What Grief Adds to the Mix
In talking with other introverts, many report that grief adds one more layer to navigate in the world. One more layer in addition to the fact that grief is overwhelming in and of itself.
The introvert’s experience of grief is different…for me, it was almost an out-of-body experience. I felt different. I became a stranger to myself. –Anne Marais, of Introvert, Dear
For the introvert, who covets time alone, Grief shows up and sets up camp without our permission. It interrupts our plans, initiates a pity party right before a deadline, it takes up precious space in our psyche like company that arrives without an invite and stays too long.
In the beginning of my journey through grief, I thought that being alone would not be the hardest part since I generally love alone time.
But it’s complicated.
I am not choosing this aloneness. It’s a different kind of being alone. Permanent. Unwished for. Endless.
I learned something about this one day when I was on social media and saw my friend’s activity in real-time. On a whim, I called her but she didn’t answer. I felt angry, as if she was ignoring me, and texted a snarky remark. Because we are good friends, and often tease each other, she called me right back and in that brief interaction I discovered something:
I was lonely.
Talking about my loneliness with her helped me allow the negative, misplaced feelings to pass through me. I shed a few tears, as did she, and soon we were laughing and talking as good friends do.
It was later, when I looked back to examine my feelings and reactions, that I realized as an introvert I may not have strong instincts for when introversion turns into isolation.
The brief encounter with my friend and my houseguest, Grief, along with the strong feelings I experienced, provided a rich insight:
Introversion is my tendency, but isolation is something altogether different. Isolation, I discovered, is now a yellow blinking light for me. Proceed with caution.
All a tiny wake-up call.
After realizing my unconscious actions, I am making an effort to be careful not to forget about the wide, wonderful world out there that my introverted grief sometimes feels too tired to move toward. Grief says, “Better to settle in here. Don’t bother.”
My introverted nature is in cahoots with my grief. I’m learning to lean in when I am needing to be alone and to push back against a tendency to isolate, reminding myself that when I arrive to “the place” I am always glad I came. I further motivate myself by recalling that widowed folk who have strong social connections live a longer, healthier life.
The questions below offer a simple inventory for both introverts and extroverts to identify action steps toward healthy widowhood. Although it is geared toward the Introvert in Grief, the steps are helpful for all humans.
- Explore where you find yourself in the Widowed Introvert series. Was your person an extrovert or an introvert? How did their leaving make your life more complicated in “being yourself”? Recognizing what is true for you does not always need complicated answers; rather, sometimes just knowing why things feel harder helps us to be kinder to ourselves when we take stock of our loss.
- Measure your self-talk (and adjust accordingly). Self-compassion begins by listening to our self-talk and making adjustments as needed. All people (not just introverts) get frustrated at times about our quirks, habits, or ways of being. Be on your own side. Self-compassion is key. This is a great gift we can give to ourselves.
- Find your peeps. Whether introverted or extroverted, find a few folks with whom you can be completely yourself. Humans are perfectly-imperfect and if we can laugh at our foibles with a good friend it makes all the difference as we adjust to our new life.
- Watch for any isolation tendencies or spiraling. In kindness, catch yourself. Make a plan in advance for when this happens. Who will I call? Is there an online Soaring Spirits zoom meeting, or video, I can re-set with? Which of your peeps is a good listener?
- Allow your emotions to pass through regularly. Me, myself, and I are a great committee of agreement, but often not an effective guardian for our highest and greatest good. Feelings are spontaneous, inner reactions–some are pleasant, some are not. Allowing the feelings to pass through, rather than stuffing them, is a healthy habit for all. To help you tune into your feelings, try watching a sad movie and cry, rage, or laugh with the hero. Have a hard week? Try taking a long bath with a favorite playlist playing in the background. These are just a few ideas on how to allow your emotions to pass through on a regular basis. What ideas do you have?
. . . for next week . . .
Tune in next week for Resilience and the Widowed Introvert.
- Author/Founder of Introvert, Dear, Jenn Granneman, https://introvertdear.com/about-introvert-dear/