Lonely vs. Alone

I have always been one of those people that doesn’t mind being alone. I don’t mind the quiet moments and enjoy solitude.  For the most part I am pretty extroverted so I think some folks might find this out of character for me.  Of course, after becoming a parent, alone time became a valuable commodity.  Most parents know that your children will follow you everywhere…the bathroom, bed, even into a closet if you are desperately searching for some quiet solitude. It was a challenging adjustment for me as I became a parent.  I couldn’t just slip away and I did miss that time alone.  I knew lonely too.  Lonely is somehow different.  For me, there is a hopelessness when I’m lonely…also out of character for me because for the most part, I can find hope in most places.  Loneliness is different for me because many lonely moments are those moments without hope.

I thought I knew loneliness before Dave died.  I thought I had felt loneliness deep into my being. The loneliness my grief brought me was different than the loneliness I had experienced before he died.  It is laced with the finality that only death brings.  That permanent separation brought a deep, penetrating hopelessness to me.  The finality of death, the no second chance, the permanent absence brought a depth to loneliness that I had not experienced before.

So through the years since his death, I sat with my loneliness.  There are moments when I have been overcome with it.  There were really years that I wore lonely on my back like a heavy cloak.  For me that loneliness meant never again.  Never again would I feel him, see him, touch him…well, all those things that many of us know too well. Loneliness was my companion…it was very different than being alone.  I was alone, but somehow that was different.

Loneliness was painful, alone taught me about my strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and brought growth.  Alone taught me about how capable I was.  Alone taught me I was a survivor. Alone taught me I was going to be ok.  As alone taught me, loneliness became less constant.  The reality of my loneliness set in and oddly enough with this reality came the knowledge that somehow loneliness would pass.  I wasn’t sure how this would happen, but my hope kicked back in and tempered my loneliness.

So through these years of grief, I have become even more comfortable with alone.  Remember…I never really minded alone…I love being part of a team, a couple, being in a relationship, but each day alone revealed more to me about myself.  It has revealed things to me that I may have never known without my grief.  This ongoing revelation prompted by my loneliness has taken me on a journey.  This journey revealed that I really can do this on my own.  Before Dave died, I knew he knew I could do it.  He had confidence in me…it was me that doubted. It has taken years of experiencing my grief to lead me to different sense of confidence in myself and who I am becoming.  It took many lonely nights for me to know what I really wanted my life to look like as I move forward. Being alone has forced me to assess my life and look for a different direction. Lonely gave me the depth I needed to make choices with my heart.  Alone gave me strength and competency to face single parenting and make a home for my reluctant family of three. Lonely gave me the strength to face being alone…possibly forever (in my mind at least.)

But, here’s the thing – my loneliness isn’t forever.  My enjoyment of alone time will be with me and I like that.  I have separated the two.  I can see that for me there is a difference.  I can see the blessings and challenges of both.  I can balance them now.  I can feel those moments of loneliness and let them wrap around me, but not engulf me now.  I can appreciate being alone again and all the things that being alone has revealed to me, about me.  Who knew?

So, I will continue to let both be a part of me now and with the me I will become. In allowing myself the depth of loneliness, the really hopeless part, I find new depth and dare I say it – joy– in being alone. With this gift of my grief intact, I move forward toward the unexpected life I never wanted to know.  This life I hope I will experience and participate in to the fullest.

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