Life's journey is filled with myriad emotions, each with its unique colour and depth. Among these emotions, loneliness and grief stand as two powerful forces that often go hand in hand. For Grief Awareness Day, we delve into the intimate relationship between loneliness and grief, exploring why they often coexist in the human experience.
Bereavement can be an incredibly challenging experience, often accompanied by a profound sense of isolation.
Jane Woodward, Executive Director at AtaLoss.org told us:
Bereavement affects every aspect of our lives: practical, emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual and financial. Grief is a necessary and natural, human response to loss – a darkness that has to be faced, in order to reach a ‘new normal’ and a healthy, secure tomorrow. The good news is that if bereaved people find timely, satisfactory support most will grieve healthily and find a good way forward but ensuring that happens does need a better understanding of bereavement than most of us currently have, especially decision-makers planning for a post-pandemic world.
Founded in 2016, AtaLoss.org exists to ensure that every bereaved person in the UK can find the support that they need.
The loneliness of loss
When a loved one passes away, the loss of their companionship can leave a void that no amount of social interactions can fill. If you lived together, the sudden shift to living alone can be particularly daunting, even with friends and family offering support. Sometimes it's missing the simple pleasure of having someone around, even if it meant doing nothing together.
Grief can disrupt the connections we had with others through the person we have lost. Whether they were the ones organising social gatherings or you spent time with their friends and family, a death can strain these relationships, making it challenging to sustain the same level of connection.
In the aftermath of a funeral, the outpouring of support and sympathy may wane, leaving the bereaved feeling forgotten or overlooked. Social events that were once shared as a couple, family, or group of friends might now seem difficult to attend alone.
Loss of friends
Unfortunately, the experience of losing a loved one can lead to the loss of friendships as well. People may feel uncertain about reaching out and may even stop making contact altogether, leaving the grieving person feeling further isolated.
Impact of caregiving
For those who were caregivers, the grieving process can be particularly lonely. Caring for others can already be a solitary experience, and the transition from caregiving to grief can leave a significant void in one's life.
Health issues, disabilities, and financial changes resulting from the death can create additional barriers to reconnecting with others, exacerbating feelings of loneliness.
The isolation of grief
Grief, even with a supportive network, can be an isolating experience. The loss of a person with whom you shared a unique bond can make it challenging for others to fully understand your pain, especially if the death was traumatic. Younger individuals who experience this type of loss might feel particularly isolated, believing that their peers cannot relate to their grief.
What might help:
Look for local organisations hosting community meals or support groups for people who have lost loved ones. Consider joining a new club or activity, such as sports, crafts, or faith groups, to meet like-minded individuals. Online platforms like Meetup can be helpful in finding gatherings.
Volunteering not only provides an opportunity to connect with new people but also offers a chance to help other bereaved individuals. Organisations like Cruse can provide information on volunteering opportunities. If you would like to volunteer with Marmalade Trust, or if you would like to become a member, you'll find lots of information on our website.
Talk to someone
If you find yourself struggling with grief and loneliness, don't hesitate to seek support from organisations like Cruse, which offer compassionate help and understanding. AtaLoss.org lists over 1000 services across the UK, covering the full range from national to local and specialist to general services, many now online. And many services offer befriending services, peer support groups and social groups to help with loneliness. They offer advice about how to support bereaved people - the same applies to lonely people. They also host a FREE live-chat professional counselling service 9-9 Monday to Friday if you want to ‘talk’. Go to www.ataloss.org.
Listen to others talk about grief
Griefcast is a podcast that examines the human experience of grief and death - but with comedians, so it’s cheerier than it sounds. Each week Cariad talks to a different guest about their experiences of grief. Together they share their views on the pain, loss and the weirdness that happens when someone dies. Past guests have included Adam Buxton, Aisling Bea, Susan Wokoma, Robert Webb and David Baddiel. More info here: https://cariadlloyd.com/griefcast
The connection between grief and loneliness is evident in the experiences of countless individuals. As we navigate the complexities of bereavement, understanding the reasons behind this link is crucial in finding ways to cope with loneliness. By seeking community, reaching out to others, and accessing available resources, we can begin to heal the wounds of grief and rediscover the warmth of human connection in our lives.