Social distancing while being homebound may be a new experience for many. But for us, this quarantine has been more of the same.
Every year when the weather begins to chill, I give a half-hearted wave to the world and tuck myself in for a long winter nap. I spend the majority of cold and flu season in self-induced hibernation; maintaining distance, vigilantly washing hands, wearing masks in clinics, reluctantly canceling plans with friends. For six months out of the year, being immune-compromised means that my world mostly exists within the four walls of my home.
It can get very lonely. And maybe you’re feeling lonely right now too.
If I’m completely honest, my loneliness started way before I became chronically ill. It runs much deeper than a simple quarantine. Though I appear to be normally functioning on the outside, inside I feel deeply disconnected from others on a regular basis.
It’s important to note there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone is a physical state of separation from others. Loneliness is an internal feeling of disconnection and emptiness whether or not you are by yourself. It is possible to quarantine alone in your house and not feel lonely. In the same way, you can be in a crowd of people and still feel incredibly disconnected.
Along with loneliness comes a cluster of other emotions. You may also feel disconnected, dismissed, empty, unknown or misunderstood. You may have a hard time forming emotional attachments or feel like you lack meaningful human connection in your life.
Adversity seems to magnify these feelings of loneliness. When you feel like no one understands your pain or what you’re going through it can increase feelings of isolation. If you feel like you can’t count on others for support or to be there for you in times of trouble, it exacerbates your pain.
Psychologists warn that quarantining for weeks on end could lead to an epidemic of loneliness. Intense loneliness can even affect us at a cellular level, leading to health complications, anxiety, depression and even an early death. It’s important to learn how to connect and bond with others, especially during this difficult time.
How to Cope
Think about why you might be feeling lonely.
For me, past trauma combined with relational conflict led to deep feelings of disconnect between myself and others. Over time it felt safer to be alone and emotionally guarded rather than risk vulnerability and be rejected, dismissed or misunderstood. It was easier to blend into the background of a crowd rather than be present and take up space in the room. Sadly, this habitual self-protection only led to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Loneliness is a perception that “one’s social connections are not valid and viable” (Psychology Today). If you feel like your friends aren’t really available or supportive when you need them, it gives you the impression that you’re on your own. Knowing a lot of people won’t count for much if you feel like you have no one to turn to for help or moral support.
Consider what meaningful connection looks like for you when it comes to relationships. What are you missing and what are you really looking for?
At its core, loneliness is not a lack of company but a lack of connection. It hurts so much because we were created for community. We all have an innate desire to connect and enjoy mutually beneficial and loving relationships.
But sin disconnects us from God and one another. And feeling disconnected from God is the worst separation of all. Truth be told, Hell is not going to be a big party but extreme loneliness and isolation, exiled from God and from anything that is good. What deep darkness and torment this would be for eternity.
God doesn’t want anyone to experience this (John 3:16, 2 Pet 3:9). He created us with an innate longing for connection and community so that it would lead us to a personal and loving relationship with Him and others.
The Gospel is the restoring power of God for anyone who trusts in Jesus to save them (Rom 1:16). Trusting Jesus brings personal connection with the God of the universe, adoption into His global family (John 1:12) and continued access to peace, comfort, love and real life through His Spirit who lives in us. God is really the only one who can ultimately fill your emptiness and soothe your soul.
If you are feeling lonely, here are some other tips that can help:
- Reflect on why you are feeling disconnected.
- Pinpoint the relationships you have that are meaningful to you and why you consider them meaningful.
- Identify roadblocks that are hindering you from connecting with others.
- Work through past feelings of betrayal, disappointment, trauma, etc.
- Consider joining a support group. Having shared experiences can help you feel better understood.
- Join a common interest or hobby group.
- Utilize technology as a way to connect with friends and family when you are feeling isolated.
Remember that loneliness is really a lack of connection. Find ways to connect with others and God during this difficult time. Start small and practice being vulnerable with a safe select few. Over time you can create meaningful connections and relationships if you do not give up.
This post is part of a 10-part series on how to successfully navigate your emotions during a crisis. Check out the other emotions in this series below: