by Lori Dwyer on April 14, 2011 · 38 comments

I’m learning the difference between solitude and loneliness.

One upon a time,in the Purple Before, I used to suffer from gasping, chest pressing panic attacks at the thought of losing someone close to me. I’d read blogs like the beautiful, brave Once A Mother‘s and spend the next two days trying desperately to breathe without whooping and sobbing intermittently.

I imagined loss, the death of someone you loved to the planets and back, would feel much like that… struggling to breathe, encaved by the loneliness. I’d twist and gasp at the thought of the pain the world was in… how did people deal with the extinguished existence of a soul that belonged to theirs?

But that wasn’t grief. That was fear.

Grief, it’s different. It’s not a restless, lifting pain, a panic… it’s not the feeling of being terrified of losing someone. (Although being terrified of the rest of your life… that’s an entirely different thing.)

When your world is torn apart like that, when you’re faced with the space that someone used to fill, and all the hopes and plans and life that used to spin around their being… that’s not a fleeing feeling.

Sadness, the essence of being sad.. it’s a very heavy thing.

I still get anxious, I feel it niggle at the muscles in my diaphragm, and often it’s for reasons I don’t even clock until I trace back my thought pattern. But the panic attacks, the whooping, sobbing, fragile, pensive and terrified panic attacks.. they’re gone.

And this is what i need to know, for those of you who do have those panic attacks, those horrible minutes, hours, that I used to have, that strip your confidence and rub your soul raw…

This is easier.

Grief, it’s fucking horrible. But if you’ve ever had panic attacks like that, you need to know this….

Grief is fucked. But it’s easier to deal with than fear.

When you’re worst fear comes true… what do you tell yourself? A characteristic of depression,it’s irrational thoughts. What do you do when you can’t tell yourself those thoughts are irrational anymore, because the very thing you’ve always been afraid of- losing one of your soul mates, you husband and children- it’s happened?

You tell yourself you’ve done it. You’re much stronger than you thought you were. And if you can do this, this awful, tragic, gothic, painful thing… if you can live though this, you can do anything.

Or that’s what I try to tell myself, anyway.

I think, maybe that’s the difference between loneliness and solitude… loneliness, it’s not just because you’re alone. It’s also the fear of being alone.

Remove that fear.. and welcome to solitude.

It’s a place where you drive long trips with earphones in, listening to all kinds of music, and you do nothing but think, for hours and hours. And that’s OK. Because you can think, without scaring yourself, without torturing yourself.

It’s a place where you can take simple pleasures in simple things- a garden, freshly planted with violets. A cup of strong tea and a cigarette, blue smoke curling up into the clear, sparkly early morning sunshine, the wind whispering gum trees.

I sit, some nights, looking at the silhouette of those same gum trees, black against the inky blue of the sky. I look at the thousands of stars above them, twinkling and shimmering and filling the sky as far as I can see. (“This is where they go, the stars.. this is where they run to”). And I talk to my Tony.

I’m waiting for him to send me another shooting star.

I think he’s waiting for me to find some kind of peace.

I’m getting there.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

s August 22, 2011 at 1:39 am

I was just thinking something (I think?) similar to this this week and trying to write it out for myself, not as a blog post – and I'm not grieving for anything even remotely resembling your loss –

but I was thinking about how grieving something is in some ways easier than anxiety, because it's for something REAL and concrete, whereas anxiety is all possibilities and fears and what-ifs and there is no way to get a handle on it.

When I am sobbing in a heap on the floor – at the same time I was thinking – but this is a REAL thing – and in some ways that is less terrifying than the panic.

it seems terrible to say that, for some reason.


Leithal May 9, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Heartbreakingly beautiful.


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Lori @ RRSAHM April 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

Miss Pink- Really, I promise… I don't know why, or how.. but it's easier.


pinkpegasus April 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm

That is so beautiful, so poignant as always. you are an amazing writer. I suffer panic attacks and anxiety and what you say makes such sense. Thank you. Sending you love n hugs.


Sarah April 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Beautiful writing Lori. Your words are like shooting stars :)


Miss Pink April 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm

You know what's freaky, i wrote while i was away on my mini holiday sitting on the beach and i wrote something very similar to this, about loneliness vs solitude.
I am actually a tad freaked out about this now…

A question i do have for you though, as someone who suffers some pretty disabling anxiety attacks, is it really because it's easier, you've sort of solved it, or is it because you are missing such a big part of you, a part that died and parts that are numbed?
Just curious.


Katherine Jenkins April 17, 2011 at 10:06 am

Lori, I loved this post and your description of solitude. Here's a little video I found called "How to Be Alone." I posted in on my Facebook page a few days ago because I think it's beautiful…but know that you are never really alone. My husband, the monk, says alone really means all-one. May peace and happiness surround you and all the twinkling stars keep you company! Here's the video link:;=share


nadinewrites108 April 17, 2011 at 8:24 am

I've been breaking my heart for you since the beginning here, but it's been a while since I've dropped a line, my own little version of head-spinning-fucked-up-ness going on. But today I wanted to thank you for your courage. You give so many people hope, insight and truth.
"Fear is greater than God" I read somewhere, but Love is greater than fear and you, Lori, are at the centre of so much Love.


Stella April 17, 2011 at 4:07 am

Hi Lori
Just dropping by to see how you are doing. I hope the shooting star arrives soon. I also hope that you continue to find healing in the solitude. xxx


Melissa April 16, 2011 at 3:46 am

Beautiful post today. So true. You are amazing. You CAN do anything.


annap April 15, 2011 at 11:15 pm

I stumbled across you blog tonight and it has made me stop. Reading through your past year I have cried, smiled and been so angry at strangers who seem to think they need to be cruel to be kind or just because they can. I am so sorry for your pain. You seem like a good kind and real person, it's not fair. It's not your fault. Even if you were awful (which you clearly aren't) this life would not be fair and what happened would not be your fault. I see some hope coming through your recent posts and for that I am grateful. Not because you should be feeling better, but because I so desperately (already) want you to. I send love, hope and strength as much as I can through a comment.
I wish there was more I could do.


Andrea April 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm

So now I want to lift you up in a big bear hug and spin you round and round and round. The change in your voice lately is amazing. It makes me happy for you. I know …small steps..but some feel like large steps!

I feel priveliged (as wierd/screwy as that sounds…i don't know how to say this with the words i want to) that you have allowed us all(even the newbies) to witness (and hopefully support you) through your recovery (again struggling for the words)….through your grief, the depths of your despair, and the slow and steady climb back out.

I can't imagine the amount of people in the future who will find comfort, clarification, and some sense that they are not alone in going through their own nightmares when they read this. all of RRSAHM.



Glowless @ Where’s My Glow April 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Oh Miss Lori, you give me shivers. Enjoy the cupcake from Jacki :)


Brooke Farmer April 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I used to have panic attacks too.

And you're right. The actual loss is easier.

It's quieter.


Jacki April 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Woah, Lori sometimes you're so frickin' insightful that it freaks me out. I wish I could give you a chocolate cupcake.


Tone-in-Oz April 15, 2011 at 11:34 am

That star gazing. The thoughts that there IS no more of that person being there. Never. I know. You sorta get used to it Lori, sorta.


Draft Queen April 15, 2011 at 11:22 am

I know all too well the difference between the panic and the grief. And the grief really is different because you have to learn to want to keep going because you now realize that physically it is possible.

With that in mind, and even though I recommend the entire new album, I have fallen in love with the Foo Fighter's new song "Walk". (search for it on youtube) You may like it too. (And if you do, you should let me know. *Ahem*)



Krystal April 15, 2011 at 11:05 am

So beautiful and so wise, I'm glad solitude is working for you.


Marilyn Rodrigues April 15, 2011 at 10:19 am

Thank you Lori, you are doing something beautiful by writing here. It's true, fear can be our own worst enemy sometimes.


whatsinemmasbrain April 15, 2011 at 9:03 am

Beautiful babewah… Just Beautiful :) xx


In Real Life April 15, 2011 at 8:08 am

Beautiful! You have amazing perspective and insight. *HUGS*


Amy xxoo April 15, 2011 at 7:44 am

You know – through all my years of depression and social anxiety nobody ever put it to me that way…that loneliness is the "fear " of being alone. But your right. Back then, spending so much time on my own, i never appreciated the time i had because i was consumed with the fear of being alone forever and ever. Now that i'm constantly with either my baby or my fiance or at work – i cant wait to be "alone . To have some solitude.
Thanks Lori for sharing that with me…


Sandy April 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Lori… Thank you.
I've thanked you before.. for sharing your story and even as I sobbed violently, unable to breathe.. so deeply saddened by your loss… it was still YOUR loss. It wasn't mine.
And although I felt/feel for you, it didn't happen to me, so the pain I felt for you, i know, is only about a millionth of what u've felt.
However, not having EVER lost anyone close to me in my 28 years… I have no clue how I'll deal with it-and naturally-it has been a constant worry and fear for me.
I can cry instantly at the thought of losing my girlfriend (who is my soulmate) or my dad and even my dog. Those are the 3 loves of my life that the thought of being without takes me to a place so scary I can't imagine it, but I am overcome with such an intense loneliness..even just barely skimming the outskirts of the abyss of loss… I can't even let myself try to fully feel what I imagine it to be like because I'm literally scared that I will crack, go bonkers, kill myself or something equally dramatic.
I'm not that type of person, generally… but thinking of losing these people feels like the one thing that could send me over that edge into the free-fall of desperation.
You clarifying that the fear is worse than grief.. knowing what you're going through.. i can believe you. The thought of loss still scares the shit out of me.. but I got this click, this comfort, this assurance.. that when the time comes, it won't be the feelings I have about it now.
That makes me feel like maybe I won't do any of those crazy things. That maybe i will get through it.
SO thank you for that. You don't know what that does for me. Thank you so much.
-Indebted to you,


Janet NZ April 15, 2011 at 4:46 am

I'm so glad you're starting to find some peace. It has always been there in the small things for me – I'm glad it's the same for you xxx


Kristina Hughes April 15, 2011 at 1:59 am

Stunning post. Beautiful. What you've been through in such a short space of time……. I hope there are some smiles in your solitude and a couple of shooting stars too – don't look too hard though – they never show themselves to you when you're looking for them!xx


mommyodyssey April 15, 2011 at 12:51 am

Lori, I'm bawling. What I'm about to say may seem insane. but I suffer from panic attacks. I have been living with anxiety for the better part of 15 years. And reading this gave me hope. Does that make any sense?

You are an amazing woman. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your openness.


Emily Turkalj April 15, 2011 at 12:11 am

You are an inspiration Lori. I know things have been horrific, but you have survived and although you will continue to have bad days, know that we think you are an incredibly strong and amazing woman. Thank you for being so honest about what you have had to live through.

All my love and best wishes for you and your children!


Insidesopen April 15, 2011 at 12:03 am

This post jolted me out of lurkdom. This is amazing writing. Thanks for sharing your incredible gift with us during such a difficult time.



My New Normal April 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Wow, this one really makes me think. What do you tell yourself when your greatest fear comes true?


Hear Mum Roar April 14, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I think we all need to remember this: the simple things, and to find joy in them. ((HUGS))


Pandora April 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Amazing. Just great. The writing, the hope…and you.

Hugs and peace for you, Lori.


Kakka April 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Beautiful, beautiful post Lori. There will be another shooting star some day soon. Peace be with you my friend. xxx


A Daft Scots Lass April 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm

We should all stop and think more. Contemplate our lives and what we have and what we really want.


Fox in the City April 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Your writing is beautiful. The glimmer of peace at the end of this post is so heartwarming. I hope that your Tony sends you another shooting star in the very near future.


Lucy April 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I speed you to some form of peace. xx


Good Golly Miss Holly! April 15, 2011 at 7:52 am

I don't know whether to smile or cry ♥


Crystal Cheverie April 15, 2011 at 6:18 am

Is it not amazing what we are able to get through, what we are able to survive, when put to the test? This post is just beautiful, not the least of which for the thread of hope I see running through it. May Tony send you tons of shooting stars from the beyond, and may any wishes you make on them come true exactly as you want them to!


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