Gransnet forums

Ask a gran

Being Alone And Managing Loneliness

(46 Posts)
Anniel Sat 06-Apr-19 13:44:44

Hello Everyone,

I am here asking for your experiences. In a weeks time I am going to give a talk on the above topiv to my local branch of Growing Old Disgracefully, an organisation I very much enjoy.

Being alone is not the same as loneliness as I realise there are many positives to being by yourself. Loneliness is different in that it is a negative in our lives and from what I read loneliness is not necessarily associated with the elderly as many young people working in big cities can be lonely too.

So I would like to know your opinions and experiences of being alone and how we can manage loneliness as we grow older. I have looked at Gransnet forums and found
The subject of loneliness has been raised before.

I am a widow as my dearest husband died 10 years ago and I miss him so much. I find tears come quickly when I hear music he liked and after 50 years of marriage I doubt I will ever overcome my grief at his loss. But I carry on and am never bored.

Enough about me. I would love to hear from all of you.

Thank you for reading!

Alexa Sat 06-Apr-19 14:44:55

The lonely feeling is usually caused by not belonging. Not belonging is caused by a variety of problems which might include :

permanently being with people or a person with different values or lacking friends who share the same values

permanent loss of a significant relationship

unusual personality such as being autistic

lack of social skills

low self esteem

a few rare people are unwilling to relinquish their values in order to fit in with others

EllanVannin Sat 06-Apr-19 14:56:56

I'm alone but not lonely. After many years of seeing to the family, working and doing all the other things a housewife does it's given me the chance to shake off my shackles and reflect back on an extremely busy life. I look at it as being a well-earned rest. Suffice to say I travelled a lot and made a few visits to daughter and family in Oz.

Now I can please myself all of the time, meal times, what to eat and when though it took a long time before I realised that there was no-one else to consider.

Provided you've got reasonable health is a bonus and also a loving family albeit busy themselves but knowing that they'd be around if needed. I've never had to worry them thankfully.

Yes, even after 25 years today when my husband died, I do miss him at times and found it difficult for the first few years but realised that I'd have to carry on working and it was by working which kept me sane I think and it gave me the opportunity to re-connect with life after a death during the 6 years before my retirement---it helped a lot being with friends and colleagues at work.

Because I'd been relatively fit helped a lot too as it must be dreadful for those who've relied on a husband/wife/partner and who suddenly find themselves bereft. I can't imagine how they get by and I feel sad for them.

Being strong minded, as I am, is a positive, and hard as it is after bereavement I'd forced myself to think straight because of what there is to do in the aftermath.

One thing I didn't do was to bother about finding/ looking for someone else and I was only 54 at the time. I didn't feel the need nor did I think I'd find the person who would match up to my late husband but I don't feel as though it's been wasted years at all as I have a big family and extended families/relatives.

grannyticktock Sat 06-Apr-19 15:17:00

I was widowed two and a half years ago, and I am sometimes lonely. I am sociable and busy and spend a lot of time out and doing things or seeing people, but there's still a lot of time - more than I would wish - when I am alone; sometimes this is OK but other times I feel lonely. As widowed people say, "I have plenty of people to do things with, but no one to do nothing with."

I think our generation may be the last in which it's quite normal to have been with one partner, as I had, for 50 years. We married young, and usually for life. Most younger people today spend some years as young, single adults, and may have a succession of serious relationships, or more than one marriage, perhaps with gaps in between, so being single is part of adult life for them. When my husband died, I had never lived on my own, never done a supermarket shop just for myself, never been in sole charge of a house, a car, a garden, etc, never had to come home in the evening to a dark and empty house, never slept alone for more than a few days at a time, never gone out without someone having a general idea of where I was going and when I'd be back ....

It has been a huge adjustment for me, and I know other widows will be nodding in agreement. The constant companionship of a long and happy marriage is something that can't be replaced, and the resulting emptiness causes feelings of loneliness at times. I think it's something I'll just have to live with.

M0nica Sat 06-Apr-19 20:22:29

I think the world falls into two groups, those who look to the company of others to make their world work and those that actually need time on their own to function.

Life alone is inherently easier if you fall into the second group. Most couples contain one person in each group.

When the time came my sister and I were relieved that our mother died first, because she was a a people person, and while she had a wide and busy social circle, she would have found time at home alone without company very difficult to cope with, whereas our father was quite content, if he went a day without going out or seeing anyone. He would be busy around house and garden or sitting reading. My parents were happlily married and he never ceased to miss his wife's company, but he could manage on his own.

Ginny42 Sat 06-Apr-19 20:44:19

At first when I divorced I was too stressed to think of anything remotely social. Then I went through a phase of going out, but would stay only for an hour or so and then make my excuses and leave, heaving a sigh of relief when I was home and closed the door shutting the world out.

The next phase was manically making sure I had something to do every day. I would sit with my diary on Sunday and making sure I had something to do every day of the following week. I called friends, booked tickets, planned a trip, phoned a decorator, planned a bathroom refurb, you name it. Realising that anything which needed doing was down to me was a shock. I gradually worked through the manic 'got to be with people' stage and settled down and although I don't enjoy being alone, I just slowly accepted it.

Being alone at this time in my life was not something I ever planned or wanted, but although I still miss my ex a lot, I'm reasonably calm about spending the rest of my life alone. I still work contracts and stay busy on the upkeep of my home and garden. I would have liked to be married still, but it was not to be and I accept the loneliness which comes with that.

MargaretX Sat 06-Apr-19 21:25:09

I am not widowed but have spent many months with DH away and actually we are both people who like our own company and can manage alone.

I felt more lonely with small children and as soon as they became independent I liked having time for myself

I made a very good friend 30 years ago. We were like sisters and shared so much fun together and holidays and just talking. I've lost her to dementia and I thought I would never get over it but slowly other friends have become closer, probably because I had more time for them. I am close to the 'other' grandma of 2GDs.

It is important to move onwards and not dwell on the past. Of course my DH is still my main contact and I realise that wihout him I would feel terribly lost.

Anniebach Sat 06-Apr-19 22:16:52

I have lived alone for over 20 years so use to it , but have been very lonely for nearly two years because of things which happened,

Doodle Sat 06-Apr-19 22:28:38

annie I know it’s not much but you have many friends on GN flowers

Anniebach Sun 07-Apr-19 08:56:54

Doodle it is much, you have all become my family x

kittylester Sun 07-Apr-19 09:10:40

Is a brilliant organisation for anyone who is lonely.

Anniel Sun 07-Apr-19 10:04:06

Just seen all of your replies and am going to read everyone of them carefully and look for overlapping feelings. I will return! Thank you all so much and please keep going!

Luckygirl Sun 07-Apr-19 10:06:15

I have felt lonely for several years even though my OH was here with me, because his illness made many of the normal contacts of daily life very difficult. No-one invites us round for a meal any more; we did not go out for meals as we used to etc...........

So you can be lonely in a way, even with someone in the house.

He is in hospital at the moment and I am getting used to being in the house on my own - I have found that very strange indeed. I keep a radio on; and if I go out and know I will not be back till it is dark, I put the lights on and close the curtains so it feels more welcoming when I return.

Alexa Sun 07-Apr-19 10:52:51

When my husband of thirty years dumped me for a younger woman I felt suicidal but my anger at him won over the sadness and kept me going. I got a large dog for something to live for and called her a name that means ' Life'.

Gonegirl Sun 07-Apr-19 11:02:14

Sometimes I think I'm lonely, but then I realise I'm really not. I have family who love me, even f they can't be with me all the time. I have been desperately lonely in the past. It's certainly not a thing for older people only.

I think the one thing that shelters us from real loneliness is having someone who needs you.

craftyone Tue 09-Apr-19 16:51:29

I have been with only one partner for the whole of my life, married 45 years and he died 4 years ago. Typically of my generation, I got busy straight away and have remained busy ever since, downsizing etc. One day I realised that I needed to move on, so I decided to sell this hose and buy another in an area that is more suitable for my future needs ie buses, shops and lots of clubs of all sorts

This buying malarky is what has made me lonely at times, when it was supposed to take 3 months but has taken 8 so far. My hobbies are boxed and it was over winter so I didn`t have much to do and that made me think too much and I felt lonely. Normally I just get on with life and am alone but not lonely

My next home will take very many months to turn it into that cosy nest. I am looking forward to being busy again, nice with the radio on and my thoughts. It is not just older people who feel lonely, the loneliest I have ever felt was when I was 23 in a brand new house with a new born on a housing estate, now that was lonely

Ellen80 Wed 10-Apr-19 17:18:11

I feel lonely although my H is here. He is academic and reads all the time whilst I need company. (don't know how we've managed for 56 years!) Downsized 2 years ago - lovely house and very convenient but it's too quiet in a Close where neighbours go out to work. Thinking of moving again but at 80 would I be any happier. Could move to Holland where our family lives( I miss the GKs very much) you

TwiceAsNice Wed 10-Apr-19 19:36:00

I have been on my own for 5 years after divorcing from a very unhappy marriage. I love living on my own, like my own company and am never lonely. I am lucky to live very near my daughters and grandchildren after relocating to another area after living in the same area before then, for the whole of my life.

I have nice acquaintances here rather than real friends but drive back to Wales to stay with very close friends I keep in touch with. I have to say I am happier now than at any other time in my life.

Day6 Wed 10-Apr-19 19:55:14

The next phase was manically making sure I had something to do every day. I would sit with my diary on Sunday and making sure I had something to do every day of the following week

That is interesting Ginny42. Thank you. One of the group of friends I see throughout the year lost her husband of 47 years last year. She is a fit 72 but we are concerned for her as it seems she dreads being home alone and is never in, making plans to go places and see people every single day. She must be exhausted and we have noticed she has lost weight. She does go to several exercise classes a week though.

I wonder if this is something some people do when they lose their partner - a natural stage of grief perhaps?

Day6 Wed 10-Apr-19 20:04:52

After divorce I was very busy until the children left home. I must say that although I missed their presence and doing Mum things, after a while I learned to like my own company - in fact I relished days when I had to see no one after a very busy and hectic working life. I loved going home and being able to please myself and having no interruptions. I relish a quiet house.

I wasn't lonely as I had friends and family but even today I need space and time to myself. I need solitude and often think of going off on a silent retreat, to see what it would be like! I am curious. (I watched Eat,Pray, Love again the other night. grin OH was in the other room!) I think I'd cope in a silent environment. For a while.

I am gregarious and enjoy company and making plans but I'd find it too much to have to be with people every day of the week. I need time alone and OH and I have different hobbies which means one or the other of us is out - or at the far end of the garden all day!

I know I am lucky, because I have that balance. I think I would cope if alone though. I have always liked my own company.

grannyticktock Thu 11-Apr-19 09:26:45

Day6: yes I think frantic diary-filling can be a reaction to bereavement. After two and a half years, I am still trying to keep busy and see other people, although the feeling of panic when I am faced with two or three days on my own has now abated. I think your friend is probably finding her own way through this, and will gradually learn to get used to being alone. Exercise can be very helpful to mental health and losing weight is, for most people, better than sitting around watching Antiques Roadshow and getting lardy. If I feel cut off, I take myself out for a walk, and often meet someone to stop and talk to, which lifts my spirits.

Grannyknot Thu 11-Apr-19 09:31:42

I'm often alone, but I think of it as being with myself rather than by myself. I'm very happy with my own company...

I have experienced loneliness, so I do know what that's like. There's little worse than being lonely in a relationship.

Grammaretto Thu 11-Apr-19 09:46:10

I've never lived alone. I've shared a room all my life. Now that DH of 50yrs is seriously ill I am actually afraid for my future. My DM was widowed young and said she hated being alone although she had to live alone for 40 years .
I guess you just make the best of what life throws at you.
I have friends who've always lived alone and others who are having to adjust in later life.
I shall read this thread with interest.

Alexa Thu 11-Apr-19 10:29:30

Grammaretto, what you have to fear is the hard work of learning a new form of life. It can be done and the result is a happy one when the work has been done. It's not only emotional work it's also learning to think of yourself as a single not a married woman.

Grammaretto Thu 11-Apr-19 12:50:24

Thankyou Alexa
I expect if and when it happens I will cope somehow but I try not to think about it. He doesn't.

Anniel Thu 11-Apr-19 15:05:13

I have read all your replies and think it is not being alone so much that is the problem but loneliness is harder.

I think many of you have family and grandchildren around, but for those of us who are much older ( nearly 85) with no family living close by it is different. Both my sons live overseas and my daughter lives a coupe of hours away from London and still works and gets very tired. So she will visit for weekends now and again. I adore dogs and cats but our block rules don’t allow them. I am lucky in that I visit my second son often and he has dogs who I adore. As son remains single he likes having me there and wants me to stay permanently, but even at my age I would miss the convenience of the big city and health provision is not good for people like me with chronic illness.

I have very few friends and spend hours on the internet as I support dog welfare groups and enjoy my net time. I love radio and listen to different stations all day. I generally try to go out every day and I often have hospital appointments for various tests.

I should go back to U3A which I stopped because I am away from UK so much and I have just joined Silverline.

So as we grow older and so many of us outlive our partners loneliness can be problematic. I don't know whether I am lonely or not! I could invite people for lunch or dinner, but much prefer to meet at a restaurant so I can relax without hassle. I should make more effort to meet people but I lack the drive. In other words I am like a dog sitting on a thorn and just too tired to get off it (old song).

Hope you do not mind me rambling on but I guess I chose this subject for my talk as it is on my mind so much and I thought it may help others as well as myself to discuss it.

Thank you for reading and any suggestions welcome! I am writing this on my phone so apologies for typos!

joot Fri 12-Apr-19 09:03:10

I am lonely but cannot get out much due to mobility issues. I am fortunate to have my DH still with me but he works during the day and my mobility problems mean unless someone collects me i am housebound, I am not in a wheel chair but can't walk much at all so lost all confidence. I look for places to sit when i do get out with some one but alas not many places consider arthritis in my opinion.

tanith Fri 12-Apr-19 10:00:30

I’ve now lived alone for 6 mths and it’s ok but I do miss someone to just sit with watching tv or using our iPads showing each other silly stuff or tunes we’ve loved.
I have plenty of family to spend time with but m ade a real effort to contact two really old friends, we had a little Facebook contact but hadn’t met up for years so I asked them both out to lunch separately and it was lovely to catch up but although both seemed really pleased to meet up and said we must do it again soon, since then nothing! It seems we’re back to occasional ‘likes’ on FB and it was really hard for me to reach out and how sad it was we’d driffted apart but feel like I’d be foisting myself on them if I yet again suggested lunch.
Saying all that I’m fine with my own company most of the time.

BradfordLass72 Sat 13-Apr-19 01:33:37

I think loneliness can be defined as a longing (or even craving) for the company of others.

It can be directed at a specific person or persons, or just the general need to be part of the herd, so to speak.

I know people who go out to bars just to be in company. One or two even say they don't need to talk to people (although it's nice if someone talks to them) but just need to be with others.

I never feel this way. I am what is termed 'a sociable loner'.
However, I certainly enjoy company when I get the chance ....but for a limited time. I soon get that feeling I need to be alone again.

Like joot I have mobility issues and arthritis for which I take MSM, and I can no longer drive or use public transport as I am partially sighted.

To anyone else this might be purgatory but apart from the fact I can no longer, paint, draw or do crafts, being housebound is fine and I often breathe a sigh of relief and pleasure when I close my front door and lock the world out.

Please let me know how your talk went Annie - I suspect it's over by now. smile

janeainsworth Sat 13-Apr-19 02:00:21

Tanith I think some people just aren’t very proactive about making social arrangements - they sit back and wait for other people to invite them.
If you want to see these friends again, maybe you could send them a vague messsge on Facebook, something like ‘anyone fancy a get-together?’
The ball’s in their court then, and it’s hardly foisting yourself on them!

Bopeep14 Sat 13-Apr-19 10:16:18

I felt lonely and isolated all the time when my children were younger. I have never been able to make friends easy I am a very shy person. Once my children were at school I got a job and no longer felt isolated. I gave up my job to look after grandchildren and I now feel exactly the same as I did when mine were little. No more catch up with friends, my choice not there’s as I couldn’t cope with a toddler in a cafe. Maybe when he is a bit older, luckily my friend is one of those that when we meet it’s is as if I only saw her yesterday.

Gonegirl Sat 13-Apr-19 13:58:17

I like the sound of that song anniel. Sounds a lot like me some days. grin

Happiyogi Sat 13-Apr-19 17:45:00

Grannyknot, I like the distinction you make between with and by yourself. That works!

crazyH Sat 13-Apr-19 18:08:19

You can be lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is a state of mind. I was lonely in my marriage. Husband's attention was always on something else or someone else.
I am now divorced, live alone but have never felt lonely. I like my own company anyway goes back to state of mind

Alexa Sat 13-Apr-19 18:36:06

Tanith wrote:

"I’ve now lived alone for 6 mths and it’s ok but I do miss someone to just sit with watching tv or using our iPads showing each other silly stuff or tunes we’ve loved. "

That, Tanith, illustrates the essence of poetry. You have painted a true word picture in very few words.

I wonder if it takes quite a long friendship before friends are sufficiently at ease to be so relaxed and companionable. And do people have to share a house before they can be so casually friendly? Arranged meetings in a public place aren't usually as Tanith describes are they?

densol Sat 13-Apr-19 19:17:55

My first post so please excuse me if I ramble too much !

Ive been on my own for 30 years after a divorce and bringing up a child singlehandly. My child left home quite young at 18 and I was bereft. It felt like a bereavement.

We live close to each other and were very, very close until they got married. Im not complaining because I do realise that I am now at the bottom of the ladder and that their partner will always come first.

I have 4 gorgeous grandchildren but my loneliness is exacerbated when I haven't seen them for a few days.

As others have said on here they keep themselves busy, as I do, but at the end of the day I dread going home to an empty house.

I fill up every hour of every day with socials, clubs, keeping fit, a part time job and seeing the grandchildren but all it takes is something to change my schedule and I get very upset.

I like routine and knowing what Im doing days in advance and when its suddenly sprung on me that for instance I won't be seeing the grandkids because they need to be with their parents, when I was told that I would be seeing them, I burst into tears and feel very, very sad for days afterwards.

One child in particular I am very close to and adore them and love spending time with them without the others. Is that wrong? Should I have the same connection with all of them?

How can I stop being so silly and be grateful for my life and health and also grateful that they live close by and I see them regularly.

It seems sometimes that its never enough. I think of the particular grandchild as my own child and worry about them and pine for them.

Its making me feel sick each time it happens and I dont know what to do to stop it.

It seems like something has changed in my relationship with them and Im not sure what it is. Ive asked my own child if Ive done something wrong and they have said no, their mum just wants to see them at the moment and Ill have to wait a week or so.

Its absolutely killing me.

Tomorrow when Im in a better mood hopefully, Ill read this back and realise how stupid Im being but at the moment all Im doing is crying.

BradfordLass72 Sat 13-Apr-19 22:07:48

Densol I just tried to send you a personal message and was told you don't receive them. I would like to offer a suggestion.

Alexa Sun 14-Apr-19 09:30:34

Densol, what a tremendously good grandmother you are!

I'd guess that you have learned most of your life to be loving and caring and simply cannot manage to be selfish.

okimherenow Mon 15-Apr-19 10:31:56

In the summer are celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary with a big party in the garden and about 80 friends and rellies...
When we cut the cake and drink the bubbly (!!) daughters say we should make a speech...
Now friends, what to say...!!
Any ideas would be so welcome...
We have come a long way in our life time but don't really want to just go through dates but could use some fun ideas for us to think about...
Can you help us please...

okimherenow Mon 15-Apr-19 10:36:13

Sorry I've posted on someone else's post... Please ignore... Sorry x

tanith Mon 15-Apr-19 10:48:01

Alexa thankyou for those kind words and you are right.
I’m very sad that I’ll never have another cosy evening with him just being together with my bestest friend.

Alexa Mon 15-Apr-19 15:48:43

Tanith , that companionship happened so long ago in my life that remembering that sort of companionship it seems like it happened to another person. I do understand your sadness, and I guess that I cannot console you by anything I could say about your own loss. It's true that we die a little.

BradfordLass72 Tue 16-Apr-19 01:15:23

I just wish I could stay alive another 20 years until robotics, which is fast developing and becoming popular, produces a humanoid I could afford.

They already look and sound very real. Voice Recognition technology now enables them to have conversations and the advances in Artificial Intelligence means robotic companions are in our near future.

This would be the ideal solution for me - someone I could get out of the cupboard when I needed them grin and put them back when I need silence.

Anniel Tue 16-Apr-19 13:37:07

Well who would have dreamed that there would be so many of us talking about this very important topic. The meeting was yesterday and armed with all your information I picked out very anonymous sentences which summed up how we all feel and the meeting was very successful. There were only 10 of us there and everyone told their stories not unlike yours and at the end of the meeting everyone said how much they had enjoyed it and felt that we all knew the others much better than we had before. One or two people joined singing groups at Uo3rdA and said they found it useful. Most of them did what we all talked about and one lived alone in a house that was too big and was worried about downsizing and losing friends and neighbours.
Most agreed that people on Escape to the Country sometimes did not consider getting old and living away from good transport connections, shops, doctors chemists and other useful facilities.
As you would imagine as our group is situated in NW London most of us said we would not leave the city as it offered so much to do. We might form a theatre and cinema group so we can go out together.

All in all although the topic was serious, discussing it in a group made us feel better about our lives.

So thank you all very much. I am going to visit here more often. I hope you have found talking about loneliness useful.

Alexa Thu 18-Apr-19 12:24:03

BradfordLass, what annoying habits would your android have? Or else why not get a poodle?

Alexa Thu 18-Apr-19 12:27:43

No, seriously, if I had an android companion I'd become fond of them and feel bad if I did not treat them as if they had feelings.

For instance "I'm going to make tea, do you want some?"