Loneliness: The Unnamed Pain

Let’s talk about loneliness.

I’m not a therapist or doctor, but as a hospital chaplain, I’ve seen the terrible and awful effects of loneliness on mental health. The problem is that it’s tough to admit, almost embarrassing to say, “I’m hurting from loneliness.”

Loneliness is a double-bind in that in order to find comfort, it requires reaching out to people or for people to be near. But some of us have been alone so long, it’s unthinkable that we can connect with another human without risking rejection—which fuels more loneliness.

The unhelpful reply I hear to “I’m lonely” is “Why don’t you just make friends?” But that’s like saying, “Why don’t you just get rich?” or “Why can’t you just go to the gym?” We’re already in deficit, a lap behind, because we fear connection in proportion to how alone we feel.

It’s difficult to make friends and keep them. It’s hard to have real friendships that are not just functional transactions. Even when someone is surrounded by crowds or well connected, they may be the loneliest people on earth, because all their “friends” are transactional.

I don’t know the answer to loneliness. But I know what the answer is not: We can’t just snap out of it. We can’t just cure it with a party, a bar, a church, a dating app. It requires intentional investment and yes, the risk of rejection. The opposite of loneliness is courage. It takes courage to reach out, to enter each other’s orbit, to risk trust, and to be alone in our thoughts and fears.

Friends, this week may be lonely. This season can be brutal. They can remind you of all that’s missing. As trite as it sounds: You may feel lonely, but you are not alone. May you find the courage to reach out, to enter the possibilities of love in all its heaven and heartache.
— J.S.

5 thoughts on “Loneliness: The Unnamed Pain

  1. This is a powerful post J.S. Thank you for the courage you show every day.

    I, also like the statement:

    “The opposite of loneliness is courage. It takes courage to reach out, to enter each other’s orbit, to risk trust, and to be alone in our thoughts and fears.”

    To say that it takes courage to come out of “hiding” from the world is such a “Whoa there!” type of a hard brake and yet, it is very true. The risk we take when we say “despite all the other times of getting beat down, I want to walk out of my cell into a new freedom” damn straight it takes courage. And when on the opposite side of that we find love, and friendship there is nothing like it.

    Thank you JS for reminding us that life takes courage and that it’s not the giant steps that make us fully alive but it is the smallest steps we take that transform our lives, and our world.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nailed it!!!!! It’s an ongoing struggle for me (single, unattached romantically , attached to dear friends…. but still painfully lonely). I am divorced. The loneliness has been the biggest fallout… and one I was/ am unprepared for. It seems so easy for some people to connect again. For me it comes with anxiety and fear and depression so much so that there’s been no one “special “ since the divorce. I wonder a lot of things about that…. too damaged, just not cut out for being with someone, and on and on. Sometimes I yell it’s not fair… then I settle down and just go back into my hole again. It’s a terrible cycle that I am trying to break using many tools, books, counseling etc… Thanks for putting it out for the world to read!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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