Most people at one time or another have experienced the feeling of loneliness. Being alone can be a positive or negative experience for a person depending on whether they are alone by choice.
Loneliness, however, can occur when someone experiences strong feelings of emptiness, even when one is in the midst of a crowd.
Various situations throughout someone’s life can lead to feelings of loneliness. How someone handles those situations determines whether the situation will lead to an unhealthy emotional experience or even depression. Several causes of loneliness can include:
Lack of friends and relationships. Whether someone is going through their teen years or have reached senior citizen status, the absence of important people in one’s life can lead to loneliness.
Job loss due to layoff or retirement. Whenever someone loses his or her job, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, there is a sense of loss.
As people reach retirement age, leaving the workforce can prove traumatic. Although it’s often called the daily grind, many people miss the routine of day-to-day living. They miss the camaraderie of the work place, the conversations around the proverbial water cooler, and the interaction with others throughout the day.
Sudden long-term illness or debilitating injury. Any situation that takes one out of their routine, especially when they are no longer physically able to participate can lead to loneliness and depression.
Relationship loss. Whether the death of a spouse or due to divorce, many people experience extreme loneliness even when loved ones surround them. Seniors who have been married for many years suffer profound loneliness when they spouse is no longer around.
Loneliness can even occur within a relationship if one partner emotionally and/or physically pulls away from the other. There are times over the years that friendships can grow apart.
Sometimes one friend has moved on emotionally long before the relationship ends leaving the other friend to wonder what happened. When someone has relied on another person for daily chats or someone to go to social events with, when they are no longer around and there is no one to fill the empty space, a person can feel very lonely and isolated.
Many seniors feel isolated when they can no longer participate in social events due to physical impairment, hearing loss, or mental and emotional challenges.
If you are struggling with loneliness, you can begin to take steps toward dispelling the feeling. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your life – your friends, your surroundings, your health.
Accept opportunities to socialize with others and build new friendships. Alternatively, find new hobbies or creative outlets that will give you a sense of accomplishment and self worth.
If you are a caregiver or family member of an elderly person who is struggling with loneliness, providing opportunities for your loved one to socialize with others can help them feel less isolated. Feeling as if they are still an important part of society can help lift the feelings of loneliness.