Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 31, 2005
Learn to live alone
By LISA PETSCHE
Special to the WCR
Many older adults face the challenge of learning to live alone when a loved one passes away. . If they were part of a couple, this is a particularly big adjustment. Loneliness may be profound, and difficult to overcome.
- Give yourself permission to feel all of the emotions that surface, including resentment and frustration. Recognize that there will be good days and bad days, and be especially good to yourself on the bad ones. Prepare a list of things to do on such days - indulgences to give you a lift, as well as tasks or projects to tackle that will give you a sense of satisfaction (for example, de-cluttering various areas of your home).
Turn the page
- Accept the reality of your situation. Don't dwell on the past, as it fosters self-pity and prevents you from moving forward.
- Get out of the house every day.
- Look after your physical health: eat nutritious meals, get adequate rest and exercise regularly. This will help ward off depression. Consider joining a dinner club, fitness centre or exercise class, which also combats isolation.
- Cultivate some solitary pastimes, such as doing crossword puzzles, woodworking, gardening, writing or sketching. Learn to enjoy your own company, recognizing that it's possible to be alone without feeling lonely.
- Sign up for an adult education course or lessons that interest you - for example, gourmet cooking, pottery or modern jazz. Learning something new can be energizing and confidence boosting, and in the process you might make new friends.
- Get involved in your community by volunteering - perhaps with a neighbourhood association, church group, charitable cause, political campaign or environmental issue. Or look for a job if you're able-bodied and finances are a concern.
- Take the initiative in calling friends and relatives to talk or arrange to get together. Instead of waiting for invitations, extend them.
- Do nice things for others, especially those who are also going through a difficult time. This takes your mind off your own situation, boosts your self-esteem and strengthens relationships.
- Find at least one person you can talk to openly, who will listen and understand. Consider joining a community support group for widows, or an Internet one if it's hard to get out or you prefer anonymity.
- Write down your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a journal, chronicling your journey of self-discovery and growth.
- Nurture your spirit by doing things that bring inner peace, such as meditating, practising yoga, reading something uplifting, listening to soothing music or communing with nature.
- Turn to your faith for comfort, whether it's through private prayer, reading the Bible, attending Mass more often or talking with your pastor. Pray for guidance and strength in dealing with challenges.
- Take things one day at a time so you don't get overwhelmed. Plan your days so you don't have an excess of free time.
- If you don't like coming home to silence, leave the television or radio on when you go out.
Get a pet
- Get a pet. Cats and dogs provide companionship and affection, and give you a sense of purpose. Owning a dog also ensures you get out of the house and get regular exercise, facilitates socialization and offers security.
If you were a caregiver and put your personal life on hold, now is the time to re-invest in yourself, resuming former interests or pursuing new ones, and nurturing neglected relationships as well as expanding your social network.
With time, patience, and faith in God's goodness and healing power, you will be able to successfully adapt to your new circumstances. You may even end up growing in ways you could not have imagined.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.