The Loneliness of Grief

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I realized that maybe I wasn’t just tired. The low energy, the feelings of disinterest, the stress of being overwhelmed by life. I knew exactly what it was when Loneliness appeared. I immediately recognized it, which happens when you’ve been visited by Loneliness so many times before.

Loneliness fills my insides. I carry it around; it is heavy and stagnant and festers. It doesn’t matter who I am around. It doesn’t matter what I am doing. Loneliness overrides all of it. It is the feeling of being completely alone in the world. You can’t see me, and I can’t see you.

I am with a group of people, but I might as well be the only person in the room. I smile. I make conversation. I do my work. But I am not there. I don’t want to be there, because I feel so alone. Like a big, green bug that is out of place. I don’t belong.

The loneliness swallows me up into a vast ocean of desolation; my feet can never touch the bottom, and I struggle to keep my head above water. I am lost somewhere in the middle. When I am not drowning, I am exiled to a deserted island where I must live alone with myself and all of the ugliness. But it is better than life in the real world. This ugly little place feels safer. There is nothing in the real world that can fill the void that expands inside of me.

Loneliness is darkness that makes me see distorted realities about myself. Last week I was happy; this week everything is hopeless. I am hopeless. I did something to deserve this. I am the cause of everything.

I wonder if it will ever end.

I want it to go away.

And sometimes I don’t want it to go away. It is the only thing I have left. My grief. The pain. There is nothing else.

Today is exactly 17 months, 1 day since Kenneth passed away.

Lately he has been in my dreams at night, lingering. I wake up and have that feeling of just missing him by a few seconds. I can feel him as if he were there, even when the emptiness in the room reminds me otherwise. He seems to be lurking everywhere: the heaviness in my heart, the dragonfly darting around in the sky, my children’s expressions, the lyrics of a song, an invisible presence that hangs thick in the air.

My first reaction is to push it away.

Go away.

There is no good in thinking about what is already lost.

But it also feels comfortable and familiar, like I can almost pretend that he is here. Back to the times when our family felt whole. Sometimes that feels better than the alternative.

I’m tired of waking up alone.

I’m tired of taking care of kids alone. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being with the children and caring for them. It’s just that I was meant to do it with their father. Now I am left with all of it lumped on my shoulders–the enjoyable moments and the tedious responsibility–and it is a load that feels onerous, and I have become weary. Nobody understands. I don’t want them to understand. This is my burden to carry alone.

I’m tired of not having him to talk to in the hallway at work. It magnifies the loneliness I already feel. It should be a crime to lose your work spouse and your real spouse. I fantasize about leaving. Moving to a place where nobody knows me. Starting over. Somewhere that doesn’t have memories trapped inside of hallways and fixed to objects and people and places. I think maybe a blank slate would be appealing.

But the loneliness finds me wherever I am.

I have things I want to tell him.

I have questions I never got to ask.

I wonder how long I have to live with this incompleteness, this hole in my being.

I’ve learned that you can’t get rid of Loneliness, but you can learn to live with it. It’s like getting caught in a riptide. You don’t fight it.

Breathe. Lean into myself. Exercise. Relax. Get enough sleep. Or try my usual tactic: dig myself out of this hole with lots of hard work. Keep busy. Work, work, work. Keep doing this until it makes me feel more overwhelmed.

I know I have to listen to myself. I have to stay still long enough to hear the voice inside of me. I have to persevere.

This will pass. I know it will pass. I just need to grit my teeth and rally. One little teeny tiny baby step at a time. This is my reality. My riptide.

Don’t fight it. I’ll drown.

Ride it out. My only other option isn’t an option. At least not today.

2 comments

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  1. Maryann

    Oh Teresa, it has been 16 months of loneliness for me, and I feel everything you are feeling and described so well. Staying super busy does help the days and weeks fly by, but it is so exhausting. The loneliness and sadness is always there. Thank you for putting into words the agony of loneliness.

  2. Diane

    This speaks volumes to me. It’s been almost 11 months since I lost my husband. It’s a loneliness that hurts and it hurts deeply. I feel alone like a misfit. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It helps me know that I’m not the only one going through this.

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