Coping With Loneliness
Humans were created to live in community. So how does one deal with feelings of loneliness?
BY: Debra Farrington
Three years ago, I moved from my home on the West Coast to the East Coast for a new job. Taking only my cat with me for company and continuity, I spent the first few months in my new home feeling more lonely than I have ever felt in my life. It wasn't that people weren't kind to me. But I was apart from good friends, my spiritual community, and all that was familiar. I was exhausted each day by the demands of a hectic job. What little energy I had left was spent in learning my way around, finding a new doctor, hairdresser, and dentist, not to mention friends and a new church. I remember being very envious of those whose husband, partner, or family moved with them. At least they brought some kind of support system with them.
While it might have been easier to have a built-in support system during those months, the unavoidable fact is that we all experience periods of loneliness. Popular mythology holds that only single people experience loneliness, but I've met married people who have faced lonely periods as well. As human beings, we need the companionship of significant people in our lives.
Enter the biblical stories of Adam and Eve in Genesis ("it is not good for man to be alone"), or of the animals entering the ark 2 x 2, and it seems like we have a biblically mandated solution to loneliness--marriage. But the Bible also contains the stories of single people leading full and rich lives. Miriam, Moses' sister, helps lead the Israelites out of Egypt. A beloved leader, she leads the people in celebration after their escape. When she is punished with leprosy, and must stay outside the camp for seven days, they will not go on without her. When she dies, the people stay put until she is buried. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, in the New Testament, appear to be single, and have significant friendships with many, including Jesus. Paul, Jesus, and others fill the pages of the Bible--all single people, beloved of God, with rich, full lives. God doesn't appear to them and demand that they get married to fulfill the mandate in Genesis. Perhaps we get too focused on Adam and Eve, and the Ark, and forget that the Bible contains stories that affirm the value of the single life as well.
Still, loneliness can be a reality in the single life, but perhaps some of it comes from confusing loneliness with the act of being alone. I often tell people in my singles retreats that we won't make good partners for anyone in this life if we can't be a good partner to ourselves first.