Yesterday I talked about how lonely and isolating it can be living with a diagnosis of dementia. One reader and friend overseas emailed me with her support and friendship, and also shared her own recent terminal diagnosis. Another reader made some very pertinent comments, and shared some links about it. One comment, “the loneliness in facing your disease ‘alone’ … sure, you have people around you but it’s only YOU who feels and deals with each symptom, each setback ….. each experience” makes me want to explore further the loneliness of illness or a major crisis. This is why support groups were started, for people who have been diagnosed with a similar illness, or been through a similar experience, for example victims of crime, suicide loss, or the loss of a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. These groups work so well because each member can truly relate to each other.
And yet, even with the support of people who have been/are going through a similar experience, there is a real sense of loneliness. For the friends who do still support you, there is an unspoken bridge between you now because of your illness or loss. They cannot possibly know how you feel, and although they can still be there for you and love you, something changes. And then, the people who are going through the similar illness or loss, will react or respond differently, and so a support group may not work for some. My husband detests support groups, because he feels it highlights too much what is happening to us, and is simply too confronting for him. With dementia, no-one is getting better, and so the support group does tend to highlight the absolute reality of what is happening. With a loss through death, a support group works for many, because ultimately you do see others heal, and learn from them about your own grief, and how to help yourself heal.
In an essay An Existential View Of Loneliness,Tim Ruggiero’s final comment was this; “So loneliness, on this reading, isn’t something to be shunned or afraid of: it is, rather, a possible catalyst for a more purposeful and engaging life, and an avenue for heightened self-awareness.” Thanks iolanda for leading me to this, as it probably says perfectly how I feel about it, even though some days dealing with loneliness can be quite challenging. At the end of the day, we are who we have to spend the most time with [inside our heads and hearts], and so getting used to that, and accepting the loneliness as a catalyst to enhance our experience of life and our humanity seems the perfect way to deal with it.