Loneliness isn’t about the amount of interaction you have with people in the world.
Loneliness is the experience of having a hole in your heart.
Something that you feel should be there — the love of your family, the connection with a soul mate, the sharing with friends who really understand you, the sense of being safe and known in community, the presence of real pals, whatever — just feels like it is missing.
Once you have that hole in your heart, filling it up again is far from easy.
We can find workarounds, ways to stay stable and functional in the world, strategies and techniques to keep our emotional heart reasonably healthy, but actually filling that hole is almost impossible. What we wanted there is gone, and no amount of neediness will ever bring it back.
Loving always has a price and that price is loss. Sometimes when you love something and set it free, it will never come back, never be there.
Loss leaves holes in your heart. You may continue to be alive, to be productive, continue to need love, but loss will always have a price.
Living with loss is inevitable today. The rate of fluidity, mobility and change is faster than ever before in human society. The economic growth and flow of society is built on human tolerance for loss, on the death of the weak and the birth of the new. Transience is normal.
Learning to live with loss is the key to learning to live with loneliness. And the hardest loss to live with is always the loss of our hopes, our dreams and our illusions.
We know what we imagined for ourselves, what we thought we were promised by the world if we just followed the rules. There would be a soulmate and family that loved us, a home where we felt safe and cared for, respect and appreciation for what we gave to others.
The more sensitive and extraordinary our heart is the earlier we feel this loss,, understanding that for us, love and connection will never be routine or simple, that our dreams of fitting in, being seen and valued will never easily come true.
Most of us don’t get what we imagined, and even if we do, we don’t find it as fulfilling, satisfying and joyous as we imagined. This means that we have to find a way to recover from that heartbreak (1994).
We don’t want to have to go into recovery; we want what we dreamed of, want it to make us happy.
When that hole in our heart from the loss starts controlling us, though, through our ego acting out, through trying to fill the hole with addictions, though leaving us crashed on the rocks, eventually we see that recovery is our next best choice, as unpleasant and unpalatable as it may seem.
Learning to live with holes in your heart, the cracks made from loss, isn’t easy. That loss never really goes away, so it can always grab you and throw you back into melancholy, feeling the heartbreak and loneliness engulf you.
Rebirth is the way we become new and better, but rebirth always involves surviving loss and finding a new way to be ourselves, a way we probably never dreamed of, a way we can probably understand the cost of.
It may well be that those holes in our heart make us more open hearted, more aware, more respectful and a better person. but the cost, the cost, the cost.
The way to help people live with loneliness is to help them live with loss.
That starts with respecting and honoring their loss, acknowledging the hole in their heart. Until we own our loss, we cannot begin to move on.
We can learn to live with a hole in our heart if we can start to see that new possibilities exist for us. We will never get back what we have lost, especially the broken dreams of the way we wanted our life and loves to turn out, but we can start to realize connection and value still open to us past profound loss.
Living with loss is living with loss. Being lost in our own emotional loss, though, is being lost in loneliness.
For transpeople, the need to transform beyond the expectations and assumptions placed on our biology always requires the willingness to engage loss to claim something new and more fulfilling. That loss, though, is something we always carry with us, something that always leaves holes in our heart.
Not only have we lost the ability to blossom with our peers, lost the opportunity to learn and grow in a natural order, we are unable to effectively share our experience of loss with people around us who want us to fit into their expectations.
Engaging loss isn’t something this society likes to do. We tend to run from engaging the experience of death and loss, instead trying to paper over it with platitudes and ignorance.
There is, however, no way to transcend profound loss without engaging it. We have to understand and respect the holes in peoples hearts before they, and we can move beyond them.
Having to hide loss to stay polite or find connections just leaves sinkholes where our hope should be, shifting voids which can open up and consume us without warning. The need to conceal loss leaves us more lonely, not less, whatever it seems on the surface.
We do live longer these days, and that means rather than dying early we have to learn to live with loss, with death of loved ones, of youth, of dreams, of hope. We have to learn to live with holes in our heart where powerful love once connected us with others.
The experience of having a hole in our heart is something that, if we are lucky, every one of us will end up having. That means we will also live with loneliness.
We can live good lives even with holes in our heart, but only with work, concern, and connection that allows us to find new ways to love and be loved in the world.
But first, first, first, we need to be able to be tender with our own experience of loss.