Loneliness, and the impact of not being heard

By Sandra Harper, Timebank Broker for Torquay

A few weeks ago, I was on a bus going to Exeter to meet some family, I was feeling thankful that we were all well and in good spirits. I had struggled with working from home, and with the constant zoom meetings, the fact that I was going to meet up with real people made me feel extremely lucky.

I went up to the top deck and got comfy when I became aware of what appeared to be an awkward conversation between a young couple and an older man sitting in front of them. I will call the man Barry.

The conversation wasn’t hushed so I could hear the content and the tone of the exchanges between them. It was apparent that the couple were appeasing Barry as he was chatting away about anything and everything.

His conversation clearly wasn’t wanted, but he was having none of it. He knew all the bus routes to Exeter, he knew the times of the buses, he knew the duration of the journey, and probably all the drivers. Barry imparted this information to the unwilling listeners. He seemed very chirpy, and then I heard him say he was lonely.

I saw a tear roll down his face and I felt a primal urge to give him a hug, damn Covid meant I couldn’t, so I tentatively approached him looking like Zorro with a big black mask and dark glasses. I soothed him before asking what was happening for him that day, and he couldn’t answer me through sobbing.

Eventually, Barry went on to tell me he had lost his wife just before the first lockdown, and he hadn’t been able to grieve for her. He had also lost touch with friends, as many had been his wife’s friends and women do that, don’t they? Friends.

He couldn’t use a computer and he had no close family. I assured him no one needs to be lonely and we could help him to make new friends if he felt comfortable, he started to cry again, he said no one had spoken to him properly for ages, and that’s why he had random conversations on the top deck of the bus, as some conversation is better than no conversation. A small smile lit up his eyes and we chatted about his life and his interests. I told him about our work at Ageing Well and the role of the TCDT during the pandemic, he listened intently, and I left him a happier man. I gave him our number and asked him to call.

Like Barry, we will all have different experiences to recount from the past 18 months, but we need those stories to be heard. It’s important that we can express our feelings, our fears, and our desires. Barry has now made contact with us and he has been introduced to some groups in his area where he has found company, and can chat away his story is being heard and shared with like-minded people.

If you need to talk to someone about your experiences, please call the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022, or use the online form at bit.ly/torbayhelpline, and we can link you up with someone to talk to.

If you just want to find new friends or interests and you live in the Torbay area, you will have a Community Builder that works in your patch. Community builders work to connect people with others who share the same interests and ideas. You may have had some wonderful ideas for making connections during the lockdown so let us help you make these a reality, let us help you connect. Currently, groups are reinventing themselves to accommodate the “new” normal, hopefully, you can have a say in this process and influence what happens in your neighbourhood so to find out who your community builder is, visit www.torbaycdt.org.uk and look for Community Builders under the About us section for their specific contact details.

In terms of general contact and conversation, you can also visit Torbay Together – Helping you find and share activities in Torbay – www.torbaytogether.org.uk, where you can find lots of activities in your area.

If you struggle with accessing the internet, or you need a bit of help, go to Netfriends – www.netfriends.org.uk or call 01803 416229, where you can contact John and the team, who will then help you to gain confidence with technology.

You can also access all of this through the one call for all helpline on 01803 446022 where you will be met by a friendly call handler.

Remember, you don’t have to be alone.