In Gail Honeyman’s popular novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, the protagonist describes loneliness as the new cancer, “A shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it.” We don’t talk about it, and yet one in four adults is lonely, according to the Australian Loneliness Report. I’d describe my own loneliness as somewhere between sadness and a deep ache. Although the circumstances that brought it on – stepping out of an incredibly social career, moving to a new neighbourhood and having two babies in quick succession – mean I’m exposed to many risk factors for loneliness, it still took me by surprise. I love my own company, crave alone time and have happily lived by myself in the past.
But, finding myself longing for support and connection – and not being able to get it – led me to a frustrating place where I was left asking: what is this feeling? Is it an emotion? A life state? And why does it feel so awful?
“I think loneliness is an innate signal that a need is not being met, similar to hunger or thirst,” says Dr Michelle Lim, chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness and a senior lecturer in clinical psychology. “From an evolutionary point of view, we are designed to be social, to thrive in groups and develop meaningful connections. The way we’re living now, many of our social needs are not being met, which triggers a stress response.”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cattalespress
    May 31, 2021 @ 21:37:08

    I read Gail Honeyman’s novel not too long ago and so much of it was painful, but the raw reality so many people face today. Loneliness IS the new cancer. My 26-year-old son put up a gallant fight, but could not defeat the enemy. Thank you for your thought-provoking post. I look forward to reading future posts!


  2. cmartzloff
    Jun 23, 2021 @ 16:05:24

    I feel loneliness can’t be resolved through others. As I say that I don’t mean I don’t need people but I need myself first. I have to be my own best friend then I have an inner sense of security and can actually “show up” for others in a way that works. That’s my experience.


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