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How I'm Coping With the Loneliness of Grief

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My grandmom and my dad died less than two months apart during my senior year of college. Grief in itself causes loneliness. All of a sudden your world is spun upside down and you’re left feeling like you’re holding onto the edge of a cliff. The worst part of this is the feelings that come when you experience such grief at a young age. At the time I was 21, and while some of my friends had experienced the loss of a grandparent or a pet, I wasn’t quite at the age where people could understand the pain of losing someone like your parent. I was left with friends who didn’t know how to comfort me or what to say. And how could I expect them to?

Sometimes, I try to put myself in their perspective. I wouldn’t have known what to say to a friend at that point either. How do you console someone when it seems nothing you can do can make anything better? And so my road to loneliness began. I spent a lot of time wondering how to fill something in my life that felt missing. Grief hung onto me and I let it. It followed me around while I tried to push it away to pretend like I was having the same senior year as the rest of my friends.

But I graduated in 2020. Which meant COVID-19 would end the perfect senior year I was weaving for myself. I was forced home and was stuck there for months with only me and my grief in my childhood bedroom. The loss of my final month of college was another form of grief; this was one most people around me could understand. But what do you say to each other when we are all universally experiencing a painful form of grief surrounding loss of experience and loss of loved ones? The loneliness of attempting to process all of this at once hit a peak and I found myself withdrawing.

I’ve read a lot about your early 20s being the loneliest time. You’re learning how to be an “adult,” how to experience life beyond the sheltered world of a college or university, how to maintain friendships when you no longer live in the same space. Paired with my grief I found my first year out of college to be my loneliest. I was never quite sure how to put into words how I was feeling, and there was an ache in me of not wanting to burden any of my friends who might be going through their own hard times.

Over a year out of college and over a year and a half since my dad died and I am still lonely. Not as much as when I first felt the effects of the changes that my senior year of college brought. I’ve learned how to reach out to others no matter how difficult it feels. Though sometimes it still feels a little too difficult to do so. And there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with needing to process how you feel on your own, needing to understand the grief and anxiety that comes with being 23 years old. There is so much ahead and yet I feel like I should already have everything planned out perfectly.

I think loneliness often stems from this feeling of inadequacy. Why do I feel so far behind everyone else I know? Maybe it is social media, maybe it is my own perception, maybe I am simply being too hard on myself. I no longer feel like I fit into the perfect world I thought I created for myself after my dad died. I often find myself retreating, feeling embarrassed around people I think of as friends. Do they also feel an aching sense of loneliness even when surrounded by the people they love? I often do, and I think that is what comes with the grief and the independence.

I am on my own for the first time in my life, both literally without my father’s guidance, and figuratively as a newborn adult. But I think I just need to have patience with myself. Over time the grief has faded and is replaced with an appreciation for the time I did have. Over time the loneliness will fade and will be replaced with an appreciation for the time I currently have. These moments in front of me make me feel a little less lonely.

Photo by Amandine Lerbscher on Unsplash

Originally published: July 23, 2021
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