Let me connect with you, send a virtual hug, a card, a message on social media, or an empathic phone message. Will it be enough, will it be too much? The question may be redundant, as we are very unlikely to tell others that we are lonely. It feels too revealing and suggests there is something not quite right with us.

There are some horrible statistics about loneliness, such as, it is as bad for us physically as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It also correlates with depression and dementia. There is plenty of research on the subject, and this has been augmented by the recent studies, on the impact of the pandemic.

We can all understand this, can’t we? We are human, humans are intended to live in ‘packs’, connected with others through family, local, social, and cultural connections. It helps us create our identity, give our world meaning, mentally protect us from sadness and depression and physically protect us from danger, from ourselves and ‘others’.

Loneliness though is a very particular experience, unique to each of us.

Loneliness is not the same as being alone. We can feel lonely surrounded by a throng of loving, caring, friends and family, and we can feel perfectly contented, connected, and loved when we are alone.

If we have healthy and strong relationships, research shows that we can keep this imposter at bay. If we can look to family and friends to provide these things, we are going to be OK. In fact we are more likely to live a very healthy and long Life (Harvard study of Adult Development – since 1938).

But what if we can’t connect in this way, will society provide?

Not necessarily, well, not like it once did. The Parish no longer plays a significant role in our lives, community initiatives have been under invested, and the era of the individual has taken its toll. We don’t necessarily look out for others, and others do not necessarily look out for us.

But perhaps, in place of more research, let us act on the findings to this point and be active in combatting it for ourselves and for others.

What do we have beyond family and friends to combat loneliness?

We have charities, we have community groups, we have our clubs and social organisations, we have our online network, social media, our accidental connections through our children’s connections, we have work colleagues and the work ‘space’, and we have ourselves and our great human desire to ‘be’ with others.

What do we have within us to combat loneliness?

Let us look to these people and spaces, physical and virtual, to make connections, to combat our own loneliness , and to confront the loneliness of others. This can be a frightening business, whether it is walking in to a room of strangers, rekindling that old friendship, or liking a post that resonates. We fear that people won’t want to connect with us, we fear we will be open and others won’t, we fear our vulnerability will not be reciprocated. But overcoming fear is a critical part of the process of connecting.

Overcoming fear insists that we be courageous, which requires a combination of emotional strength and trust, in ourselves and in others. This is an incredibly difficult space to inhabit, but I see people enter it every day and with great success.

So, let us try, in response to the isolation and loneliness that we see and we feel, to make those vital connections with others, whether the loneliness is within them or within us. We are human, let us strive to be humane.