The concept behind this column is that every week, a group of four southern Utah spiritual leaders pulled from the Interfaith Counsel will provide answers a difficult life question. That way, you get multiple perspectives and potential answers to mull over in regards to the question of the week.
This week’s question is “How should I cope with overwhelming loneliness?”
From Nancy Ross, lay leader in the Southern Utah Community of Christ Congregation
I think that the antidote to loneliness is connection, and I have found connection with others through service and volunteerism, though this often involves a certain amount of discomfort in putting myself out there. Consider going online to find local meetup groups that align with your interests and hobbies.
From Free Spirit Community spiritual leader Cynthia Cashin
Thank you for this important question, which touches the lives of many.
Oftentimes, people think of loneliness as the absence of companionship or a feeling of isolation due to a lack of people, whether a significant other or a community, in one’s life. Although these factors can certainly contribute to the feelings of sadness and longing that accompany loneliness, it is entirely possible to feel “lonely” even in the presence and company of people that we like and even love. How, then, do we overcome or move through these feelings of “overwhelming loneliness?”
It all begins with us and our individual relationship with our inner selves. If we are lacking a feeling of love and connectedness with ourselves, no amount of love or companionship from the outside can remedy the feelings of longing, regret, sadness, or even depression that we may feel when we are lonely. We must first connect with our own Inner Spirit, which is that ever-present connection with Life.
Loneliness is an experience of emotional contraction that cuts us off from our feelings and our ability to give and receive love. Feelings of belonging and emotional warmth are always generated within ourselves, in our own hearts, so that is where we must look to find the solution to our experience of loneliness.
The good news is that our connection with ourselves through the generation of feelings of self-love and acceptance is available to us at all times. This can be accomplished through discovering the spiritual practices that help us to create that feeling of connection that we are longing for. For some, this can look like traditional prayer. For others, it can be through the wide variety of meditation techniques available or immersing ourselves in nature.
This practice is a solo experience, for we must fill ourselves up first, our own “cup must runneth over” in order for us to have the experience of love and connection to ourselves and others that is the antidote for loneliness. It is then that we become emotionally expanded, having love and caring to give to others and extending ourselves to our family, friends, community, and all of Life.
When this practice becomes habit, we may very well find that our experiences of loneliness are few and far between. Blessings to you.
From Community of Christ pastor Emily Rose
Loneliness is such a difficult experience, and it can come in many forms. I would say that this is a time when you should contemplate what kind of loneliness you are experiencing — it is a time for introspection.
Sometimes we experience loneliness because we have a low tolerance for solitude. We find ourselves alone, and because we live in a culture with very little silence, we become uncomfortable. If this is the kind of loneliness you are experiencing, I would encourage you to explore and embrace the silence. What gifts can solitude bring? Sometimes it is in this space of quite centeredness that we discover that God is always with us, and we are never really alone.
Still, some forms of loneliness are far more debilitating. If you are experiencing all encompassing loneliness such that it is deeply impacting your everyday life, this may be a signal to seek support. This can come in many forms. Perhaps you can have a conversation with a trusted friend or spiritual director.
The loneliness you are experiencing might be an expression of anxiety or depression. If this is the case, I would advise seeking support from a counselor or therapist. This can be like shining a light in the dark, and it can be very helpful.
Know that everyone experiences loneliness in one way or another in life. In that way, you are not alone, and there are others who walk this path with you.