On April 5, 2019, Kathy Lee Gifford, the co-host of the fourth hour of the Today Show retired after 25-years working in daytime television. In an interview in AARP Magazine, she reflects on loss and loneliness. She states,
“If you’re not careful, what you’ve lost in life can define you. It’s so much better to be defined by what you still have, it’s just healthier. I’m making big changes in my life because I need to, really big changes that are feeding my soul. Otherwise, despair sets in and loneliness can be crippling.” | Kathy Lee Gifford
In the article, Ms. Gifford describes being a widow, losing her mother, and becoming an empty nester, all within months of each other. From a life full of others, she now finds herself home alone. To emerge from this cocoon, she next turns her attention to acting and singing.
Loneliness is not a feeling many of us like admitting. Especially if we have big families and a large social circle, the mere idea of loneliness leaves some of us scratching our heads. But, an uncomfortable truth about living is that many loved ones and close friends will die as we age. Through time our once large social circle will contract and be smaller by the end of our life
Gretchen Rubin, the creator of the Four Tendencies framework, observes happiness and human nature and discusses her work in books such as New York Times bestsellers Outer Order, Inner Calm, The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, and The Happiness Project. She also has a podcast called, “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” where she discusses happiness and good habits with her sister Elizabeth Craft.
Ms. Rubin offers deep insights into the subject of human loneliness, which she identifies as a feeling that is the opposite of happiness. She offers the principal insight that the key to a happy life is strong relationships with people. As people mature and age, the types and nature of their relationships change.
Humans, she believes, are social beings. Intimate bonds are created as early as birth between a mother and child, with siblings as we grow, with an intimate partner, as we love, with our own children, as they are born, and with friends throughout our lives. So then, what does loneliness feel like?
Ms. Rubin attributes the feeling of being drained, distracted, and upset, to loneliness. She further distinguishes loneliness from self-exile. Self-exile occurs when an individual voluntarily enter solitudes. Although they are physically alone, they emerge from self-exile at peace, feeling creative, and restored. She lists seven types of loneliness:
- New situation loneliness (entirely new place or friends);
- I’m different loneliness (in a familiar place but feel different from others);
- No-sweetheart loneliness (lack intimate attachment in romantic relationship);
- No animal loneliness (lack intimate attachment to a pet yet love animals);
- No time for me loneliness (surrounded by friendly people but no friends);
- Untrustworthiness/friends loneliness (no one to confide in and trust); and
- Quiet presence loneliness (miss someone else being home – spouse, partner, child, or roommate).
Are you feeling lonely? Check out this post by Gretchen Rubin on 5 Habits to Consider to Combat Loneliness.