Courtesy of Ken Schwarz via Flickr

Toni Bernhard, J.D. was a law professor at University of California at Davis. After coming down with an illness that never went away, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she was forced into retirement. A long practicing Buddhist, Toni used her knowledge and meditation practice to help her cope with her new life. She wrote about it in her award winning book How to Be Sick.

In this article published on her Turning Straw Into Gold blog on the Psychology Today website, Toni shares her experience with loneliness. A lot of us can relate to the pain of loneliness. Loneliness is the affliction of many who are challenged with all kinds of conditions, both medical and psychological, often both! In fact, I don’t know how anyone tells when the medical condition ends and the psychological one begins or vice versa! We will hold that thought for another article…

Right now I want to share with you what Toni wrote about her transition from the pain of loneliness to the companionable sweetness of solitude. In Toni’s words…

When my health deteriorated and I had to trade the busy life of a university professor for the isolation of my bedroom, the loneliness was palpable. At times, it was hard to distinguish between the illness and the loneliness.

One day, a friend I’d met online, sent me this quotation from the theologian, Paul Tillich:

“Language…has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”


If being alone is a source of suffering for you, see if you can think of a few positives that come from solitude (even if it’s just having sole possession of the remote control!). Maybe, like one of the people I quoted above, you can get those “creative juices flowing” to help you make a list.


Cultivating self-compassion softens the loneliness and makes it bearable. Then I remind myself that the pain of loneliness, like all mental states, comes and goes. It’s painful now, but if I’m patient, it will pass and the sweetness of solitude will take its place.

To read the entire article click here.