Monday, January 21, 2019

Dealing With the Loneliness of Widowhood

Do you find yourself with a lot of "alone" time now? A widow once told me that it wasn’t being alone that bothered her; she was used to that because her husband had travelled a lot for work. “I’m OK with being alone, but being lonely really hurts.”

Many widows will attest that loneliness is one of their hardest problems. It’s pervasive. Like a weed it fills the cracks and chips in our broken hearts with an ache that keeps coming back. God himself declares that it’s not good (Genesis 2:18), yet people die and their loved ones have to live alone. How do we adjust? How can we be alone but not lonely?

Here are some tips and ideas that can aid us like steps on a path.

BE AROUND PEOPLE. When it feels like the walls of the house are closing in it’s time to get out and be around other people. Go for a walk at a mall or farmers market. Sit at a McDonald’s or Starbucks with a coffee and a magazine or newspaper. Simply being around people is good. Visit a friend or relative and pitch in to help with cleaning or cooking. The sounds of everyday life like dishes clattering in the sink, a tea kettle whistling and children running up and down stairs are sweet to a lonely person.

STAY WARM. If you have a fireplace, the warm blazes from it can ward off both a cold night and the icy grip of loneliness. Drink a cup of hot cocoa or chamomile tea. The University of Toronto reported a connection between loneliness and feeling physically cold. Warmth helps.

STICK TO FAMILIAR ROUTINES. Routines provide structure for our day and help us know what to do next. Life isn’t so overwhelming and lonely when routines keep a semblance of order and control. In the evening prepare for the next day—lay out what to wear, plan meals, and check for appointments and chores. After that work on handcrafts, sewing or puzzles to pass the time, relax, unwind and get sleepy.      

READ. The well-known author, C.S. Lewis, once said, “We read to know that we are not alone.” I don’t know if he said that before or after his wife died but he certainly knew the loneliness of widowhood. Reading is another good night-time routine and hobby. It’s informative and relaxing. Stories of real people, other lands, history, nature, travel can perk up our interest in life once again and ease pangs of loneliness.

HELP OTHERS.  In Chera, a Christian magazine for widowed people, widower Bill Lake wrote about how he dealt with loneliness: “I had to remind myself that idleness is not God’s will for a person. I am not talking about activity for activity sake. But as I exercised my spiritual gifts in serving others, I began to leave loneliness behind.”

LEARN FROM BEING ALONE. One widow told me this: “For me, it has been important that I not miss what God is teaching me through this journey. It seems as though He has deliberately taken me into the wilderness to teach me more about Him. I tend to “forget” God when I have people to take away my loneliness…”

Making peace with loneliness means finding new ways to be around people, staying warm, employing healthy routines, reading, helping people and learning what God intends. It’s a journey, not a race. Each little step you take will leave the lonely path further and further behind. 

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