While loneliness waits for no particular season, the holidays tend to exacerbate the difficulty for many people. The holidays bring family and friends together yet, for many people these joyous events are not possible because of great distances, inability to travel, or other unfortunate circumstances.
Even though surrounded by a great crowd of friends and loved ones, it is still possible to feel very much alone. What can be done when those feelings of loneliness seem beyond our control?
First, recognize that loneliness is a feeling. It’s a feeling that indicates a person is not connecting with others in a way they would like to connect. Loneliness is a symptom of disconnectedness.
Prolonged disconnectedness is not good for people. Still, loneliness is a common experience that most people endure at times in life. It’s the flip side of being an independent person that sometimes stands alone.
It’s important to understand there is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. They are not the same. A person can feel lonely when alone, but also when surrounded by people, even friends, and family.
Loneliness is a feeling a person has when their need for connection isn’t fulfilled. The feeling of disconnection is certainly painful.
It is essential to be able to have alone time without feeling lonely – to have a few hours or a few days alone without desperately craving connection. Life sometimes presents such circumstances as being away from the people who matter the most to us.
It is when these times are prolonged or involuntary that the feeling of loneliness can creep in and bring discomfort.
Loneliness is also subjective. If a person feels lonely, then the feeling is true. It does not matter what others think or say about the situation. For many, the worst kind of loneliness may be emotional disconnection – the feeling that others do not see, acknowledge, understand, and appreciate what‘s inside you.
Does Jesus care about our times of loneliness? Absolutely. Jesus knows all about loneliness. He experienced it up close and personal. Hanging alone on the cross, enduring the taunts and jeers of the mocking crowd after being abandoned by most of His friends and disciples, He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 26:46
When Jesus rose from the grave, He conquered not only death but also loneliness. He experienced extreme loneliness, so He knows well what it feels like and suffers with every lonely person.
We can know that nothing, including loneliness, can separate us from Jesus: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8;38-39
When loneliness comes, take it seriously. Acknowledge your feelings and see others who may respect and care for your feelings.
Admit the problem. Being lonely brings no shame. This doesn’t make you a failure. Let the feeling of loneliness be a prompt to think and act in appropriate ways.
Consider the causes. From where is the loneliness coming? Is there a lack of people or is it difficult to connect with people? What fears of obstacles interfere with connecting with people? Are we seeking to connect with the right kind of people – people who can see and appreciate who can see the real us?
Accept what cannot be changed. Life is constant change. Some changes may cause temporary loneliness, but appreciate new opportunities for connection that are always available.
Alter what can be changed. Have at least one person in our life with which we can connect and be truly open. Be involved with other people.
Eat with people. Invite someone home or go out to eat. Relationships are often formed when eating together.
Consider getting a pet – if you are able to do so. Remember, a dog is man’s best friend. Having a pet is a long-term commitment.
Get professional help. Find a therapist, counselor, or another professional to get help.
Prayer helps me every day. If you have not yet tried prayer, why wait any longer?
Thanks to Torben Bergland, M.D.
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