I certainly feel pain at the suffering of animals.

    Cheers,

    Kirsten

  7. Anonymous said:

    I am a lonely person and am hyper attuned to world suffering as well. But the suffering of increases my personal despair and makes me fear that I too am vulnerable and it could happen to me.

    For example, I am aware that most of the world lives in poverty. And that in many countries/cultures there is NO freedom of opportunity (such as for the poor people of India, the diamond mine laborers in Zimbabwe, the citizens of the favelas).

    Other people’s dire situations compound my own personal loneliness and despair and make me feel as if improving my own life, upward mobility, being successful is just a lie we are fed by the 1%….or you get the reasoning.

    Whenever I think about improving my own circumstances I am reminded of the billions of people who cannot because they were born at the wrong place at the wrong time (including animals, such as strays) and it makes me feel as though my life will never improve.

    Other people’s (and animals’) unfortunate circumstances or statuses only fuel my own existential depression. My issue goes beyond the discomfort of other people’s suffering. It makes me feel helpless and hopeless overall.

  8. Hello Emily,
    I have just read many of your blog entries here as I visited your website over a year ago now, after finding your book fascinating. I certainly identified with so much of what you described, as many others have also.

    Your most recent comments about feeling more sensitive to others who may be suffering, whether it is humans or animals, I think is absolutely natural. The lonely person is suffering whether they admit it to themselves or not. Humans will group together often for a sense of being understood and thus perhaps easing one’s own suffering. It may be one of the dynamics of why any 12 step program works. Maybe there needs be 12 step programs that deal with the entire scope of loneliness?

    We also know that kindness and compassion can increase once sense of connectedness for a little while, even if the majority of a lonely person’s life is solitary. If a lonely individual goes out and has a short conversation with an old man, for example, who is walking an elderly dog, he may state that he is a widow and that his dog is ‘everything’ to him. For the time of that connecting, I suspect that both people don’t feel quite as alone, even though after a short while, the two people will part. I know this first hand as I had that very experience this past summertime.

    My personal life is extremely lonely because of being single, choosing to not date anymore at my age of 65, don’t have a pet because of wanting not to leave a pet boarded when I travel. I also couldn’t have children, immigrated to Canada as an only child and now with both parents having died over recent years my family, just cousins now, are all in the UK.

    That is a reality that seemed to just happen over the past few years after retirement and the death of my last parent, my dad, who I was very close to and cared for in his final four years.

    I have discovered that these ‘adventures’ of transitory connections with others when ‘out in the world,’ I am allowing them to be a kind of gift to myself. They perhaps ‘fill’ my need for socializing that doesn’t have much depth, but at the same time, I am able to be the kind and compassionate individual that I know is part of my core personality.

    Although, I do keep in touch with others who know me well via emails, I find that unless I contact them, there is now no initiative from them. Several folks in comments to your various blog essays have said the same is true for them also. As a test over Christmas, I purposely didn’t call anyone. Everyone who knew me, who’d I had sent cards to, knew I was spending the entire time over the holidays completely alone. Not one person called me, not a cousin, nor any of my long time friends. It would have taken such a little bit of time for them to bother, but the thing is, that I do accept is that I am not as important to them as they are individually to me. They (the not lonely) are busy with their spouses, children, significant others and grandchildren and extended families. How can I possibly be a part of that social structure. The harsh reality is that I cannot. And so the loneliness continues day after day, month after month.

    So, my solution recently is to ask myself how I feel strongest and most at peace. What is it that I can do that reinforces who I am to myself and the world. Last year, I really spent a lot of time thinking about that and realized that my being fit, going out and being outside was important and in that way, I was able to be kind and compassionate to others. I purposely made up small treat bags filled with cookies and candy for homeless in a large city near where I live before Dec. 25th. On Christmas afternoon, I travelled there and walked around handing them out to any homeless individuals, whose Christmas day was so much worse than I could even imagine.

    One young man told me that my little gift to him was the only nice thing to happen so far that day. He said that people had been really verbally abusive to him, even though he’d not been panhandling. I said maybe his Christmas day was just beginning and asked him if he’d like a hug. (Note: He was cleanly dressed and sober showing no signs of mental disorder) He said ‘Yes’ and so we hugged. As I did that, (He was probably the age that a son of mine could have been) I realized that the hug we shared was going to be the only hug that he probably would receive that day. And perhaps importantly too, the only one that I would receive. Being Christian, I like to think that a God smiled on that hug thinking that truly was the real spirit of Christmas.

    So, then I went for a 10 mile run until even after dark, but all the while I held that connection with that homeless man in my heart.

    So, the loneliness continues, but I am certain that my ability to be sensitive to others is a gift to myself out of some of the discomfort of my solitary life. Little gems of human interaction that others who are too busy with their own lives miss entirely and possibly could not even understand.

    Perhaps we are the lucky ones, perhaps we are together creating the compassionate good in the world.

    That I truly believe.

    To all who read this, I send you my blessings that you do realize your individual worth in the world is a perfect gift.

  9. Iamnotabozo said:

    I am hyper sensitive to the dire situations of the human condition. I don ‘t watch any movies or shows about murders or violence. I keep up to date on all word events but in the past month I have been skipping every article related to the Middle East, Afganistan or any Religion based autocracy. Child abuse cases animal abuse makes me physically ill. I won’t watch any movie on the Jewish holocaust because I suffer for days afterward.

  10. Beautiful Wendy. Your compassion (and wisdom) does indeed make you one of the lucky ones.

  11. I am totally in agreement with these postings. There was a new item on AOL on Xmas Eve about someone being cruel to kittens that threw me into near despair and I cried for ages. My poor husband didn’t know what to do! (I hate Xmas anyway.) So my tactic is not to read them, don’t upset myself unnecessarily. But like others who’ve posted, I can read about horrible things happening to humans and be outraged but not as upset. I don’t think this view has that much to do with loneliness, but I agree that solitude makes one more sensitive to such horrors.

  12. Wow, this essay by Emily has certainly created a lot of reflection and replies. That is great and gives us all more to think about.

    I wanted to thank Ingrid for her complimentary comment about my previous post. It was very kind.

    Sue’s despair over the poor kittens is understandable, as I just simply cannot understand where the instinct comes from in people who are cruel either to other people with even just verbal comments. Animals, mainly cats and dogs, who are abused by humans are just so very vulnerable and certainly dogs, loyal to their owners, never expect cruel treatment. Fortunately, laws are getting tougher for these abusers.

    I am so sorry, Sue, that you were so upset but that isn’t a totally bad outcome with your emotional reaction because maybe with of that strong reaction, you are even kinder to any pets that you may have in your home. Also, maybe you thought of visiting a shelter and taking some extra food for the kittens or cats there. Out of a negative can come a positive.

    Here’s a little story about my being sensitive that I hope you’ll relate to, as it involves the extent of my being willing to ‘go that extra mile’ in order to make something horrible a little better.

    This story is about Horace, who I rather spontaneously named.

    In December, before I drove down a street to do a little shopping, a grey squirrel ran quickly in front of my vehicle. I was startled as it was very close my tires but I didn’t hit it. I saw it run under the first front tire of the vehicle approaching me on the opposite side of this residential street. As I checked in my rear side mirror as the vehicle passed by me, I saw the squirrel lying on the side of the road.

    I felt so very sad instantly but had to keep driving and wondering if the squirrel was injured or whether it had been instantly killed. I couldn’t see it moving and also thought if I did go back there and it was just injured, what could I do? The danger of being bitten by an injured animal is something to consider if trying to help.

    After leaving the store about 20 minutes later, I thought of the squirrel and whether it may still be by the side of the road just the week before Christmas day. Driving back along the same road, I saw the squirrel lying still beside a stop sign and thought that it just couldn’t stay there where cars would be turning repeatedly turning. It definitely wasn’t alive and so I parked my vehicle and took a plastic bag over and picked up the squirrel, who instantly became Horace. I carefully wrapped the bag and then used a second bag, placing Horace gently in the back of my vehicle.

    Then I had the dilemma of where to take Horace, the now dead squirrel who I’d seen alive laying in the back of my vehicle. It seemed that now I had created almost a Saturday Night Live situation of what to do next and if I was stopped by a policeman for any reason, it may be odd to explain if he checked my vehicle.

    It was important to me to honour what had been his life when our paths crossed. After all, I saw him alive.

    Living in Canada, I decided to go to the local RCMP station to see if they could take Horace. I was told by staff to just put the bag in the dumpster where I lived. That seemed just so distasteful to me that I left carrying Horace back to my vehicle.

    My dilemma continued for another hour as I thought maybe a church was open and I could get permission to bury Horace in their garden. After going past four churches that were not open for afternoon teas on a Saturday, I went to a Veterinary office, leaving Horace in the vehicle this time.

    The staff there called our local shelter, still open, and they were willing to take this unfortunate little tyke. I mean, I don’t really know if the squirrel was a Horace or a Harriet!

    So, a 20 minute drive and I delivered Horace to the shelter telling them this story. They were very kind about it and said that he/or she would be cremated properly. It was a very suitable end to my journey to make something horrible a more positive experience for myself.

    I could have just driven home and cried about the squirrel being hit, but this outcome was much better for both of us, I like to think!

    As I have told this story a few times to friends who love animals, Horace is living on, becoming a local legend, which most squirrels do not!

    Peace to Horace and to everyone here too!

  13. Wendy, once again your positive attitude and deliberate steps to avoid despair are inspirational. Horace’s life is honoured, not just through the care you have taken of him but also the service he has performed for you.

  14. How miraculous – I have erroneously believed that I was the only one SO sensitive to animal suffering that I couldn’t even read/see their story of suffering. I can cope with humans treating humans badly though I always avoid those situations if I can…..but I simply don’t have the ability to read or see animal suffering. I have always labelled myself a coward for turning away, but the pain is so great that I just can’t do it. The vision lives on in my head for years afterwards – I wake at night and all I can think about is the suffering. I do try and support those brave souls who are able to help. For example, here in Australia there has been much exposure about the suffering of cattle and sheep exported to Indonesia and the Middle East where they are slaughtered without stunning in a very cruel way (I don’t want to go into specifics). The only way the Australian public learned about this was because of one woman who went into these foreign slaughter houses and filmed the scenes and then managed to get the film shown on a national evening TV programme. Her name is Lyn White and she heads an organisation called Animals Australia that highlights animal cruelty. Oh how brave this woman is.

    I have followed your posts for the last couple of years and have a copy of your book. I have been “alone” all my 65 years, even though I have a family. I’ve always felt different and apart from people, even when I’m in their midst. I find myself yearning to be on my own after a couple of hours with others in my space…and then when I am on my own for long periods, I feel so sad that I don’t have friends around me to connect to. I don’t understand why it is like this. When I look back over my life, I see that I have shaped it this way. I live in the middle of 50 acres of woodland (we call it “bush” here in Oz) and my husband spends weeks at a time working away at sea and always has. My children love me, but one lives in England (my original home) and the two boys don’t come home much because they know I’m very independent and quite fine on my own!

    It would be good to be in touch with likeminded people from other countries.

  15. Hello Sally,
    How great that you posted your comments as they echo those of so many here too. You are now in touch with others from different countries and maybe others can post and say where they are living too.

    I am in Western Canada but came from London, England as a young child. As an only child, it meant for me that I was then disconnected from 15 aunts and uncles and both sets of grandparents. I do believe that dislocation was pivotal in my life although at the time, I just adapted to the loss of this family group. Now, I’m at the age that you are also, I feel that lack of close family greatly as my parents have both died over the past 7 years.

    I was unfortunate in that cancer meant I wasn’t able to have children when I was 27 and that also changed the course of my life remaining a very young divorcee at 23, when my friends were marrying and having children. Do you know the other day I realized that I’ve never been invited to a baby shower or a children’s birthday party in my life. It just separated me in such a large way from sharing that experience of motherhood with other women my age.

    With your grown children at a distance, you have that loss to deal with also and it sounds as though you’d love to have them nearby. Maybe they need to know that you aren’t as happy as you make out to be, creating that image for them of an independent spirit and fine on your own. Perhaps you are trying to protect them from any sense of guilt of their living far away?

    You made me smile when you said that when you are with others, often it’s with relief that you are able to be alone again and yet dislike that too. What a paradox it is and I occasionally feel the very same way. So you are not alone in that thought at all.

    Perhaps there are similar traits among folks who spend a lot of time alone. After all, one’s environment does shape behaviour greatly.

    Sometimes, I even have the humorous thought that even monk’s or prisoners (not much similarity in lifestyles though!) have a less lonely life than I do these days, being surrounded by others all the time.

    However, there are wonderful ways to have that sense of connectedness and the computer is one way for sure. And you can quit the connection any time that you darn well want as opposed to folks in your home!! And I’m not making light of this topic at all. We all need a sense of humour sometimes about loneliness, I think, as it’s really, truly most often, not our fault. It’s circumstance, as with yours living a rural life and with your family not often nearby.

    As I have said before on a few other posts here, you and others are strong individuals as we cope with something that is truly hidden and sometimes cannot be solved, as you describe.

    I find writing is a great outlet. Why don’t you begin a blog and write of your experiences where you live as it’s of great interest to city gals like myself. Honestly!

    Or visit here again and write some more as you are very eloquent.

    I did ask Emily if there could be a way to privately email on her website, but it must take a bit of configuration on the site to do and so far it’s not possible.

    This is a great middle ground however and one that I have thanked her for several times in the past.

    Hope to see you here again, Mate!!!

  16. This blog post in part reminded me of the movie “Sex, Lies, and Video Tape.” As I remember, near the beginning of the movie, the female lead (Andie MacDowell) seemed to get caught up in all the tragedies (misery) of the world. Interestingly, as my memory serves me, her therapist told her that because she was depressed, it caused her to become far more emotionally impacted by the suffering (of strangers) everywhere.

  17. I really resonate with this post. Being alone I feel much more vulnerable to sad stories & injustice. For example the current suffering in Syria upsets me. Anything to do with animals suffering or even environmental damage and exploitation like the felling of beautiful native forests or an oil spill. Part of this comes from the same emotional landscape which I believe set the foundation for my lonliness but also not having someone with you to share you feelings with means that it diffuses inwards. Don’t have any answers but good to discuss it.

  18. When I was going through a period of extreme loneliness a few years ago, the only thing that made me feel better was sitting with my brother’s dog on my knee. I got to thinking what this meant and decided that the part of me that was lonely was very much a “doggy” side of me. I think the dog represented a part of my that felt non-verbal (I was certainly unable to understand – and hence articulate – why I was in such pain), non-cerebral (so much of my social life was spent making conversation and trying to present a good public face), dependent (because loneliness is a reminder that one needs other people), helpless (because I was unable to change my situation alone, at least not as soon as I wanted) and longing for affection.

    I think when people are unkind to animals, children or disadvantaged people, it’s a reminder that people are not always kind to beings who are helpless or weak, whatever their shape or form. Equally, I’ve realized that I’ve also been guilty of treating my own helplessness and weakness unkindly, trying to deny, suppress or ignore it. If I could find a way to be as welcoming of my own “doggy” side as I am to my brother’s dog, I would probably feel less lonely, at least on the inside, but I’m not quite sure how to do this.

    Curiously, over the past few years, I’ve tried to reach out to other people who have admitted to me that they, too, were lonely and, curiously, the response I’ve got has depended, to a certain extent, on how willing they’ve been to accept their own “dogginess” (sorry, I think I’m beginning to sound a big corny). One, a 58-year-old single man, is delighted to be invited round to my house and cooked for. When I was ill a couple of weeks ago he asked me if there was anything I needed and I was able to admit that I didn’t need any food but I’d love some company. He came and visited for a couple of hours and I felt much better. Another friend, a 46-year-old single mother, talks to me all the time about how alone she is but will never accept any help or invitations. I get the impression that she doesn’t see the link between an attitude of complete independence and loneliness.

  19. Summer said:

    What I have found that affects me greatly now are those stories, shows in which someone is dying from an illness or accident. I cry like a baby but can never seem to turn away. Also, anything that has stories of children in great and desperate need of food and love.

    My greatest fear and what sometimes paralyzes me is being diagnosed with an illness and not having that “person” to be there by my side when I’m on my deathbed. Dying alone, with no one to carry my memory into the future.

    Even as I write this I am incredibly sad and reminded of how truly lonely I feel with no idea how to break out of this.

  20. Wow, totally relate to this phenomenon. Remember being very lonely whilst abroad and seeing one of those ads about bears having their bile harvested. Just writing it now and the feeling is there. It’s like a horribly cold knife being thrust into my heart. Cannot cope with it.

    Was alarmed when I first noticed how much my tolerance for depictions of cruelty had been reduced. More ammunition for my inner hypochondriac – “You’re emotions are out of control! You’re going crazy! You’re mentally ill.” I don’t like that little voice. I’ve been struggling with loneliness for most of my adult life. For a long time just had no idea what to call it and thus no way to communicate it. Am hoping this website is going to provide more insight.

    Thanks for your efforts Emily, and posters.

  21. I felt sad reading Summer’s post. I lost my wife to cancer nearly 2 years ago, we had no children. I was with her 24/7 to the end and watched her take her final breath. My lonliness since then has gorwn. Now I think when my turn comes maybe there will be no one there for me. But when you think about it, we all come into this world alone and we all exit it alone. No matter how many people are with you, it is you who is going to die whenever that may be. I prefer now to just surrender to a higher power or God or whatever you believe and feel that I am just a tiny part of a much more magnificent creation and that makes me feel less fearful of the future.
    Also realising that if we think about our fears and our lonliness then they grow in strength. The more we think of them the more powerful they get, we feed them. We are all in this together and I just hope there is some greater purpose behind it all.

  22. Wendy said:

    For Doug,
    Since coming to this website, thanks to Emily’s efforts, it’s been quite the interesting journey both recognizing other’s fears of loneliness and my own situation. I’ve a few other entries further up this page to explain.

    When my dad died over 3 1/2 years ago, it left me, like you, very alone. I am without any family in Canada where I’ve lived since a child. My doting aunts and uncles in the UK have now all died and my cousins do care but not in the same way as they all have families to keep them busy. If I visit, I’m welcome, but they aren’t here nearby day to day.

    It’s a shocker, as you’ve explained to be really devoted to someone through their illness, as you were with your wife, or with myself with my elderly dad assisting him daily for 52 months with my own life rather on hold.

    I’m sure you have lost friends during your time of caring for your wife. I certainly did as friends just didn’t understand the emotional toll of caregiving. It’s isolating in itself, isn’t it?

    I’ve found that after the death of my dad, I was so emotionally worn out that again, I just couldn’t socialize with others much.
    Now, as I’m retired, did so during my caregiving years as I couldn’t do both, I don’t even have the socializing at work.

    Many, mostly married friends over the years, now are busy with grown children, and now grandchildren or are also retired and travelling about as couples. I’m single and don’t date at all anymore through choice really. So, it does leave the question, how to feel connected on a level deeper than just appearing as things, like volunteering or classes, and regain a some sort of really important human connection that will maybe fill that void. It’s a question that I do struggle with and often feel very anxious about.

    I’ve actually come to realize that is an unrealistic dream to eliminate that lonely life without the family structure around me. As harsh as it sounds I cannot create a family around myself that seemingly is what so many of the folks I do know have in their lives.

    I was unable to have children due to surgery for cancer at a very young age and for so many potential relationships I was deemed not marriageable due to my future childlessness. That too was a bitter pill to swallow many times in my late 20’s and into my 30’s and even early 40’s. Having been married in my teens, which was a silly idea and ended after just 3 years, I really now know that I’ll never be married and so face my future years in my home alone, and it’s been more alone with my dad gone now, as it is for you with your wife gone. We do have our rich memories of loving that person and they can be a huge comfort. But I ask what next in the days/months and years ahead in my life?

    Recently, after a lot of thinking about this topic of continued loneliness, I had a thought. If there are things that take me to a place where I feel a sense of connectedness or completeness or even love, then I need to go to that whatever it is. In my life, I love dogs, so recently helped a very poor senior man get his dog groomed with a donation from a Humane Society in my city. It was a 6 week effort on my part involving finding a groomer, getting the donation, having a local TV station tell the story of this man’s love for his dog of 11 years. That brought me to a place of connectedness and compassion for another. Not receiving, but giving.

    If I go to a place of greater connections, then I have to make the effort and will have to for the rest of my days. There is no one to advocate for me either if I fall ill or am dying. I will more than likely die alone but I believe we are never really alone.

    As you mention, IF we do let ourselves remember the higher power, a God, if by name, then we are never, ever alone. That in itself is a comfort for myself and for thousands of others like you and I. And there are thousands, if not millions of us all around the globe.

    Maybe our challenge after giving our best love in caring for our most important person in our lives, it is with that strength that we are able to continue day after day with the fortitude that came out of love.

    I extend to you my sincere condolences of the loss of your dear one, your wife to whom you were so obviously devoted. I wish you the continued sense of not being alone, having a God within your heart to comfort you as you take step after step in your life.
    Blessings from my home to yours.

  23. Thank you Wendy for your post which I found both touching and insightful. My wife, like you, was unable to have children due to a hysterectomy early in our marriage. When you are younger you are more resilient to these things and seem to have more optimism and hope for the future but as life passes and you lose family members life seems to get harder and lonelier. Then if you lose your partner as in my case or parent as in yours, you seem to be left almost completely alone. So we search for ways to connect and I am pleased you have the love of dogs because animals are a good substitute. This forum is good as we learn that we are not alone in our loneliness, there are others in the same boat. We must keep trying to find ways to connect and find some happiness. Our circumstances won’t change so we must try to. I do think that having some faith helps me feel there is some meaning despite the suffering in our lives and the world. I do thank you and wish you the best in your journey.

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