I ask Lorraine if she used to consider herself a shy person, but she says, “No, really outgoing, very gregarious.” Yet Lorraine suffered from loneliness for six years. During her period of loneliness she was still working. She was, and still is, a nurse. She found chatting to patients and work colleagues was never a problem, but as soon as she got home she would shut the door and close herself off from the world. I always associated loneliness with the elderly, who don’t see anyone on a day to day basis, but Lorraine comments that my assumption is misguided. Loneliness is not just experienced by the elderly, “It can be single mums, it can be children. Loneliness is kind of like a state of mind, so it can happen anytime, even in a crowded room.”
The habit of shutting her door on the world had been embedded.
Reading up on loneliness, I find it is described as a lack or loss of companionship. This seems to be the case with Lorraine, mixed in with circumstances that made it easy for her to shut herself away. Her relationships with both her son and daughter had broken down, and although she had tried to contact them, they stopped communicating with her. She had lost their companionship. She was also suffering from PTSD after an abusive relationship with her second husband. “I suppose you could say I was a battered wife,” she says. Scarred from this relationship, she held a distrust of others. Her home was her only safe haven. Lorraine needed some time alone to recuperate emotionally, but she also needed to recuperate physically, having had a hip replacement due to the early onset of arthritis. Rather than recuperating and bouncing back in to society, the habit of shutting her door on the world had been embedded. She had become resigned to the idea that this was how her life was and this was how it would always be.
Things changed for Lorraine when, out of the blue, her son phoned her and asked her to come along to a personal development course he was attending. Going along to the course, she witnessed her son stand up on the stage, in front of 200 people, and say, “I’m looking for the possibility of a relationship with my mum.” She says there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including her own. “That was what started the ball rolling, of coming out of isolation and the end of loneliness for me.” She tells me her relationships with both her son and daughter are now good, and are growing day by day.
As a practise nurse, Lorraine sees loneliness in many of the patients she sees at the surgery. “Sometimes, they are considered time wasters and actually they don’t need anything physical, but they just come in because they are alone.” Lorraine will just sit and talk with these patients and try to direct them to the help they need.
“I can choose to go out there and make a difference in the world.”
Lorraine still experiences loneliness now and again, but as she says, “I am choosing to come out of my shell, so now the loneliness seems to be drifting away.” She says she prefers to be in the company of others as much as she can. She is also a singer-songwriter, so she is out and about, performing at various open mic sessions in the area. It seems she is now living the life she wants and making up for her lost time. She describes life in the following way: “On your gravestone, there is the date at the beginning (showing when you were born) and the date at the end (showing when you died) and in the middle there’s a ‘dash’. That’s my life.” She is making sure that her ‘dash’ is as fulfilling as it can be. “I can choose to grow fat and old and die and get eaten by my dogs,” she laughs, “or I can choose to go out there and make a difference in the world.”
Lorraine is certainly trying to make a difference in the local area. She is holding a festival in Potten End, a local village, to raise awareness for the Campaign to End Loneliness. The residents of the local retirement village have been invited to join in and she is encouraging those who attend to bring someone along who might be feeling lonely – a neighbour or a relative. With Lorraine’s connections in the local music scene, she has quite a few renowned local performers lined up for the festival. She has also written a song about loneliness, which she will premier at the event. “My passion is that no one should be lonely,” says Lorraine and sees that the solution is to make people feel connected: “They need to understand they are not alone.”
The Potten End Festival is being held on Saturday 16th June from 3pm – 6pm. Details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1547554525371163/
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