July 24, 2012

Loneliness and Solitude in Grief: A guest blog by Marty Tousley

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I recently discovered an outstanding website and blog titled Grief Healing by Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC. Marty has been a bereavement counselor at Phoenix, AZ’s Hospice of the Valley since 1996 and launched her website in 2009.

Grief Healing is a rich resource of articles, reflections, courses, discussion groups, and links. Many informative articles are by Marty, but many are by guest bloggers. About a month ago, Marty featured one of my blogs, Grief and Depression: Are They Different?

Besides working with people mourning the loss of human beings, Marty supports those who have lost animal companions, noting that “grief is indifferent to the species of the loved one who was lost.”

I am honored to feature the following article by Marty Tousley.


Angel in Grief
Angel in Grief
Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.~ Paul Tillich

If you are among those traveling the winding path of grief, you’re probably quite familiar with both these sides of being alone: loneliness and solitude.

With an overwhelming sense of missing the one you love comes the crushing awareness of all that you have lost. You’d give anything to be together again, if only long enough to be relieved of your loneliness and to be reassured that your loved one is still a part of your life.

At other times you may feel a need for solitude. You’ll want to be by yourself, to get away from other people and withdraw temporarily from the pressures and decisions of daily life. This need to turn inward, to reflect on your loss, to get in touch with your innermost feelings is common and not to be feared. In fact it can be a helpful time for you to find your tears and figure out where you are going from here.

Isolation from Others
Our culture isn’t comfortable with the subject of death, and few of us know how to cope with the pain of loss and grief. We don’t permit or encourage the free expression of sorrow. Instead we learn to control our feelings and hide our pain so we won’t disturb other people. As a child you may have learned that grief is a taboo subject, that feelings should be buried, and that grieving should be done alone. As an adult you may equate grieving with self indulgence or self-pity. You may be too embarrassed or ashamed to let your emotions show in front of others. You may feel isolated, different and apart from everyone else, convinced that no one understands and you must grieve alone. You may feel stunned at the normalcy of life around you as people go about their business, totally unaware that your world has stopped and your entire life has been turned upside down.

You may be reluctant to turn to others, either because you haven’t learned to accept or ask for help, or because you’re afraid others won’t know what to do with your feelings. If they’re unfamiliar with the intensity and duration of grief or uncomfortable with the expression of strong emotions, they may offer only meaningless platitudes or clichés, change the subject or avoid you altogether. And there may be times when you will feel hurt by thoughtless, trivializing comments such as: It was God’s will; I know how you feel; Life must go on; Count your blessings; You must be strong for your children; It could be worse; or At least s/he had a good life.

Some people you know may be done with your grieving long before you are, expecting you to be “over it by now” or worrying that you’re somehow “hanging on” to your grief. Uncomfortable with your strong feelings, they may change the subject or avoid any mention of your loved one’s name.

Suggestions for Coping with Loneliness and Isolation:

  • Think about who is supportive to you in your environment and what gives your life purpose and direction (family members, pets, relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, colleagues, clubs, athletic activities, groups, church groups, support groups, bereavement counselor). With whom are you most comfortable, and who is the most comfortable (accepting and caring) with your grief? Look for those who will listen without judging you, or for those who have suffered a similar loss.
  • Find time with others to talk, to touch, to receive support. Be honest with others about what you’re feeling. Allow yourself to express your sadness rather than masking it.
  • Don’t expect others to guess what you need. When you want to be touched, held, hugged, listened to or pampered, say so.
  • If all you want from others is help with simple errands, tasks, and repairs, say so.
  • Let others (especially children) know if and when you need to be alone, so they won’t feel rejected.
  • Go somewhere and have a good, long cry— and do it as often as you wish. You have every right to miss the person who has died. Accept your feelings as normal.
  • Find time alone to process what’s happened: to remember, to dream, and to think.
  • Identify your loneliest times, and think of how you can alter your routines and environment (for example, rearrange the furniture in a room; plan your weekends ahead of time; use your microwave for quick, easy meals).
  • While some folks really are thoughtless and don’t think before they speak, bear in mind that many well meaning individuals have yet to experience a significant loss, so they really don’t know what grief feels like, or how to respond, or what to say. They aren’t deliberately trying to hurt you. You can choose to bear with such people, you can enlighten them about what you know of grief, or you can look to others who are more understanding to find the support you need.
  • Realize that no one can totally understand the relationship you had with your loved one.
  • Ask people to remember, talk about and share stories about your loved one with you.
  • Become more aware of how your own usage of words affects other people. Rather than saying something hurtful, admit that you don’t know what to say.
  • Consider getting a companion animal (which can be a wonderful source of unconditional love), but only after you’ve investigated what kind of pet would suit you and your lifestyle.


Visit the bereavement section of my website or my other blogs, for more articles on managing loss.


  1. June 29, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Dr. Amadi


    Very informative and nice readings.

    1. June 29, 2015 at 8:07 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you.

  2. June 11, 2015 at 9:12 am



    This is a powerful post. being read across the world. and encouraging people who are grieving. its a beautiful read. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    1. June 11, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you for letting me know it was meaningful to you.

  3. June 9, 2015 at 6:33 am

    joseph muita


    No matter how prepared you think you are for a death, you can never be fully prepared for the loss and the grief. Nothing you do in the future will change your love for the person who died. Eventually you will begin to enjoy life again, date again, have another child, seek new experiences, or whatever. None of these thing will diminish your love for the person you lost.

    1. June 9, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thanks for your comment, Joseph. I agree 100%. It’s been seven years now since my husband’s death. I’ve grieved for years while creating a new life. A good life…and the love is as strong as ever.

  4. July 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm



    Nice set of recommendations…I’ll bookmark this site for patients…warm regards, Gita

    1. July 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      There are many excellent articles by Marty Tousley at her site griefhealing.com sponsored by Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix. Lots of resources, including online support groups galone. She always has good recommendations. Highly recommended. Thanks for reading.

  5. July 27, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Heather Reck


    Thank you both for helping to support those who are hurting. As grief counselors we know how important it is to have a support system that can just ‘be’ with the griever.

    I would like to repost on my website with your permission.


    1. July 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Heather. Yes, of course, I give permission. I’ve enjoyed our exchange on LinkedIn and look forward to developing more ties.
      Warmly, Elaine

  6. July 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC


    Elaine, my dear, I am equally honored by your willingness to feature one of my articles on your blog. Thank you, and many blessings to you for all you’re doing to support and companion the bereaved ♥

    1. July 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Marty, for clearing the path and making your work accessible.

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