Dear Dr. Norquist:
Although I’m now 71 years old, I’m still afraid of being alone. I wonder if you can help me with this. It really bothers me. My kids are grown, and my husband and I divorced about 20 years ago. My youngest lives at home but she will be moving out of state in June, and I’ll really be alone – with no family closer than a 4-hour drive away.
I’ve been dreading this all my life. Life was so full when my 3 kids were home. It’s so sad to now be on my own. Most of my old neighbors have moved or passed away. We have a new minister, but he caters to the young families. I tried volunteer work, but it wasn’t for me. I’m so afraid of dying alone. Can you suggest anything to help?
Dr. Norquist responds:
In some respects, we have all been learning about loss and aloneness since the day we left the warmth and “oneness” of our mother’s womb. Childhood commenced with the infant’s “mommy and I are one” experience of ourselves in the world and led to the gradual separation from our home and families, as we learned how to embrace our own adulthood and establish our own lives. In child-rearing we re-experience these same stages as our children move from the “one-ness with mom” of early childhood to the sometimes angry “I want to be separate from you” stage of adolescence. In other words, being alone is not a new experience for you. Life is a constant stream of losses, separations, and reminders of our aloneness. Much growth and creativity is stimulated by these necessary losses; these reminders of our aloneness. Ultimately, we all face death alone. No one in this physical world can walk with us there.
It sounds like you are not talking about aloneness, as much as your fear of the experience of loneliness. The experience of loneliness is a fear-filled experience of being cut off from others, from life, and from God. This is in contrast to the experience of aloneness, which connotes an inner experience of our wholeness and a sense of connection with life and with God.
So the question is, how can you learn to move from your fear of loneliness to an enlivened, vibrant acceptance of aloneness? You must learn to immerse yourself in the flow of life, to bathe in the life force. What makes some people so full of life, while others recede, withdraw, or stand on the sidelines watching life go by? You must learn to live into your life. Dive in, open your heart, and connect with loved ones, children, animals, nature, beauty, and creativity – things that are imbued with life’s spirit. Learn to fill up on life from the inside, through creating a more vital connection with your spiritual life. Make fun, excitement and love a daily part of your life.
The task that awaits you (and all of us) is to feel comfortable with yourself, standing on your own, full of life’s spirit, creating your experience of life – even when facing death. It is certainly a worthy goal.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at email@example.com. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2018 Chaitanya Counseling Services