Not alone

The other day I went to visit an old friend. Her husband died a little while ago and, prior to his final illness and associated times in hospital, they had never been apart. They loved each other deeply, they built up a business together, they stuck with each other through some very black times, they shared their successes, they were pretty much self-contained. Their business was based around their home, so neither of them was ever there alone.

Now that he’s gone, she is bereft – she hates being in the house on her own, but there is no choice. She does have friends who she made through the business and her friends (me included) do go and see her. There are people around her on the site still working (the business continues) and living and they pop in throughout the day, but she still feels isolated, especially now that she is ill herself and her mobility is poor.

We do our best – we go and visit, we drink tea and do the washing up. We tell her stories and try to cheer her up, but it’s very hard and she sees no positives. There is only so much we can do.

This set me thinking about how important it is to be part of a community. And then I reread a lovely e-mail that I received from Patricia’s partner, who wrote…

…Pat was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 45, and there were many times when her health didn’t allow her to spend energy on the outside world.  Over the years forming connections and friendships online was a real lifeline for her…

and once again, I thought about the value of being part of a supportive community, but also the fact that our friends can be scattered far and wide and they are still our friends.

Last Friday I met up with a dear friend who I haven’t seen for 20 years. We found each other via social media after a bit of a gap in communications. How lovely it was to share a meal and catch up face-to-face… how lovely to have the opportunity to renew a connection.

So, lets celebrate all our friends – near and far – whether we sit in the same room, chat via the computer or send letters. And let’s learn to value our own company too, so that when we can’t be with the love of our life, we can still find joy.

-oOo-

By-the-way, based on a suggestion from Patricia’s partner, I have made a donation to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society in Patricia’s memory. If any of you feel moved to mark her passing this way, donations to any charity supporting those afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis would be appropriate. If you do this, please let me know so I can pass on the information.

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24 Comments

  1. Just this morning I was eschewing the value of friendships, and last week I caught up with an old work friend I’d not seen for a few years. Friendship is so important and can be retained or rediscovered.

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  2. Ann Pole

     /  November 21, 2019

    There are so many of our customers who live alone. We often stay for a natter and many say how much they enjoy this. We often arrive to sad faces but leave smiles behind. We love chatting with our customers. This for us is one of the more important parts of our business – even though a 4 hour day usually ends up as 7 hours!! But many are still lonely, and as you say, there isn’t much more we can do.

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  3. I hope your friend finds solace from her friends and strength to grieve.

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  4. I guess loneliness can be a state of mind and no matter how many people are around you, you will still feel lonely. It sounds as if this is what has happened to your friend. I do agree about finding pleasure in your own company and, like you, with a husband working away a lot I’ve come to find that I do enjoy my ‘alone’ time although, of course, it’s different when you know it’s only for a limited period.

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    • I’m exactly the same… but then we are creative types and I think that helps too. My friend has arthritis in her hands, so moving them is difficult, but she was never crafty in the first place, so it’s impossible for her to start such an interest as a distraction. It’s very sad.

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  5. One of my neighbours thought that the world had ended for him when his wife died. He was very lonely but his negativity and misery made it very hard to visit him. Which meant, of course, that when anyone did they got an even more desperate reception. Luckily he has now cheered up – I think the birth of his grandchildren helped a great deal. Your friend sounds luckier than many people in her situation with friends visiting and the employees of the business around the place. What a shame she cannot celebrate what she has got instead of focussing on what she has lost however devastating the loss was.

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    • Yes, visiting is a real challenge. I used to bake for her, but she’s even told me that she doesn’t want me to take any more cake… it’s like she’s deliberately depriving herself of things that used to bring her joy.

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      • Nikki

         /  November 22, 2019

        It’s probably not so much about ‘deliberately depriving oneself of things that used to bring joy’, but that right now, she simply has no taste for anything:_nothing_looks, tastes or feels quite right. It’s a really difficult, dark place to be in. And as a dear friend, she would rather you didn’t go to all the trouble of baking for her – it’s a kindness on her part. Perhaps the best you can do for now is to keep visiting & sharing lots of cups of tea (tea & good conversation does wonders!) That in itself is a great comfort. We can only do what we can only do.
        I totally agree with you about building a strong community around you, both online and in the real world – it’s our best form of resilience. Do take care of yourself too! Nikki xx

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  6. It shows the value of having friends who are ‘mine’ rather than ‘ours’, so that not every relationship is viewed in the context of being part of a pair. It must be so very hard for her to lose such an important part of the entire fabric of her life, especially now when she is unwell herself and needing help. I can recommend a dog as a relief of unwilling solitude… They don’t talk back much, but they are unconditional, undemanding company.

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    • I wish she could be persuaded to have a dog, but she refuses…. she says it would remind her too much of what she has lost.
      And you are so right about having some friends of one’s own. I love Jon to bits, but there are lots of things that I’m interested in that he isn’t and sharing time with people who have common interests is a joy that I wouldn’t want to miss out on.

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  7. Nikki

     /  November 22, 2019

    Grief is probably the hardest thing any of us will ever have to deal with as human beings. I feel deeply for your friend, and hope that (if appropriate) she might consider seeing a bereavement counsellor when she is ready? Sometimes, it takes a stranger to help us through this process, so that we might reach out & rediscover our wonderful friends again. Nikki xx

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  8. My experience of grief is that it felt like a form of madness, when I felt totally at odds with those around me carrying on their ‘normal’ lives. The world seems crazy and irrelevant. In my case I needed to be in that dark place for as long as it took (about 2 years). I needed to feel it, explore it wallow in it, it somehow protected me from the pinpricks that the world ‘out there’ kept stabbing me with.
    At another time in my life divorce jetisoned me into loneliness and to survive I went travelling alone to discover that solitude can be an antidote for loneliness. I have never felt lonely since.
    I have lived alone for 13 years now and LOVE it. I would not give it up for anything or anybody!
    My crafting online community, through blogging and FB groups is an absolute joy and great company.
    Of course I still have family and friends, who I value and love, but not many of them share the same interests and do not understand my excitement in the weird and wonderful crafting details as do my online buddies.
    I do wish your friend well, but maybe even good wishes feel like an intrusion right now. ❤

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  9. When I was in my early twenties, at that very intense time of our lives, I did a unit on Philosophy. I remember our tutor saying that when someone is grieving sometimes the best thing you can do is the ironing. We all scoffed at that, thinking that really the grieving person would need an in-depth conversation about death/love/life. Now I realise that of course the tutor was right. The gentle act of visiting, doing the washing up, being with your friend in her space, seems now to be the right way to support her.
    BTW, The photos in the Lindisfarne song was what took me back to those times of Philosophy, big moustaches (not that I had one!), strong fashion and even stronger passions ~ and good music too, of course. Oh, the intensity of those times!.

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    • Although it wasn’t new, a friend introduced me to Lindisfarne’s music when I first went to university… and that particular song (from the album Back and Forth) has remained a particular favourite over the past 30 years. And the friend? She was one of the ladies I met up with in September for a weekend celebrating our long and happy friendship.
      I do hope that doing the washing up helps. Next time I go down, I plan to take a single slice of cake to see if I can tempt her. Another friend is going to take her soup. They are little things, but they will show that we care.

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