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Coping with solitude

I am in my 70s and have lived on my own for the past 20 years since my husband died of suicide.

20 years is a very long time to be alone, and I have no family in this country, either. Yet, here I am alive and well and really enjoying life as never before.

The fact is that some people have no option but to live alone. Life is sometimes like that. Things happen and we are forced into a situation we don’t necessarily want. Whether you go kicking and screaming, or relaxed and happy depends on a lot of different things.

In my case, I was very ill after my husband died and really could have done with somebody to help me. Many people said, ‘How could you live in this house when your husband killed himself here?’ Well, that may sound like a reasonable question, but when the answer is, ‘I have no choice,’ it makes people realize that sometimes there is no choice in what we experience.

I have to admit to you the first few years were very hard. I suffered a great deal of loneliness and it was demoralizing. However, you eventually get used to your own company and can see many advantages to it.

I found a great therapist after my husband’s death and am still with him today. He is responsible for keeping me alive as staying alive was not something I wanted to do. As I say, I was very ill and there were many other reasons why I thought of ending my life which would not necessarily apply to other people.

However, I didn’t succumb to that temptation and simply learned to adapt. If we don’t adapt we go into extinction like so many animals on the planet.

The way out of my dire situation was not through socializing and making new friends. It may be nice to do that, but it didn’t work for me. I tried various churches and groups of people who were interested in the same things as me, but when you are alone everybody seems to be in couples, and you are rarely invited to join them.

Learning to be alone and content is a process. It is really a process of learning to love oneself.

This can take a very long time, or it may not happen at all. It all depends on how much effort you are willing to put into changing your lifestyle and way of thinking.

I changed my lifestyle by accepting that I was alone and not trying to do all the things that I used to take for granted when I was part of a couple. I did not yearn for somebody to talk to, nor did I want to go out and meet people. I simply realized that I could be happy on my own, and could even enjoy my own company.

As for loving myself, that did take a long time. Going from hate to love can seem insurmountable, but it certainly can be done because I am quite happy being me these days and am enjoying my solitude.

What has eased my loneliness is that I got two cats early on and they have been a lifeline. Sadly, both of these cats have passed on, but I now have other cats to keep me company.

I also found that distractions are really important if you want to be happy in your own company. I have many hobbies and interests so can lose myself in those for many hours, sometimes even forgetting to eat or drink anything.

My life is not the same as your life, though, so what you do will be different from what I do. Overall I would say that the thing that will save you is acceptance.

It is sometimes hard to accept things you don’t want, but I can assure you that it can be done. Once you have accepted your situation you will be free to love being by yourself.