I have two takeaways after reading the rest of the article.
1. Difficult things seem easier when there is someone with us. The lack of friendships can make life seem more difficult than it really is. When life seems too difficult, we might be more likely to give up, or for the stress to have health impacts that lower our life expectancy.
2. The best thing you can do for someone struggling is simply showing up beside them.
I like the suggestions. I’ve used some of them, including “Are you sure” and sharing my struggles. It depends on the situation and the relationship I have with the person. A good friend, my spouse, someone I feel comfortable with already? I’m making sure they are OK when I suspect they might not be. Someone I work with or don’t have that kind of relationship with, and maybe I share a bit about my struggles or offer to listen if they need someone to talk to.
Any of the suggestions can work or not work. The important thing is that maybe that extra question lets someone know they are not alone, which can make all the difference.
I’ve felt this and I’ve talked about it many times before. Children forced to deal with a lot of trauma do that instead of learning about our place in the world, and in respect to other people. So would this be any surprise?
I think it’s important that we understand our need for both. As science keeps telling us, we are social creatures. Even introverts like me need some sort of social activity and friends. We also need those intimate relationships where we can hit those emotional connections. Romantic relationships are an obvious example here, but other relationships can also be our emotional connection.
The lack of one of these will feel like loneliness, but the “fix” will be different. If I’m well-connected to my wife but missing out on the variety of social connections that a larger friend group might provide, that’s where my focus should be, and it might show up differently. The lack of an emotional connection would also look different and brings with it a different set of risks.