14 February, 2022
Valentine’s Day with rose petals and champagne?
Valentine’s Day is complicated. Many people struggle to identify with the rose petals and champagne idea conjured up by the day’s commercial hype. Instead, it’s a day they shun, and for good reason. For those without partners, or perhaps coping with serious illness or facing the prospect of major surgery, it can accentuate feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Contemporary authors would have us believe that loneliness is a functional part of a happy life. It has been described by Gretchen Rubin as a big ‘flashing sign’ that something needs to change. This is easy to say, but change is never simple, especially when marketing forces act on us constantly. Aided by ever-present technology, they work constantly to create the expectation that to be romantically involved is to be ‘normal’ and ‘right’.
Today is the first (almost) post-pandemic Valentine’s Day. While many of us will be thinking about the possibilities for our life and relationships that lie ahead, it’s also a time to pause and think about people who are lonely.
Changes in wider discourse
The issues of public health and the restrictions imposed during the pandemic have brought wellbeing to the forefront of many minds. Covid-19 has encouraged conversations about what it means to be well. It has shown how in matters of public health everyone has a part to play.
During the height of the pandemic, through seemingly small actions we were able to choose to act for the greater good. Whether social distancing, mask wearing or getting the vaccination, we could do our part in the interests of our friends, neighbours and communities.
The recent spirit of the times has also shone a light on previously neglected areas of health. In particular, the effects of isolation and the importance of a person’s social world in relation to their wellbeing. Many shielding or self-isolating individuals found themselves even more lonely than before. With this in mind, one can’t help but detect a tinge of irresponsibility or thoughtlessness about the marketing fanfare which accompanies February 14th.
What exactly is loneliness?
The Marmalade Trust outline that although loneliness means different things to different people, it generally has a shared understanding. This shared understanding is that of a general sense of ‘isolation or disconnection from others, or a feeling we are lacking or missing social connections and companionship’. It is worth pointing out that anyone can suffer from loneliness during their lifetime, but not everyone has the same risk of becoming lonely.
At certain times in the year, people’s health problems may be exacerbated by their social situation. Valentine’s Day is one, Christmas another.
What might be the solution?
Taking part in activities involving other people is one way of combatting loneliness and isolation. Through our #ActiveOstomates project, Colostomy UK brings people together (both virtually and face-to-face). Tackling loneliness and isolation has and always will be at its heart.
But we also recognise that group activities are not a solution that works for all. That’s why there is always a friendly voice at the end of our 24-hour Stoma Helpline (0800 328 4257) and for those that would like more regular contact, our Befriending service.