On Solitude versus Isolation


During the long trek through the love room after my aunt died, I wanted to be alone. I wasn’t purposefully avoiding friends and family, but I was wrapped up in the muffled fog of loss, and I didn’t want to give that up. When I was quiet, my aunt was there. And nothing seemed more comforting than that.

I was aware of my isolation. But I wanted to give myself, and the presence of my aunt, and the love room as it shifted, time to be what they were – a natural inward-turning in the wrenching wreck of grief. In the love room, I didn’t have to pretend. I didn’t have to be fun, or eager, or resilient, or hearty, or numb. The aloneness was real, and that was just fine with me.

Megan Devine, in her Refuge in Grief website, notes the truth of isolation in times of great loss: “You are alone in your grief. You alone carry the knowledge of how your grief lives in you. You alone know all the filaments of story and of love that fly through you….”

In the solitude of the lingering love room with my aunt, I could face the Mystery in which we all live – and die – as it unfolded inside and around me. But I kept an eye out, and allowed others to watch with me, as I made my way.

Writing the love room letters was one important way I kept track of myself.

Over time, the love room ripened into release, and I gradually took steps to re-enter the world, though it was a new world I entered – one lush with gifts of depth and family and the wrenching, diamond truth of letting go.

The following is a brief entry I made in Year 3 of the Love Room letters –

Today, I think about calling my friend Kathryn, whose mother has recently died, to ask how she is. But I still hesitate to speak, to say anything real about loss, as if words would shatter something. Break right through. If I keep my mouth closed, the sweet loneliness stays intact. If I hold the sorrow inside—a slippery, bitter pill that refuses to melt—I might get to keep you.

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