Reminiscing helps to fight loneliness
Published on: Sunday, August 30, 2020
By: Rev Dr Peter Abas
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The story of Adrian. Adrian selects a spinning top as a metaphor. He feels that once the top comes off the string, it goes ‘around and around’ and wanders off a little bit, and until it slows down and stops. He symbolises his life being that of a spinning top that eventually needs periodic straightening up.

The reason for this is that, he eventually would like to be headed towards the right place, when his life is coming to an end. He approached the interview using much reminiscence while methodically answering the given questions.

Adrian is a 75-year-old man. At the age of 60 he retired from his job as a sheet metal worker. He lost his second wife two years ago. His first wife is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and living in a nursing home. 

Adrian used to be a member of a German choir. He has three daughters who have their own families. Adrian is a traveller and he used to go on cruises with his second wife. 

Adrian keeps himself busy with household chores and he spends time with his older brother, as well.

Losing his wife was an occurrence that he needs to accept and to re-process in his life. He gently expresses his feeling about this situation. His exploration into this situation becomes apparent when he interprets his loneliness. 

He describes, “Loneliness is a feeling that something is missing out of your life and you keep looking for a way to replace it.” Adrian concludes, “I cannot explain it very well but it is an absence of something.” Inadvertently, Adrian has accepted this lived other experience in his life quite readily. It is a feeling of missing someone; a significant other. 

There is the emptiness in that feeling. It is also painful as I see that I am alone now. Like a part of me is not there. I know it but I can’t put my hand on it. It’s an inner part of me that I should be aware of but it just isn’t there. And yet, I am not grieving because she is gone. I am looking forward to seeing her again.

With his gentle and emotional voice, he expresses his inner feelings. He explains emptiness with this sentence: “The emptiness is not having her there to touch, to hug. I keep wishing that I had done  more.” 

 He delves into his feelings in an in-depth way, and he eventually verbalizes his feeling of missing something. He ultimately explains his feeling. “It is emotional and painful because I am missing my wife. There is emptiness and it cannot be replaced.” This is his lived other experience in his life. It is a feeling that comes and goes in his life.

Adrian describes his lived body experience but, in this aspect, confidently expresses how he feels. He continues: “I have been very fortunate. I have been very healthy and I do not want to be a burden to anyone.” Another positive experience for Adrian, is that he is not totally lonely because of his dog, which is his companion. He states, “However, I am not that lonely, I have an old dog and she’s with me, most of the time.”

Regarding his own interaction with others, it is obvious that Adrian has limited himself when it comes to going out. He goes out only for special occasions, such as: “I see my brother mostly…twice a week. We go out together for lunch on Thursday and dinner on Friday.” One-way Adrian points out that he keeps himself from being lonely is by staying occupied. “I keep myself busy” with work.

The kitchen area at home is the place where he likes to be, because it enables him to reminisce about his past relationship with his wife. He says, “We just sat in the kitchen and talked quite a bit.” It is obvious that the lived space experience was a comfort zone for Adrian. 

Adrian describes an interesting event in his life, realizing that what he was doing was using a coping mechanism in order to deal with wife’s death. He explains, but I am beginning to understand, that is a way of compensating for the loss of my wife because eating always keeps you satisfied and happy for the time being.

Finally, Adrian highlights just how he wants his life to be, and what direction he needs to follow. He has his beliefs and faith, “God is always the first” that has become his primary focus in life. His attendance at Holy Mass is very important to his present life. As he says, “I am not letting anything interfere with my going to the 8:00 am Holy Mass unless there’s nothing I can do about it.”

In summary, Adrian experiences loneliness in terms of missing his wife who died. He also explains that his eating habits allow him to cope with the death of his wife. It is compensating for the loss of his wife. However, his dog also has kept him company and alleviates his loneliness. The emptiness signifies not having someone to touch and he associates this with his wife. Loneliness for him is also emotional and painful and the experience of emptiness cannot be measured. He concludes by saying that it is also a feeling that comes and goes in life. Above all, in spite of being alone, his faith is the foundations of his life, putting God first.

Rev. Dr. Peter Abas is a mental health counsellor and psychologist, founder of Home of Hope: Counselling and Professional Development Centre, a non-profit organisation. He developed a programme known as “Partner in healing among older adults in faith community.” 


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