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After bereavement: learning to live alone


2 June 2017

It's hard to learn to live on your own for the first time following the death of a loved one, writes Andrea Lambert, from our Senior Citizens’ Media Group

There are many reasons why people live alone but often the first experience of this coincides with the trauma of bereavement. After my partner died I had to live alone for the first time in my life. 

At that point, I felt so disjointed and confused – it seemed odd that the world had not stopped for others as well as me. The initial flurry of support lessened and I had to get on with the rest of my life, which was very different from what I had known before. 

The easy companionship that two people can share gave way, at home, to an echoing space and a sharp sense of desolation. I felt uneasy that no other human hand had disturbed the space – and the silence was deafening. 

Family and friends still rallied but, despite their emotional support, I felt a sense of disconnectedness. Because of this I tended to become reclusive and depressed. This started to lift when I joined an art class, and other groups which allowed me to socialise with people who had similar interests and problems. 

Charles, my Senior Citizens’ Media Group colleague, had his first experience of permanently living alone when his beloved mother died, followed quickly by his brother. Charles’s experience is atypical in that women are usually the care-givers for elderly relatives. 

However, he cared for his father, mother and brother in the family home and still lives in the flat. Charles’s main lifeline has been strong friendships. This emotional support has been crucial in helping Charles come to terms with the changes in his life. 

When one gets older social interaction has a great impact on health and wellbeing. Initially, without the family structure to hang his life on Charles fell into apathy, isolation and disorganisation. 

Interests

The support of new and old friendships has helped him achieve a level of contentment and peace. He has also followed up the interests that he loves, such as art and writing, which has provided a positive focus for his life. 

The common features of mine and Charles’s experience are shared by many and there is help for those that seek it. Organisations such as Age UK offer advice on how to adjust to living alone. 

Going solo has its problems but there are some positives. I found that a sense of my own individuality and a re-evaluation of life emerged which helped me to be more active and positive. 

I now try to live by the words of Marcus Aurelius: “When you rise in the morning, think what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

Useful phone numbers: Age UK 0800 678 1174, Cruse Bereavement Care 0808 808 1677.

 

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