I am alone and lonely with no one to turn to. Often I am afraid when thinking of my uncertain future… getting old and sick in a hospital or nursing home with no one to hold my hand and comfort me. Could you give me some feedback on this concern.

When you get stuck in your fears about the future, you probably begin to feel anxious, depressed and hopeless. Fears are normal but “getting stuck” in them can create emotional, mental and physical anguish and problems. Remember that you can plan for the future by setting goals but only you have dominion over yourself and the present… one day at a time. There is a book that we recommend that everyone should read: The Precious Present.

If you are feeling alone and lonely, find ways to again become socially connected. Take responsibility for your adjustment process. No one else can or will be able to do it for you. There is some need to take risks. Nothing will change if you wait for the “mountain to come to you.”

Take pride in yourself, your past, present and future life. Plan balance into each day by remembering all of the areas that require nurturing: your soul and your faith, your body, your feelings, your thoughts and your environment. Each week create a written goal in each of these areas that will assist you to nurture yourself daily and to pave the way to feeling more secure about the future. Keep yourself as healthy as you can by taking care of yourself and by creating connection to others and to life. You don’t have to be alone… attend groups and new activities, do service for others… make new friends and create a social network.

Life after loss is changed life, but we do have some control over that change. Examine those changes and fears in your life. Make plans and walk through those plans as you make each day more precious and your future more hopeful. Endings always have the potential to bring new beginnings. Go slow. Take baby steps. Breathe. And take small risks.

How do we establish a “platonic” relationship when so many of us are longing for something more?

Relationships at any age are difficult, especially when one person wants a platonic relationship and the other wants a sexual or intimate relationship.

As human beings, we all long for “something more.” What does that mean… sex, intimacy, companionship, admiration, cuddling? Knowing what you want… what that “something else” is can help you know how to go about getting it. I often hear, “but I’m older and I just don’t have time to wait.” You have all of the time that there is. Good relationships don’t often just happen. They are founded on trust, getting to know one another and respect. Being honest in your communications and openly discussing the ground rules of your relationship will take the pressure off of both of you. Be careful not to get into an intimate relationship too soon, thinking that it will be a cure for loneliness.  Many have regretted this decision later.

To quote from AARP’s Guide for Widowed Persons: “For it is the process of grieving that changes us and finally permits us to emerge from widowhood to personhood. This transition cannot be rushed. Like the spring at the end of a cold and bitter winter, it will come.”   

How do we connect with another person without having the feeling that we are cheating on our spouse?

Right now it may be hard to even think that you’ll ever start dating or desire to have someone in your life again. You may still feel married and the thought of going out on a date may feel as if you are being disloyal to your deceased spouse. Many people feel this when they begin to reconnect to life and others. It’s normal. It may take a while to convince yourself that dating is perfectly all right. Eventually a desire to share life with someone does come back.

As the realization begins to set in that death has occurred and that your spouse is not retrievable, that you are going on alone, there is an awakening of the need to be “a part of” instead of “apart from” a special relationship with another. Talk about your feelings.  It is important to give yourself permission to say “good-bye,” without losing the memories, and to be allowed to continue to live without grieving.