Loneliness can be a silent killer that affects many people when they are suffering after the death of a loved one. If you’re struggling with how to cope with loneliness, you're not alone.
Many people suffer from social isolation and loneliness after losing a spouse, friend, or another significant person in their life. When left untreated, loneliness can lead to poor mental and physical health as well as increased mortality, especially among the older generation.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Coping With Loneliness After the Death of a Partner or Spouse
- Tips for Coping With Loneliness After the Death of a Close Family Member
- Tips for Coping With Loneliness After the Death of a Friend
When isolation persists, loneliness increases. This has the adverse effect of creating an environment that is ripe for accelerated death. Loneliness is also known to shorten the lifespan of those who suffer from depression.
Signs that you may be suffering from loneliness after a loss include the feeling of emptiness, being alone, and feeling unwanted. The tips below may help you in beginning to cope with your feelings of loneliness.
Tips for Coping With Loneliness After the Death of a Partner or Spouse
The loss of a partner or spouse can leave you in agonizing pain that may seem utterly unbearable. You may be in disbelief for the first few days or weeks as their absence begins to take shape. During this time, you’ll likely need additional support to help get through this initial phase of grief.
When you accept that you feel lonely and you understand what has led you to feel this way, you may be better able to cope with its subsequent effects. Loneliness is a state of mind that affects people in different ways.
It’s not always about how strong-willed you are or how well you take to social change. Sometimes loneliness takes over your mind and it can be difficult to overcome these feelings of isolation.
Three factors that can contribute to the acceptance of loneliness are:
- Social disconnection. This type of isolation happens when you remove yourself from your friends, family, and even your co-workers. When you disconnect from others, it’s easier to fall into a depression fueled by loneliness. Accepting your loneliness comes with acknowledging the reasons for your temporary disconnection.
- Self-regulation. When you’re feeling especially alone and vulnerable, this is the time to take stock of your loneliness and examine what you can do to make yourself come out of it. You may need to keep a list handy of those you can call that will help get you out of this mind frame. Knowing when to ask for help is crucial in battling loneliness.
- Expectations. What you expect from others and what you come to expect from yourself are two factors that can determine how to best manage your loneliness. It may be that you’re placing too high of an expectation on others, or too low an expectation of yourself. Accepting your loneliness is determined in part by how you see others contributing to your well-being.
2. Adopt a pet
Adopting a pet can be good for both you and your newly acquired pet. The adage “when you rescue a pet, your pet rescues you” can’t be any more fitting than when you rescue a pet after the death of a partner or spouse.
Pet adoption can make your life more meaningful and complete. Pets have a way of bringing love and companionship into your life even when you thought that nothing could ever fill your heart with joy again.
But, not everyone is a good candidate for pet adoption. Before deciding if it’s right for you, consider asking yourself the following:
- Do I have time for a pet?
- Can I afford one?
- Am I prepared to train a pet?
- Can I handle behavioral issues?
If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, consider alternatives to pet adoption such as temporarily fostering a pet or volunteering at a local pet shelter.
3. Find new hobbies
After the loss of a partner or spouse, you’ll find that your social schedule has opened up in ways you least expected. The support of your friends and family will start to slowly drop off as they go about their normal routines.
Social invitations may come in sporadically or not at all. You’ll suddenly feel the weight of your loneliness when people stop calling on you to join them for couples nights out or for game nights.
To avoid completely succumbing to your loneliness, consider developing new hobbies as soon as you start to feel better after the loss of your partner or spouse. Start with small commitments and work your way up to more interaction with others who share your passions. Taking on too much too soon can have an opposite overwhelming effect on you.
4. Join a support group
Asking for help should never be a question of whether you should or shouldn’t do it. Feeling the wrath of loneliness can be more than you can bear at times, and there’ll come a time when a little extra support is needed.
You can seek out and find others who are experiencing similar loneliness after losing a loved one. Online social media can help you access many different types of support groups. Take your time to find one that suits your needs and can help you cope with your grief and loneliness.
Tips for Coping With Loneliness After the Death of a Close Family Member
Losing a close family member is painful on its own. Whether you’ve lost a parent whom you were very close to or a sister that was like a best friend to you, dealing with this type of loneliness can be especially trying.
You'll likely suffer different types of grief depending on each type of loss. Finding ways to cope with each one can be challenging, especially when you find yourself feeling alone and lonely without your loved one.
5. Create a memorial space
Creating a special place in remembrance of your loved one will give you a place to go when you’re feeling sad and lonely. You can adorn a tabletop with photographs of the two of you together and any other mementos that remind you of them. This can be your special place to come sit and talk to your family member.
Memorial spaces can also be created in an outdoor garden, in the woods, or any other place where you find solace in your grief. These spaces provide a place to grieve and mourn while giving you comfort, hope, and inspiration following a death.
6. Plant a tree
A tree is a living form that you can plant, nurture, and see it grow over the years. A tree can bring you a different type of companionship as you struggle with the feelings of loneliness after your loss. The connection that you make with your tree can bring healing to your soul.
You can read more about how to plan a tree-planting ceremony for more ideas.
7. Reconnect with family
Following the death of a close family member, families tend to either come together or fall apart. Most struggle with how to reconnect with someone who hasn’t been a part of their life for years.
Decades may have passed since you’ve last seen one another, and reunification may seem too stressful at a time like this. But with the right attitude, you can successfully reconnect with family and build on those relationships.
Tips for Coping With Loneliness After the Death of a Friend
The period after the death of a friend can be very lonely as you struggle to find meaning after their loss. It may be that your friend was there for you through thick and thin, and now they’re gone forever. How you cope with their loss can either throw you into a deeper state of loneliness, or it can anchor other friendships brought about by their death.
8. Connect with others
You’ll have the opportunity to connect with others who are also grieving over the death of your friend. Most deaths are memorialized online through social media or virtual guest books made available as part of the funeral home services.
Take a chance in reaching out to others, leaving comments for them to read and respond to, or outright asking them if they’d like to meet in person to honor the life of your friend.
9. Seek comfort
Seeking comfort in others as you confront your loneliness can help you come out of your grief much quicker than if you isolate yourself from those around you. You don’t need to feel alone in your grief and sorrow.
Reach out to others to remember your friend and share stories about the good times you shared together. You can also find comfort by visiting old familiar places that have special meaning to the two of you. If you went to the same university, take a stroll through the campus and remember all of the memories you two shared as students.
10. Create a playlist
A final way to get yourself out from feeling so lonely without your friend is to create a special playlist of songs about loneliness.
It may sound counterintuitive to do so, but music has a way of healing you from within. As you hear these songs being played, be listening for one that can be made into the special song that reminds you of your friend.
Loneliness After Loss
Most people will suffer some type of loneliness after a loss. It’s natural to feel this way until you find a new routine and a new way of spending your time doing things without your loved one. Gradually your loneliness will lift and you’ll find special meaning in other things that come into your life.
- Hawkley, Louise C, and John T Cacioppo. “Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms.” Annals of behavioral medicine: a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. vol. 40,2 (2010). pages 218-27. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874845/