The following excerpt is from my book, The Meeting Place: Moments with God at Lookout Point.
Loneliness Is Profound
It seems to me that there is a debilitating grain in the fiber of loneliness—a weakening section that follows the grain, a deadwood streak that affects the strength of the heartwood, making it harder to be well and healthy, harder to return to health. I also perceive through personal experience that not all loneliness is the same. Some is generalized. To be lonely on its own merits, not involving loss of someone, is the feeling of being by oneself, alone—not that of pain associated with losing. The other type of loneliness, the loss of someone that makes a hole and a vacuum created by the loss is another matter it seems to me, although related by its empty, alone feeling.
These come in varied increments of tragedy, some after a long history of conflict, the type that leads to divorce. Some after a short duration, such as an infant’s death, though not to be discounted because of the much-loved time attached to the shortness of life. And then the experience of losing someone who loved you and you have loved in return, who has loved you in tenderness and deep affection in a shared meeting of hearts, a soul mate, a defender, and even protector. The loss of this person adds a loneliness that freezes action and recovery. They simply aren’t there to pick you up when the day is hard, to smile with you at a pretty rainbow, to help you create your future, or help you put the dishes away after a big fancy dinner with the family. Missing like this is profound in its ability to make us stop, possibly cry, feel an enveloping sadness that grows to a dark blanket covering our souls as we succumb to its numbness; a retreat of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical proportions. We hate it, yet we can easily get lost in it—almost like a comforting retreat from the world and our own reality. We want help—but we also don’t want help. It would mean giving up that attachment, that person, that memory—that has grown to mean so much to us. Self-pity seems to be a wrong definition to me. Yet it could be seen that way at times. Denial? I suppose it’s there, too. Self-absorption, I’m positive, has its part.
To face loneliness is hard. It may require something of us—a letting go, a giving up, a moving forward, a looking to the better good, an action, a formula, and a purpose, and more; the list is endless. But we get stuck in the loneliness so often, especially on days fraught with association of memories. Loneliness is feeling like you can’t breathe—a grief of sorts: a gray heart on a sunny day, no lover on Valentine’s Day, an absent child on Mother’s Day, no gift on your birthday, a missing plate on the table, an empty room with its bed made, a pet leash hanging unused on the wall, an empty pillow next to you on the other side of the bed, photos in an album, no hugs, no kisses, no touches, no fingerprints, no paw prints, no car door slamming—or happy sounds of walking feet. You are alone. You have to face it—and you don’t want to.
What are the colors of loneliness? I picture dim to gray to blue to black in muted colors, now brown, greenish-gray, and checkered black and white.
Loneliness has a way of bringing back memories—memories we want to keep of better days, of cherished moments, interactions in word and deed, kindness interplay, intercourse, co-habitating special days, all those things we took for granted that now become bigger than life—more than they were at the time, a grand deception of the mind but a welcome intrusion on life as it is. Such is loneliness.
I think loneliness often involves an awareness that a part of our self is not where it should be and is functioning in a subpar way; a sense of being detached from real living—the “alone,” by-yourself sort of feeling.
“Loneliness is Profound” was written on a particularly lonely Valentine’s Day. I had loved and lost, cared and caused pain, tasted of that which is sweet and in the end to taste of its bitter dregs. My joys ultimately became the meat for my sorrows. I finally understood how it feels for people who lose a precious, much-loved partner and find it difficult to recover from their loss and struggle to find the inner desire to live again. This association of pain was different than in divorce; the pain factor not of the same emotion. The grief was like losing part of my own self and not being able to recover it. I felt so alone, and my mind was full of memories from the Valentine’s Day of the year before, when everything had seemed good, fresh, and happy. I decided to write a record of my feelings, knowing that while my thoughts were in process, my words would capture how it seems when loneliness or grief keeps you from being all that you want to be. I found that the light of the soul became dim and muted, it was almost like being in a fog, going through the motions, living but not living. I hoped the insight would be of benefit to read in the future, to help me remember its debilitating effect in productivity and spirituality. I offered a copy to my minister with this in mind, since he counsels many people in varying stages of grief.
N. L. Brumbaugh