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Our Loneliness Is An Emotional Issue Not a Locational Experience

I just read a comment on social media about the loneliness we face as we care for family members.

The commentor shared that we are lonely because we spend so much time inside and that we must reach out through technology, like FaceTime.

The mistaken assumption here is that our loneliness comes from our location — being inside our house. We can easily solve that by simply reach out through FaceTime.

Oh my. This is the kind of comment that makes me crazy.

Our loneliness comes from our experience which others can’t understand. Because they don’t understand, they can’t emotionally embrace us by being sensitive and kind about what life is really life for us. Meaning, we obviously know how to FaceTime. (Just typing this is making me crazy. Hello! We’re awesome with technology. Of course, we can use FaceTime and know it’s an option.) The problem of our loneliness is what happens when we FaceTime. When we FaceTime with the wrong person, we feel awful — completely misunderstood, absolutely disconnected from support and utterly alone.

When we’re having a difficult day and feel trapped by our circumstances to the extent that we don’t feel hopeful that a new day will change our situation, FaceTiming with a friend who shares about her weekend of parties, date night and carefree days makes us feel bereft. Even worse, we are kind people which means we share the appropriate comments, like “The sounds awesome” and “What a fun night for you two,” while trying so hard not to cry. When our life is full of problems that can’t be easily solved, we can’t help but feel worse when another has an easy life. (I appreciate appearances can be wrong. But let’s face it, our updates to friends don’t include a weekend of parties and a lovely date night out.)

In our Simple Stress Survey, family caregivers rate their stress at 4.14 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the most stressed. The source of our stress? We miss our lives. We are lonely for a life that is manageable, that gives us time and opportunities and possibilities. We feel alone in our life while surrounded by others who have their own life.

We are lonely because we endure heartache and hardships. The heartache and hardship doesn’t exist exclusively in our homes. They travel with us. We are just as lonely out in the world as we are in our homes. We endure while we struggle to find another who will listen to us with loving acceptance and supportive compassion. We endure while others imply the hardship comes because we are just doing something wrong.

The hardship, others often imply to us, is our fault. Surely, we can just call the government and get the help we need. Obviously, there’s easy-to-reach programs and services that we’re just refusing to access that will solve all our problems.

Nope. It’s hard because this caregiving situation is really and truly this hard.

Our loneliness comes because during a time when we give it our all we struggle to find someone who will give back to us. We’re lonely because we don’t receive regular support and help.

A horrible symptom of a caregiving experience is loneliness. The experience disconnects us because so many just don’t get it. And yet we have to interact every day with others who don’t understand but judge us anyway.

We’re lonely. Rather than suggesting we use FaceTime, perhaps you could instead volunteer to call a family caregiver to listen with kindness and compassion.

(I’d love to hear your experiences and perspectives. Please share your thoughts in our comments section, below.)

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About Denise

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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Kathleen
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Kathleen

I was just writing in my journal yesterday about loneliness. My husband has Stage 4 bile duct/pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver. He was diagnosed in April 2017. He just got excepted into a clinical trial as he has exhausted all other forms of treatment. I miss the conversations with my husband. I miss doing things with my husband. I really just miss him in general. He is truly a shell of himself. I feel like he was depressed before he was diagnosed and things haven’t gotten any better. But he refuses to admit that he is depressed.… Read more »

ChristyMD
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ChristyMD

This post really touched home, I can relate completely to all you said. I stay off of Social Media because it is depressing to see all that others are doing. I am happy for them I really am, I just can’t relate so I stay away and try to find other ways of filling myself up rather than feeling worse about my life by what I see online. This statement is right on “We endure while we struggle to find another who will listen to us with loving acceptance and supportive compassion. We endure while others imply the hardship comes… Read more »

Sandra Otterman
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Sandra Otterman

It is 3:25 in the morning and I just found this site and read this post on loneliness by Denise and it says everything that is in my heart. My husbands terminal illness has completely taken over our life. People that are family or friends don’t want to hear how your life has changed because it makes them uncomfortable. I have always been an independent woman but this heartache is beyond anything I have ever experienced. Denise, thank you for your honesty and helping me understand why the pain washes over me at times. I feel like I am wearing… Read more »

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