Is loneliness really comforting
How Sunday evenings lose their horror
I slept next to my husband Ulli for 50 years. When I turned sideways in the morning, I saw his face. The straight nose, the gently curved lips, his stubble. Even when he was freshly shaved, the roots of his hair still shimmered through the skin on his cheeks. They were always there. Like him.
I've been in bed alone for six years. When I turn to the side, I look at my closet. Or on the woodchip wallpaper. I didn't know that stubble was so missed.
One of the most fundamental questions in life is how to cope with loneliness. Everyone feels lonely, regardless of whether there is a reason for it. The feeling just emerges, for me preferably on a Sunday evening. And it becomes a filter that sucks all the color out of life. You can sit at the dining table with friends and feel lonely. You can cradle your daughter and feel lonely.
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But old people are even more at risk of being overwhelmed by the feeling. You have no job and no fixed task. They often live alone. And if no friend, child, grandchild or great-grandchild by chance calls on a weekend, it can feel like a void that almost tears you apart.
Many of my friends complain about this to their families. Some of them even live in a granny flat in their children's house and still say that they are rarely visited. I am sure that these conversations will not help anyone. They blame the children and grandchildren that they cannot bear. Saying that you feel lonely is like a cry for help not to have to deal with the emptiness alone. But nobody can do that for you. And if you notice that you can no longer fight it on your own, I can only recommend getting professional help. It's great that today we know the scope of psychological problems and nobody has to be stronger than they are.
The comforting thing is: if you don't give up and stay in the grief phase, you can enjoy life again at some point. I also suffered after my husband died because so many situations made me realize how different my life was. But I've learned to deal with the feeling.
I approached the fight against loneliness like homework in school. I paid close attention to what is good for me and what makes things a lot worse. My most important insight was: I have to stop reproaching myself for feeling lonely. It used to make me really angry because loneliness felt like self-pity. And I don't want to be a person who feels sorry for himself. But getting angry at the feeling doesn't make the evening any better.
What doesn't make the evening any better is listening to sad music. It may feel comforting for a moment, but actually it's just wallowing in the feeling. A much better emergency program is: Eat ice cream against the weird whirring in your stomach. There are times when you can watch out for healthy eating and there are times when you have to watch out for your happiness and that grows when you feed it sugar. I also watch a good film, read a book or listen to a radio program. Because that distracts instead of directing all thoughts on the pain. And when falling asleep, the voices as a gentle background noise also help in case of doubt.
No matter how bad it feels, loneliness will pass. It is a phase. That is a certainty that helps me on Sunday evenings. Just like the certainty that there will be appointments in my calendar for the following week. And the realization that I am a person too. I am company with myself. And not the worst. My thoughts are pretty funny. I just have to listen.
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