The difference between solitude and loneliness during quarantine

Solitude vs Loneliness

I have been studying the difference

between solitude and loneliness,

telling the story of my life

to the clean white towels taken warm from the dryer.

I carry them through the house

as though they were my children

asleep in my arms.


This poem by Richard Jones has stuck with me for years. But today it takes on new meaning.  With a lot of time to myself– my wife goes to work at dawn and we don't have kids (yet)– the question of human connection, or lack thereof, is in thrown into sharp relief. Conversations with family, most of whom live abroad, have increased substantially. 

Some days I spend so many hours in front of a screen that I get headaches. Side note: I just ordered some blue-light-filtering, non-prescription glasses and am pretty excited to look sophisticated on Zoom. I'm grateful for the talks with family and friends, but it's bittersweet. There's a level of sadness underneath it all.  Without being fully conscious of it, I am mourning the loss of what was.  I'm confident we will find a new normal and adapt, much like we did after 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, but let's be clear: things will never be the same again. In all periods of change there's an element of loss. Something gets left behind. We are living in a major transition period, and I'm noticing a lot of unspoken grief about what we're moving on from. We don't yet know what we're moving on to, but we sense that something is different.  Intensified by the physical disconnect from fellow humans and the world outside our homes, it makes sense to feel grief. It's even worse when we're feeling lonely and don't have people pulling us back into the fray. Loneliness is literally deadly. Studies have compared its impact on health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!  I feel it's important to talk about grief and loneliness out loud. To name my emotions and see them for what they are.

Psychologists have studied the stages in processing grief, with the last stage being acceptance. To reach acceptance you have to go through the motions. Denial, anger, depression, bargaining.  I've noticed a whole lot of denial lately, both in intimate relationships and on the national scale. The problem is when we get stuck in those stages. ANY challenge in life can be an opportunity, even the ones that feel impossible and heart wrenching in the moment. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can influence this experience. "I have been studying the difference between solitude and loneliness," and focusing on what's within my control to stay resilient. I'm lucky to have tools from coaching and psychology that filter into my own life. And I'd like to share them with you. What is the difference between solitude and loneliness for you? What can you do to help yourself process and grow through this period?



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