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Thoughts For The Lonely Nights


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Although it appeared in Bereavement Magazine several years ago, this article by Doug Manning still speaks to all of us, especially as we head into the holiday season:

Thoughts for the Lonely Nights

Lonely to the Bone

Grief, by its very nature, is lonely. Lonely, by its very nature, produces grieving. People in grief feel a loneliness that goes to the bone.

Friends are wonderful, and you could not make it without them, but they cannot make the lonely go away. A mate can hold you in the night and cry as you cry, but the lonely does not go away. Family can be devastated along with you, but it is still lonely.

The loneliness may be difficult for you to understand. "Why am I so lonely? I share how I feel, I don't hide my pain, I talk about my loss, and still the loneliness goes to my very soul."

And you may get angry about the loneliness. "My mate, of all people, should understand how I feel, and should touch all the right spots and all the right places. If he/she can't, do we really have anything going on in our lives together?"

The struggle can dominate your time and energy. You may spend your time either thinking about how lonely you are or trying to find a way to make it go away. Worst of all, you may end up deciding you are weak and are just holding gigantic pity parties for yourself -- that you should stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with living. The telling and the fussing do no good -- it is still lonely.

You are lonely because you are faced with the impossible task of explaining feelings and the only tools you have to do that are with words. There is no way that can be done. How can anyone explain a feeling? Can love be described in words? Can fear? Can anyone describe how it felt the first time they held their newborn? Neither can you describe how you feel right now. You want to. You need to. And you will try with all your might, but words are not adequate for the task.

Even when we try to explain our feelings, we often get blocked by the lack of words to use. A mother told me her son had died as a result of a gun going off during a party. She said she had a terrible struggle with the word "accident." To her, an accident was the result of some act of nature or a car wreck. Every time she would say she did not call it an accident, everyone would immediately ask her if she thought it was murder. This became increasingly troubling to her and blocked her progress in grieving. She visited with one of her son's friends who had been present at the party. When she told him she had a hard time with the word accident, he sighed and said, "Me, too." She began to heal that day. Someone else had the same struggle and could not explain how he felt.

Discovering that no one can really understand how you feel and that the loneliness will not go away does not sound like good news or words of comfort, but it really is. Understanding this saves you from the frustration and anger of constantly trying to explain and expecting someone, somewhere, to understand. Unfulfilled expectations can become a source of more pain and more grief. If you can accept the limitations of language, then you can focus your energy on dealing with your loneliness instead of desperately seeking a cure.

This news can also help couples accept that their mates cannot fully understand or know how they feel. Then, they can concentrate on finding other ways to give and receive support. If someone listens as you unload your pain and simply accepts your feelings without trying to change the way you feel, they can give wonderful support even though they do not actually know or understand everything that is whirling inside of you.

Knowing the limitations of being understood allows you to spend your effort trying to understand yourself, exploring your feelings and learning that you are normal. The focus can then be on finding outlets for your feelings that you are comfortable with and that fit your needs.

-- by Doug Manning, in Bereavement Magazine, September/October 2001, Bereavement Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 61,Montrose, CO 81402,(888) 60-4HOPE (4673), grief@bereavementmag.com. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

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