What does loneliness look like?

Most of us can say, from our experience, however small, what loneliness feels like, but what does it look like? That question was more than hypothetical when trying to imagine how my most recent publication Loneliness: Accident or Injustice? would be illustrated.

Loneliness: Accident or Injustice? was commissioned by the Diocese of Oxford in response to research by the Church of England and Church Urban Fund which found that loneliness or social isolation was the most prevelant social concern of our time.

The Church in Action report found that loneliness is not restricted to parish size or social class. It’s more often noted in deprived parishes (81 per cent) than affluent ones – but even amongst the well-off, 55 per cent of leaders say loneliness is a significant cause of concern.

In response to this, the Department of Mission in the Oxford Diocese commissioned a publication looking at the causes of loneliness, celebrating what churches are doing to address the issue and making recommendations.

Over the next few weeks, I shall be sharing some of my findings in a series of blog posts but in order to do this, I had to ask myself an interesting question – how am I going to illustrate my post? In other words: “What does loneliness look like?”

This is the question that John Morse-Brown, of Morse-Brown Design, also had to think about that when he designed the front cover for the book.  You can download the publication: Loneliness Accident or Injustice by Jo Ind (PDF 536KB) if you want to see what he came up with.

For this post,  I have decided to use an image of nature.  That is partly a cheat, I know (holds up hands) but it’s also because I believe feeling connected to nature is the ultimate antidote to loneliness.  Knowing that we belong in the cosmos; feeling right through to our bones (and beyond) that we are the trees, the sky, the air, the sea….this is where we know we are never alone.

Two trees growing so close together they look like one


And so I start my series of posts with an image of two autumn trees, taken at Plas Talgarth, in the Snowdonia National Park, near Machynlleth in Mid-Wales.  I found myself thinking about marriage every time I looked at them. But marriage is only a partial solution to loneliness.  And it’s only available to some. And, unless you both die at the same time, it doesn’t last forever. Feeling at home in the glory of autumn leaves – that is a sense of belonging that endures.