Lonely? A New Perspective On Time Alone

I was working with a Grief Coaching client the other day, and she said that while she was doing okay in general, and feeling that her life was mostly in order after the loss of her husband over 2 years ago, there was one feeling she just couldn’t shake: how lonely she continued to feel each day. 

LonelyLoneliness is an epidemic in our country and is more pervasive and perhaps even more impactful than any physical virus. Why? Because for most grievers, feeling lonely can often bring with it feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Meaning each day that a person finds themselves in a lonely state they will feel even more powerless to change it.

To some degree, it makes sense. If we’re lonely after the loss of a spouse and we either haven’t been able or don’t intend to find another partner to share space with, we’ll continue to feel lonely forever. If we’ve lost a beloved parent, especially one we cared for or even lived with, we’ll never be able to feel anything but the loneliness of the void they left.


Let’s take a minute to break down some of the language and understand that being alone and feeling lonely are not the same thing. They absolutely can go together, and for someone who has lost someone they shared living space with, feeling lonely is almost 100% guaranteed to be experienced at some point while grieving.

But are we forever sentenced to be a victim of our circumstances? Or can we be alone, without feeling lonely?

We do not choose loss, and when it comes to the death of someone we shared a home with, the intense loneliness of living alone is a huge adjustment.

In the beginning we’re likely to feel like victims because, let’s face it, we are- to the sadness and cruelty of life and to a world where we don’t get to live and die together with the people we love most…

But with time, can there be a shift?

With my Grief Coaching client she was lamenting about feeling lonely all the time, but as we brainstormed some ideas of things that would help she admitted, “you know I’m really not much of a social person, I never have been”.

So we continued to talk about expectations in loss and how when so much has changed, we may believe that the only cure for loneliness will be if we make very big changes too. Become a joiner, spend time with lots of people, put yourself out there, try something new…perhaps someone has even suggested this to you.

When feeling lonely and trying to move forward in grief we need to start by assessing and understanding what it is we truly want, and even more importantly: what we don’t want.

When it comes to socializing, we all have different comfort levels, and it’s important to recognize who you were, and how you socialized, before this loss. 

Did you like being surrounded by people? Were you an extrovert? Separate from your partnership, did you have a lot of friends, were you a joiner, did you like being on committees and clubs? 

Or did you like quieter, solitary activities that didn’t typically involve others? Would you label yourself more of an introvert? 

This isn’t exactly a case of trying to go back or recapture “the old me” but instead to recognize that while so much changes after loss, our comfort zones usually don’t. And returning to some old habits or routines is usually a much easier transition for a griever (at least initially) than trying to become a wholly new person or starting something entirely new.

For the extrovert: try returning to an activity you once enjoyed. If you’ve moved away from a club, organization or even a group of friends, see if you can make your way back. If location or circumstances make that an unrealistic option, then see what other opportunities exist where you are and for who you are now. Get involved with a cause or a non-profit, maybe something that’s perhaps related to your loved one’s loss.

And for the introvert? That’s where the real work begins. Because let’s face it, if we didn’t feel comfortable in certain situations before, we’re not real likely to be starting now – as an older person, more set in our ways, with limited emotional and physical energy to try new things following a significant loss.

For my Grief Coaching client, getting involved wasn’t the answer for her. Certainly not right now, and maybe not ever since as she said, it had never been her thing. Yet she was finding herself at home, feeling chronically sad and lonely. She didn’t want to be alone, but she didn’t want to have to go and meet a lot of new people and the conflicting feelings were causing even more stress.

I suggested an exercise in perspective.

“Every time you are home alone and feeling bad and unhappy about being there, I want you to do something,” I said to her. “Picture a split screen in your mind of where you are and where you could be. On one side is you at home alone. The other is you out in a crowd, or part of a new group, or in a situation where you’re trying to meet new people and make new friends. And for each, you need to really tap into all the thoughts and feelings and sensations that would accompany each scenario”.

She didn’t have to think long before she said, “I think I’m more comfortable at home”.

Being alone doesn’t have to mean feeling lonely, especially if we’ve taken some time and done the grief work to adjust to loss. We’ll always miss the person we shared a home with, always wish they were there. But as we try to adapt to our circumstances, working to find comfort while alone can be the single greatest thing we can do to ensure a lifetime of peace, contentment and healing.

Is this to say we avoid society all together? Of course not. This isn’t about isolating ourselves but instead understanding better who we were, who we are, and where our comfort zone is. It could be as simple as asking yourself and recognizing, if I was never a group person or a joiner before, why would I necessarily find comfort in that now? Can it be about embracing who we REALLY are (and maybe always have been) instead?

Perhaps at some point, through the process of healing we do choose to step outside of that comfort zone. But for now, for the person who feels lonely but knows being with people isn’t the answer – look at alone time in a different way. As a respite, a sanctuary, a retreat. From a world that looks very different without your loved one with it, and a place that can feel overwhelming and stressful at times.

We would never choose to lose a loved one, but taking ownership of alone time as a choice, for who you are and where you are in the present, can replace feelings of being a victim with strength and empowerment instead.


Being comfortable anywhere after loss can seem almost impossible. Besides the challenges of adjusting to a life without our loved one in it, the people who ARE around us may just not understand our loss and all that goes with it. 

Helping grievers who are feeling lonely is the #1 reason www.griefincommon.com was created.

By joining us today you can:

  1. Participate in our forums by going to “See and Share Stories”
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Get help, find support, ease the loneliness. We’re here to help.


18 thoughts on “Lonely? A New Perspective On Time Alone”

  1. This article could have been written just for me. It supports how I feel and lets me know I am not the only one feeling this way. It has give me confirmation and food for thought.

    Thank you

  2. A very insightful blog. When my husband died I determined that I would not be lonely, just alone. One of the great strengths of our relationship was that we were able to be alone together. That is we allowed each other to have solitary time whilst sharing the same space. Now I just have to do it in my own.

  3. I had 26 wonderful years with my wife,it was amazing how we met but I believe it was an act of God. She is gone over six years and I still miss her. She had breast cancer at 59,two years later she passed away with Glioblastoma,brain cancer. We went through hell with it. I so miss her,all the things we planned to do in retirement.I have allot of loving family for support but it can’t replace the loss. My Cocker Spaniel is my soul mate now but I still want to share my life with someone who I can make me feel needed and loved as only a spouse can do.

    1. Your last two of three statements ring so true for me as well. My wife and I were looking so forward to my retirement so we could do more things together and make new memories. And she made me feel so needed and loved that only a spouse can do. We were married for 32 years and we met over amazing circumstances too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. This time of social distancing and quarantine makes this blog entry even more timely. Being at home, by myself, without my husband through this Covid-19 health crisis puts the spotlight on the solitude of widowhood as a practical, daily existence. But looking at this “alone” time as a gift to do my grief work and cultivate those more peaceful pursuits has been a comfort from the chaos out there in the world right now.

  5. Loss my first husband much younger in life. He left to help a cousin and never made it home. I was left very young with a new born baby. Had no idea where life would take me.

    Loss my 2nd husband in March 2019.He went to his mom’s and never made it home. Heart-attack.. It’s been really hard living my life alone when it was filled with so much love and adventure. I miss my life with my husband as much as I miss him. It hard when he was my life over 30 years.

  6. I have never felt alone before my loss but now I find it very hard to cope. I have even moved in to my mothers place. While I seem to progress otherwise in my grief, this thing with not standing beeing alone doesn’t change and it’s been now four months of grieving. Is there anybody else how recognize this situation? I have travelled round the world all by myself but now I find it hard to go to the nearest supermarket by myself. I get anxious and feelings of emptynes.

    1. Stefan – My husband died three months ago. The feelings of loneliness have been the most devastating. I find that I’m always feeling alone. Nothing is ever right. I’m always missing his presence if only in my mind. I’m expecting him to give encouragement at some of the things I do, I’m expecting to discuss things with him, for him to be available to help me if I need it, to give his suggestions or thoughts. It’s like everywhere I turn I’m missing him. We were both people who went out on our own but we always knew the other was there. Now he isn’t and I’m left feeling isolated, alone and life is not as safe as it was when he was by my side.

    2. That’s my feeling exactly Stefan, I get anxious going just to the local shops. I’ve spent over 34 years with my husband since I was 16, and this right now? It’s just too lonely. Don’t get me wrong my husband and I had time to spend on just our own hobbies, but being truly alone is the worst feeling in the world. I miss the our time, us curling up in front of the fire watching tv or just reading. It’s overwhelming finding ourselves on this darn roller coaster we can’t seem to get off of.

  7. I just figured out what I’m feelIng. It’s not loneliness but lack of intimacy that I find depressing. Not physical but mental, emotional and spiritual intimacy.

  8. I need help managing the overwhelming feelings of isolation, loneliness & emptiness I am experiencing due to grief. I understand about the different stages of grief & I have learned some coping mechanisms, but it would be helpful to talk honestly with others who are also processing grief. I know everyone is different & no two experiences are exactly the same, but finding others who are experiencing similar feelings would help assure me that I’m not suffering alone & that there is a chance for improvement. I’m not looking for a magic pill or inspirational speech that will suddenly make everything ok. But I would welcome a safe & compassionate environment to discuss normal yet intense feelings that seem like horrible monsters sometimes.

  9. Stephan, I lost my husband two years ago and I can relate to how you feel. Even when surrounded by friends or family I felt lost and alone. Loneliness was my single hardest thing to face. Every single day was hard but as time goes on it will get better. Now I can find happiness being with others whether they are old friends and family or new people I’m getting to know. Please take heart that it WILL get better. It can’t be rushed, or avoided but time will help you to find your way. God bless you.

  10. I just lost my husband to a heart attack on Christmas Eve. We thought he was having high blood pressure or acid reflux and he died with me at home. I am 44. We were married 22 years. We had a great marriage and after only a few weeks of staying busy, family in and out, cards and letters, I’m in the stage of just not wanting this life any longer. I miss him too much.

  11. I lost my wife on April 12. 2021. She had a very rare case of cancer called T-cell lymphoma. This was caused by Celiac disease which we were unaware of.
    She had 4 chemo treatments with no obvious progress. She woke up one morning somewhat confused which was observer by her Oncologist later that morning. She was admitted to the hospital and I was not allowed to visit because of Covid for a week. Finally I was allowed in for the second week. By the end of the third week she could not eat, speak, or respond in any way. We brought her home on a Sunday with Hospice. She passed away the next evening. I miss her so much I want to die. I’m in a unique situation. We were married 43 years and did everything together. She was 81 and I am 86. So at my age, I feel that I have no future except to wait to die. I just want it to happen very soon. I have neuropathy and it’s very difficult to walk anywhere, so no excersize for me. I try to maintain cleaning chores but it’s difficult. It’s just that there is nothing left for me in this world and I want to join my wife

    1. Ron, I hope you found/find your peace. I understand you and my father was 86 in a very similar situation. Now, I have come to understand more deeply. I lost my wife and best friend of 33 years. She was it. My miracle if you will.

  12. I cannot stand being alone at my house. I work two jobs and take cae of my yard. I miss having someone that cares. I do date but then when I return home the silence is deafening. Please write to me to let me know how to cope with this. Lorry

  13. I wrote the following on March 24, 2022 at 10:37 pm and continue to feel the same!

    I cannot stand being alone at my house. I work two jobs and take care of my yard. I miss having someone that cares. I do date but then when I return home the silence is deafening. Please write to me to let me know how to cope with this. Lorry

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