December 31, 2009

UK: In this noisy, twittering world, loneliness is never talked about

. LONDON, England / The Times / Life & Style / Mental Health / December 31, 2009 By Joan Bakewell Loneliness is an inner, gnawing pain born of circumstance and inertia, verging on despair. There is a higher risk the older you get, and no one talks about it. In this all-laughing, twittering world it’s assumed that we can all find a comforting voice of friendship somewhere. For increasing numbers that just isn’t so. Bereavement is the biggest blow. It leaves an echoing void. After years of intimate closeness the individual spirit battles on wondering what has happened to its own identity. People say kind things at strategic moments — the funeral, the memorial — then vanish back into their own lives. Retirement is a big jolt. Again, familiar structures of friendship and support fall away. Everyone promises to stay in touch, then goes on as before. Circumstances conspire: families live far apart, village shops, post offices, libraries and pubs are vanishing. Churches offer little warmth and a tired liturgy. So what is to be done? The world doesn’t make it easy to start up new bonds. You can tell the lonely when you bump into them on trains and buses: they never stop talking, rattling away about this and that as though they’d not spoken to anyone in a week. We need interaction with others to feel fully alive. And it needs effort to take the initiative. Related Links The Solitary Self Samaritans give a hearing without judgment Loneliness epidemic sweeping through UK There are ways to find friends: a neighbour, the doctor, the internet can all help. Join groups, volunteer, otherwise the depth of loneliness becomes self-perpetuating; we grow familiar with our isolation. Learning to be alone is a lifetime skill. We shouldn’t always want to be part of this noisy, chattering world. But a single friendly voice is surely not too much to ask. [rc] Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.