Overcome loneliness and start living again.
As I talk with others who have experienced child suicide, they tell me that after wrestling with why their child took their life that their biggest struggle is loneliness. I get it. I am not unaffected by child loss. I have been through it twice, 31 years ago and again 4 years ago. It was in 2018 that my son died by suicide. I sometimes think my grief hit me harder with his death than my daughters.
Child loss is a unique type of grief. As a society, we don’t expect to outlive our children. There is something wrong with the scenario of having a child go before us. Those who have not experienced the death of a child have difficulty understanding what we are going through. As a result, our circle of friends may change or all together vanish. The people we once counted on for support no longer visit, call, text, or email. It seems like we are forgotten or carry a horrible plague that no one wants to be around. As I shared my story, it felt like child loss was somehow contagious and my friends with children no longer wanted to be with me. When in fact, I deeply yearned for contact, companionship and a relationship that was “normal”; one where we talked about our children, had lunches together and went for walks. Some degree of normalcy, a routine is what kept me feeling safe, that not everything in my life had changed.
It is the pain of physical separation of loss that makes grief so lonely. There is that familiarity with the person who is gone, and no relationship will fill that gap. You don’t want others to replace your loved one who is gone. You don’t want to be fixed. You simply want others to know your pain and support you when you are sad and lonely.
It is easy to feel alone in a crowd, small group, work or at dinner in what would typically be a fun filled event. Loneliness is caused by feeling that our hearts are at a different place than those we are with. Loss is different for each person and no one fully understands the grief of someone else, even if they are a family member, spouse, or close friend. Loneliness is not unique to grief. It can happen anywhere. I have found myself lonely in a group when I felt I did not have common ground. I felt like the outsider. Yes, outsider in grief and life. I hated being lonely. It was horrible to feel like I didn’t belong. I decided to do something about it. So how did I change?
While some of my old circles of friends were not able to support me, there were other ways to not feel alone. First of all, I had to understand that I was not alone. Others have traveled this loss journey. They paved the way for me and were a guiding light. I reached out to others who experienced loss or those who genuinely cared and wanted to be there for me when I had a tough moment, day or week. Living life encompasses relationships and we are meant to be in community with others. It was with others that I felt I belonged. They supported me, prayed for me, and sat with me. We went to lunch, took walks together and laughed. Laughter was huge in my healing. There is truth to the cliché that laughter is the best medicine. After spending time with others, in a community with common ground, I felt better and equipped to face the remainder of the day.
It is easy to hide our pain and suffering, hiding our emotions because the people around us, either implicitly or explicitly, are not receptive to our suffering. You may have reached out to someone for support, and they did not help. That initial rejection may have caused you to retreat even further into your grief. Each time this happens, you isolate yourself even more; telling yourself that you are alone, and no one understands, so you stop seeking support. This only adds to the feeling of loneliness. May I encourage you to continue to try again, to find those who will give you help? Don’t let those who don’t understand stop you from seeking help and limiting your ability to heal.
What would you get from finding a small group of people that offer help? You will have someone who does not judge, understands that times are tough and can lift you up and encourage you. Share your heart in the group. Get real. Be vulnerable with what you are going through. Small groups want to hear your challenges, know your struggles so they can help you in every way possible. You will feel alive, part of society, a member of a community and purposeful. Your purpose may be to help and support others in grief or establishing a non-profit. The sky is the limit. It is out of grief that your strength is increased.
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