Do you ever stop and wonder what happened to your friends and where they all went? Do you sometimes feel like an island that nobody makes the effort to visit or build bridges to these days? Do you make an effort to build bridges to other people anymore?
In the day and age of the mobile phone and social media environment, it is all too easy to keep up with what people are doing without every having any contact with them. We don’t need to call for a chat anymore… we can see it all in our loved ones’ on liners on Facebook. And we don’t drop in on the way past mum’s house anymore – life is just too busy driving children from one amazing past time to another in the quest for a fabulous life.
This week I received an email that told an all-too-real story of the reality of a slowing occurring isolation at the young age of sixty. I suspect many of you can relate with your own stories. So I asked the author’s permission to publish it.
“Before Facebook I had built up a reasonable email base mainly consisting of family and friends from the past and the now… Unfortunately my wife developed Alzheimer’s’ disease and for some time what with looking after her and getting her into a suitable nursing home I just didn’t have enough energy to continue sending out my daily emails (I used to send 3 per day of my best). Then I noticed I wasn’t getting emails back anymore? And slowly it has dribbled down to emails only from a regular 8 people.
So now with an email list of approximately 120 I am receiving just a dribble from these 8 and I assume that the others either think that I have died or are deeply offended because I have stopped sending out emails, or just don’t care.
Human nature is a strange animal and now I wonder whether I should just resume without explanation or just creep away into my now forgotten hole?”
I replied “I think your friends would probably love it if you picked right back up where you left off. Often that’s the way in life isn’t it… We don’t like to ask someone if something is wrong in case they answer “yes” and we don’t know what to do to help them. But if you wrote to them a little note about life over the time since you pulled back and said you missed them and looked forward to their replies, chances are people would rejoin you in the conversation and the isolation would be nowhere near as deafening.”
My advice was simple as an outsider, and I am no social adviser… But it shows just how hard it can be to become isolated in your sixties or seventies. Whether it be because of a partners’ illness, or or a life change, or just because you left the workplace where so many of your relationship might previously have been anchored, rebuilding can be hard. And they take an enormous amount of self-drive. It can be wonderful to make an effort only to be surprised how many people will make an effort back. But it can also be deafening when you are faced with that silence wondering how to overcome it, and how to take the first step.
Have you battled with isolation like this? What is your best advice and personal insight into the battle with yourself over loneliness?