This morning, I heard on the radio that a fifty-year-old man had been found dead in his apartment. That news was sad enough, but what made it even more tragic was that he had been dead for three years. Three years! For some of us, that news report expressed our greatest fear—dying alone and forgotten.
But though death may rouse the greatest fear of being alone, this fear takes many forms and is not limited to later in life. It can start much earlier. Will I find anyone to sit with in the school cafeteria? Will I have anyone to talk to at the party? Will I ever find someone to spend my life with? Who can I designate as the person to call in case of an emergency? What will happen to me if my marriage falls apart? Will anyone ever visit me if I end up in a nursing home?
These are real questions, genuine concerns, and as hard as they may be to deal with on their own, we sometimes find that they are pointing to even deeper fears. For some, it implies that “I’m not worth knowing” or “I’m so boring or depressed, no one wants to be around me. I’m such a loser.” For others who feel disconnected or isolated, it reflects a belief that they don’t “fit in” anywhere. Still others, vulnerable from bereavement or betrayal, find themselves caught between the prospect of being hurt again and the prospect of ending up alone.