It seems to me that some of the greatest suffering in life comes with loss. Loss has all sorts of shapes and various hues of intensity. Comparing one loss to another in unlikely to ever do anyone any good. What feels big to someone you love IS big. For you, for your children, for your mom, or for your friend. Perspective shaping is important at times but acknowledging pain in loss is tantamount. Losses we feel can be immense (the loss of a person’s life) or obscure (the loss of personal direction) or even simply burdensome (where are those *&$#-ing keys?!?!?). We humans, including our little ones, feel worst when we’re disconnected, when we feel we’re somehow disorganized with our community and don’t belong, or when we are enveloped with a sense of loneliness.
Bullies know this well, of course, in part because of their own isolation. But so does everyone who has ever felt love. Being lonesome is agonizing.
Loneliness is bad for your health. In some research it’s on par with the effects of obesity and heart disease, injuries or violence.
For some, holidays are like blood-letting when it comes to loneliness. When any single one of us suffers we all lose a little. Those of us who are feeling disconnected will only sense and experience solitude with greater fervor as families, groups, friends and co-workers join hands to celebrate this time of year. Look around and imagine.
Or think about a starling murmuration and its beauty. It’s the choreography that makes it a thing of elegance but it’s also the intimacy in knowing that all those birds fit — all of them have a dependence and place with each other. Those little birds feed on both the single bird next to them but the group, en mass, too. I have to think they feel they belong as they twirl in the sky and progress across it. They give to and take from the group. And it reminds me that those outside of the murmurations typically want in.
We can all make this better for ourselves and for those around us. As we ready to step earnestly into December, I say we do more for each other this month. Counteract the forces and gravitational pulls of loneliness and isolation around us. Teach our children they can help, too. At dinner tonight and tomorrow maybe bring it up?
5 Ways To Fight Loneliness
- ONE: We can talk with our families about who we could invite to our homes, to our parties, and to our celebrations. Just imagine making a goal to invite one person into your fold you may not have thought to include. Just one person to one day or one event you wouldn’t have thought to include before. Even if they don’t typically don’t “celebrate” what you do. Make an invitation to someone by Friday, December 2nd.
- TWO: If loneliness seeps into you on any of these days, grab your bearings by turning off the noise of the murmurations around you. I think of this in terms of making sure you don’t stare at the masses. Turn off social media for 12 hours (or 3 days!) and immerse yourself in something you love. Be fastidious with yourself — put the devices down or turn them OFF if they lead you only to those murmurations and inclusions you don’t feel a part.
- THREE: Practice gratitude. This can be brisk and powerful in the face of loneliness. Write a quick thank-you note this week or jot down in a journal 3 things for which you’re thankful every day, for a week. The minute you elevate those around you in import is the same minute we feel truthfully happier.
- FOUR: If you sense someone around you is lonely, call. Don’t just text. If they don’t pick up the phone, call again. Invite them to a quick walking meeting, coffee, or lunch. Just do it.
- FIVE: Get a good night’s sleep. However banal that sounds we know sleep deprivation has us look at the world with cloudy lenses. We also know it even has us remember improperly (we color our memories negatively when sleep deprived). I seriously believe we all feel less alone after 7 to 8 hours (more for children!) of sleep.
This is beautiful. Thank you for the reminders to tend our own connectedness as well as look out for the connectedness of others.
This is a profoundly beautiful reminder. Your example of authenticity, kindness and gratitude is powerful and inspiring. Thank you, Wendy Sue!
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
Thanks, Lala!!! Loved meeting you in Alabama