Loneliness is something we have probably all felt at some point in our lives, yet knowing that it is common doesn’t bring much comfort. It can be a very heavy feeling. You can literally feel your heart getting colder and colder, your chest physically aching for company/connection, or your throat getting tighter when you finally do have the chance to speak to someone. Being or feeling isolated can cause a lot of damage to your mental health. This is not to say that loneliness only occurs when you are isolated. We have probably all known what it is to be surrounded by other human beings but still feel entirely alone because we don’t feel we are understood, or have a strong connection with anyone around us. What may be even more frustrating and unhelpful is the popular ideology that you must feel happy being alone. It’s healthy to feel comfortable being alone sometimes, but if you find yourself being or feeling alone all the time, this is not healthy.
Please do not cope with your sense of loneliness by convincing yourself that you don’t enjoy being around others, that you don’t need other people or any other beliefs which aim to deny that you feel a sense of pain or longing for company.
We were not made to live alone. We were made social beings. Ones that love to spend time with other people, laugh and joke with others, have deep conversations and share experiences and lessons – ultimately with the right people in our lives we can learn and grow together.
Allah (SWT) created us in families and sanctified the family. If we were meant to be entirely alone Allah (SWT) could have created us like some animals who abandon their children at a young age, however in His wisdom He did not. Indeed, one of the afflictions of Ayyub (AS) was being isolated from everyone but his wife. But Allah (SWT) reunited him with the rest of his family- an event recorded in the following Ayah:
“And We granted him his family and a like [number] with them as mercy from Us and a reminder for those of understanding.”
Ayub’s loneliness was due to his illness and was a test from Allah (SWT). You may feel that your own loneliness is a test as well. It may be, but it is essential that you ask yourself this question: “Why do I feel lonely?” – dig deeper – “What is at the root of this feeling?”. The answer to this can reveal a lot of underlying insecurities or unresolved traumas. You may feel that you are lonely because nobody is interested in being in your company. You may struggle with a sense of inadequacy; you cannot believe anyone would want to be in your company. It can be very hard to challenge this way of thinking but if you don’t feel anyone will want to be around you even before they get to know you, you may unconsciously be acting in ways that limit your interaction with others e.g. you don’t ask if people would like to join you for lunch, because you assume they wouldn’t want to if you did ask and you are afraid of rejection.
This may be inaccurate. Maybe you feel lonely because you actively push people away because you have been in unhealthy friendships or relationships before; have been bullied, abused or ignored. Maybe you feel lonely for entirely different reasons. Maybe you’ve just lost someone really close to you and you feel there’s a hole in your life where they once were- that you’ve lost your closest friend. Maybe you’ve moved to a new city, or a different country, school or workplace and now you don’t know anyone well and you feel lonely because you haven’t had enough time yet to build meaningful relationships with others.
Think about why. If you feel lonely because you have emotional needs you feel are not being met, think about how you can meet these needs differently. For example, all human beings need to be able to express their emotions and thoughts and not having someone to listen can make us feel very lonely- perhaps drawing, writing or any other creative activity can help us fulfil the need to communicate deep feelings or thoughts.
We also need to remember to look out for those who are at a high risk of feeling lonely. Women who have just had a child and are on maternity leave, or single mothers, can often feel lonely because they may not have another adult to speak to freely and provide emotional support. They may not be able to voice their worries or fears or even find the time to try and ensure their own needs are being met. People living alone may also feel isolated if family members are not close by. Converts can often feel lonely because they may not be accepted by their families or have anyone who they feel really understands them. Older people often also feel lonely because their children may have busy lives with little ones to take care of and perhaps not much time to speak to, visit and spend time with their parents. Their friends and partners may have passed away, or they have a lot of health problems which prevent them from getting about and taking part in their usual social activities.
We need to remember how our own experience of loneliness has felt and remember that it is preventable to a point. That, In Shaa Allah, we can help alleviate some pain. Sending a message to a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while, inviting a colleague to go for lunch together, smiling at a homeless person or calling your parents, siblings or extended family are ideas you can put into practice now. You could be the only person they’ve spoken to this whole week or you could unknowingly witness the first time someone has laughed in 3 months. Keep trying to connect, and if this is all making you feel worse because there is absolutely no one you can connect with right now remember that Ibrahim (AS) was entirely alone but Allah (SWT) later blessed him with a family, and even declared him as KhaleelAllah (Close friend of Allah).
SubhanAllah. You can never be lonely with Allah (SWT) as your Companion.
“And who is better in religion than one who submits himself to Allah while being a doer of good and follows the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth? And Allah took Abraham as an intimate friend.”