‘Loneliness gets stronger, you’ve to try not get weaker’ – Woman (84) spending Christmas alone
Barbara Mainey has been living alone for twenty-four years.
This will be the last year she decorates her Dublin home for Christmas.
“It’s just another day,” she says.
Another day she has to spend alone.
Born in the UK, Barbara fell in love with an Irishman and moved to Ireland in her 40’s.
Tragically, her husband Bernard died after a fire broke out in their Greystones home.
She never tried to fill the hole that his untimely death left.
“It would be like having a very good dog and thinking you can replace it – you can’t.
“He was the most incredible human being, never once did I ever pick up anything behind him.
“Never once was he rude, I never heard him swear.
“He had wonderful principles, and I think that’s what makes a person.”
They had thirteen years of wonderful marriage, which Barbara is extremely grateful for.
While she didn’t find love again, Barbara thinks “everybody needs someone”.
“I don’t mean a man, I don’t need a man thank you very much,” she laughs.
She just wants someone to talk to.
Her daughter and grandchildren live in England and while they frequently visit, it’s not the same as having someone there with you.
Due to losing the cartilage in both her knees, she finds it difficult to be as independent as she once was.
Some mornings, she admits, it’s hard to get out of bed.
“The effort is huge, but I’m always okay, even if I’m not. I just think there should be more places like Alone out there to help people like me.”
Barbara believes some people misconceive loneliness – it’s not just something experienced by elderly people.
“I don’t think it’s all old people who are lonely, I think there are a lot of young people who are lonely.
“Loneliness is a killer disease.
“Marriages break up, children don’t have good parents, and we seem to have a world of all of this sort of thing, you know.”
She speaks fondly of Alone, the voluntary organisation which helps elderly people living in need.
Every week, a young gentleman called Craig visits Barbara and spends the evening with her.
She wishes other people were as considerate.
“If you complain, nobody wants to listen.
“If they don’t want to listen to you when you’re happy, they certainly don’t want to listen to you when you’re sad.
“I feel I can’t ask anyone for anything, I feel like people don’t care.
"I'm not even sure if my neighbours know I exist."
One of the hardest parts about being alone for Barbara, is being alone with your own thoughts and grief.
Shortly after her husband died, Barbara’s mother fell ill.
She nursed her for three years until she lost her long battle with illness.
“You never get over things, but then loneliness steps in and you think about things more because you’ve nothing else to do.
“I can’t cry, I have no tears left to cry.
“I think it’s all about getting old, losing a partner, it is a whole mixture of all of those things and you can’t change it.
“At sixty I could have gone out and met somebody else but I didn’t want to do that, but I also didn’t want to be alone.”
From just three hours with Barbara, it’s easy to gauge she’s a woman of integrity, intelligence, and pride.
Despite openly admitting her feelings of loneliness and sadness, her strong character shines through.
But loneliness, for her, is tiring.
“Loneliness gets stronger; you’ve to try not get weaker.
“I would just like to wish all those lonely people happiness and peace. Peace is the most important thing, and a very good 2017, hopefully.”