Trellis White paper Ad 770 Spot #6
share TWEET PIN IT share share 0

Loneliness: Taking Care to Stay Connected

By J.W. Freiberg

Mountain climbers are fastidious about the lines they trust with their lives, and scuba divers are constantly checking the tanks and regulators on which they depend. In the hectic world of practicing law, are you taking the time to take care of your connections to others?

Have you recently spoken with your bridesmaid or best man? How about your law school roommate or moot cours partner?

When friendships wither away with the passage of time, when links to others you once cared so greatly for are broken by distance, when relationships fray as lives change, when networks of friends break and dispel, when contacts with former colleagues become past history, when bonds with family become attenuated with an older generation’s passing — what do you do about it?

This natural and inevitable lessening and loss of connections that life brings our way presents a challenge to each of us as we move through the seasons of our lives.

You’re Smart: Apply Some Sense to Maintaining Your Connections

By definition, all attorneys are well-educated. And all accomplished people know perfectly well the importance for the body of healthy eating and regular exercise, and for the mind of new experiences and spheres of learning. But how many of us think about the importance for our emotional well-being of policing our connections to others? The metaphor of the mountain climber is perfectly apt: We each need to check over our emotional “lines” as climbers do their ropes, and then take action to revive the links that remain, and replace those that do not.

I practiced for 30 years at the intersection of law and psychiatry, and I saw 100 times what happens when disconnected, lonely persons find crises — or when trauma finds them. I imagine the frayed rope of a mountaineer finally breaks at just the wrong moment, and I can assure you that a victim’s emotional survival of crisis or trauma is directly proportional to the health of their connections with family, friends and colleagues.

More than a few of the people I saw drown in a sea of chronic loneliness were attorneys — brilliant, hardworking, well-meaning lawyers who put in far too many hours for the firm, and far too few for themselves.

  • And then the wife left: the wife in whom they had never taken note of discontent.
  • Or the child was arrested: the child whom they had never noticed slipping away.
  • Or the friends stopped calling: the friends whom they had never noticed were disappointed because activities that once had bound you together were now replaced by an occasional email or text.

Many public and private health issues seem intractable, and monumentally difficult to resolve. But if you take a moment to honestly assess how your connections are doing — your links to your family, friends and colleagues — you can find the relationships that need strengthening, and those that require replacement.

You can call. And you can make plans together. And you can arrange to meet, to drive over, to fly out, to plan that trip together — whatever it takes.

Honestly assess your connections to others. Work to strengthen those that persist and replace those that time has washed away.

Prepare these emotional safety lines — there will almost certainly be times on the mountain when you will need to rely on them.

Illustration ©

share TWEET PIN IT share share
J.W. Freiberg J.W. Freiberg

J.W. Freiberg (Terry), social psychologist-turned-lawyer, has for 30 years served as general counsel to five of Boston’s largest private social service agencies. He became known as “the psych lawyer” by colleagues who, over the years, referred hundreds of cases to him involving clients with psychological “issues.” Terry is the author of the award-winning, “Four Seasons of Loneliness: A Lawyer’s Case Stories”  and the editor of “Growing Up Lonely.” His latest book is “Surrounded by Others and Yet So Alone: A Lawyer’s Case Stories of Love, Loneliness, and Litigation” (Summer 2020).

More Posts By This Author
MUST READ Articles for Law Firms Click to expand

Welcome to Attorney at Work!

Sign up for our free newsletter.


All fields are required. By signing up, you are opting in to Attorney at Work's free practice tips newsletter and occasional emails with news and offers. By using this service, you indicate that you agree to our Terms and Conditions and have read and understand our Privacy Policy.