The Heartbreak of Loneliness

A departure from the usual upbeat me, I wanted to share with you the sadness I am feeling watching a friend suffer from acute loneliness.


She’s a very social and sociable woman, so on the outside you’d think she has it all together. But I see her as painfully lonely. You see, her husband died a couple of years ago, died much too young from a cancer he fought but couldn’t overcome, she always at his side, day after day, being his cheerleader, his best friend, his one and only love.

Their love was deep, pure, and real. They were cut from the same mold, finished each other’s sentences, worked side by side to attain financial freedom for their old age, then he was gone. They had the same passions in life – music, gardening, travel, and a love of faith – a faith that would be tested as cancer took the husband.

I’ve watched my friend struggle without her husband, even though she’s out and about every day, signing up to run this or that or to host parties at her home. I’ll never forget the day she told me she fell apart crying in an airport on the first trip she took without her husband – she said he was the one who made all the arrangements, took care of every detail. I ached for her loss.

Now don’t get me wrong, this woman is made of brick. She’s outwardly strong, smart, and more than capable of handling everything on her own. She has family and friends where she lives who see she gets out, and she does, but I see a different side of her- I see someone who is filling the void by doing so much and doing things to please others, and herself too, who think she should be busy when all the while she’s falling apart inside.

Last week during the PGA event at Baltusrol, I was on the phone with her and innocently asked her if she and hubby ever played that course (they lived nearby). She said yes, hubby played it several times. Then she began to cry. God, I felt like a heel, me being the one to ask a question that would send her into tears. I didn’t know what to say or do, so she suggested we chat another time. Little did I know I might have done the best thing ever by asking that question.

She emailed me the next day to say she’s started going to grief counseling, more than two years after her husband died. She said that there are things she’s dealing with that she can’t get past. Of course of course of course – totally understandable. These two were one person. I am relieved and happy for her that she’s seeking help – it has to be next to impossible to lose the one and only man in your life after thirty+ years of truly happy marriage – a man who was not only tall in physical stature, but tall in moral standards, tall in his devotion to his wife, tall in his dedication to church and God, and tall in how proudly he carried himself as he died. Loneliness is real and it is painful so I pray my friend can get the support and help she needs from counseling. It’ll never replace her husband but perhaps she can put him in a better perspective.

We all want happiness for our friends who suffer such a loss but first we have to see that they find some inner peace to go on, despite the loss.

Hope this wasn’t too much of a downer post but I felt it was important to share. We all have friends who we think need us but who we really can’t help until they help themselves.





23 thoughts on “The Heartbreak of Loneliness

  1. This post has a particular meaning to me since you know my husband of 51 years died a couple of years ago. We were night and day personality-wise, we fought all the time, I hated his hobbies and he hated my friends. But believe it or not, we loved each other deeply and were each other’s best friend.

    I had serious heart palpitations after my husband died, panic-attack like evenings where I wasn’t sure I could make it on my own, even though I always had a career and was capable of being on my own. I didn’t want to be alone. Our only child, a son, wanted me to move to California and live near him but I couldn’t do that to him. I didn’t want to be an emotional burden to him, his wife, and their children. They shouldn’t have to be worried about me so I admit to fibbing about how happy I am and I put on a happy face when I am in California.

    The loneliness after a lost loved spouse is tough to overcome. I keep busy like your friend – I volunteer at the hospital and library to feel needed but climbing into a king bed with n o one on the other side, well, it’s a pain I’m not sure I can get past.

    Thanks for telling the story of your friend. I’m glad she’s getting help. I never went that route, although my pastor suggested it. It wasn’t in my comfort zone.

    1. Jane, I thought of you as I wrote this post and worried that it might be troublesome for you. You’ve been generous to share some of your feelings here after your husband’s death, so I knew this would hit home.

      I had to laugh at your comment though, hearing you describe your husband and the things that weren’t so perfect. I suspect 99% of Americans have those kind of marriages – the yin-yang, but I agree a million percent that no marriage will succeed without being best friends. The rest takes care of itself.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  2. The heartbreak of loneliness can be felt in a bad marriage. Those of you who were lucky enough to marry your best friend, be thankful.

    1. I have a couple of friends who are miserable together but stay together because of the fear of being old and alone. But I have a couple of single friends (divorced) who are completely fulfilled and don’t fear being old and alone. Or so they tell me. One never really knows.

    1. Beautiful. I’ve never heard of the song, nor the musical it came from, nor the woman singing. Eileen something. Ray Bolger I know. I saw the links to both a Perry Como and Frank Sinatra rendition that I listened to. The words are truly appropriate for this thread. Thanks.

        1. You’ve heard of Eileen Herlie? I’m impressed. Make that very impressed that you not only know her but are well versed enough about the song to say her version with Bolger is better than Ole Blue Eyes. That’s gold medal worthy.

        2. I am not that well versed at all, but, as much as I like the Sinatra version, they feel over-produced for the sentiment being conveyed. I can imagine being in the theater, watching Ray and Eileen (possibly a bit too Florence Foster Jenkins-ish for the role) and really feeling the emotion (but, hey, what do I know?).

        3. You know more than I.

          Florence Foster Jenkins, the movie, is on my see list this weekend or next week. The last few movies of Meryl’s were nothing more than a repeat of some dumb comedy formula, but this one looks like she’s actually acting.

  3. so sad. I have friends going through this. My Mom lost my Dad at 58. I remember her saying how much she missed just being hugged and held. Could your friend volunteer to feed premies in the hospital? They need human touch desperately, and the nurses are so busy just tending to medical needs. For some a puppy can be the place to direct love that needs an outlet. I wish I could get my friend to grief counseling. My friends and i joke that we’re all going to move in together and hire a caretaker. Bibi

    1. My friend does all kind of volunteering, even worked with the hospital staff where her husband was treated being a liaison between the doctors and those suffering a loss. My sense is she’s doing all these things but only going through the motions. There’s an emptiness about her (to me at least).

      When I’m alone, I’ll probably do what my mother did, live in a senior community where there’s lots going on and other women know and understand the loss of a spouse.

      You mother lost your father so very young. That’s really tough. If I may ask, did he die suddenly at that young age or was it an illness?

      1. Massive heart attack that blew an aneurysm in the left ventricle. He died on the table in open heart surgery-nothing left to work with. A fabulous man-sang, danced, played the piano by ear, world-class athlete(Berlin Olympics), a pied piper with the neighborhood kids, and like your friend’s husband, moral and a man of faith. They don’t make them like that anymore. Bibi

        1. Sure. I think every couple talks about the future, when one is gone. After all, we do have a balcony room on the QM2!!!!! (Kidding. Kidding.) 😁😁😁

        2. Every couple SHOULD talk this over. Unfortunately, my husband and I did not, his choice not to talk about aging etc, so I was left with more questions of what would he want me to do than the comfort of knowing I was doing what was best.

        3. Very true Jane. My parents are incredibly pro-active talking death, wishes, plans, arrangements and it set the tone for me but I am always surprised how few families do plan ahead. I think you and your husband are more the norm than the exception.

    1. It was tough to write but I agree that there are lots if valuable connects. The entire world seems to be on vacation so no such thing as being late to visit.

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