Grief is Lonely
This scenic location looks so isolated, don’t you think? During a five day visit to Jones Lake State Park, we did not see anyone use the fishing pier or put a boat out on the lake. We were actually the only campers in the entire campground for nearly two days! While it was so nice to have the place to ourselves, it was also kind of creepy.
Do you ever feel lonely in a public place? Or even when surrounded by family and friends? You might intend to interact in your usual way, but your grief makes you feel strangely disconnected from the people around you. This is a common grief experience that rarely gets discussed. We don’t mention that we feel alone, because we don't want our closest friends to worry even more!
You also might find yourself wondering:
how can folks keep on living their lives
when mine has stopped in its tracks
and will never be the same?
Why does grief feel so lonely?
We expect our family and close friends to support us after someone we love dies. To a certain extent, they do fulfill that role. But it never quite matches up with what you need when you are deeply grieving.
Your best friend wants to help, but gets frustrated by not knowing what to say to take away your pain. As if that is possible!
Your church community wants to bring you food, but ...there’s a pandemic.
Your kids just want to see you happy (even if it is fake!), so they feel reassured that you will be “fine.”
Your colleagues pretend everything is back to normal, so you don’t cry awkwardly during the next Zoom meeting.
Humans are social creatures, but loss often feels like a solitary event. Even when two people lose the same person, their grief process will be different. They will often try to protect one another from the inner pain they each feel.
You might notice that you try to hold back tears when you are around certain people, or you only cry at home or in your car. Do you honestly disclose your true feelings when someone asks, “so how are you doing”? You probably hold back, partially to protect them from the depth of your despair and partially to resist feeling vulnerable when those raw feelings are unearthed.
Why aren't your closest family and friends the best source of grief support?
They care about you and desperately want you to be “fine.”
They are used to your former self, prior to the loss. We all play roles. Before your loss, were you the jokester at work or the one who planned and executed all the social events for your neighborhood?
They are also grieving, in their own lonely way.
They are holding onto society’s mistaken message about an imaginary timeline for grief, that includes “getting over it” or “moving on.”
They want things to go back to “normal,” because that is where they feel most comfortable.
What can you do when grief feels especially lonely?
Social connection is critical during times of grief, even for the most introverted person. The number one thing you can do is take action, even if you feel like it is so much easier to just be alone.
Believe it or not, acquaintances and strangers often provide the best grief support because they tend to be neutral. They aren’t as invested in you returning to your old self, as your family might prefer. They didn’t know you prior to the death. So they accept who you are now, changed as you are from the experience.
Action step hints
Small gestures are the most meaningful in creating connection with others.
If you already have a trusted friend to talk to about your loss, please reach out to them today. Even a quick text thanking them for listening, or for being present in your life, is an active way to remind yourself that, in fact, you are not truly alone.
Write out a brief thank you note (Email is okay! Just a few sentences is okay!) to someone who sent food or a condolence card after the funeral.
Join an online grief support group. Here is a local free option: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jocogriefsupport
Not a joiner? Read stories written by people who have experienced a loss similar to yours. Scroll down my blog for book recommendations. Or email me for recommendations specific to your needs.
Write or record yourself telling the story of your loved one’s life. Speak directly to your intended audience, including the person who died. What are the memories you would like to share? Maybe you will decide to post the story on social media or a blog. This is a trusted option: https://whatsyourgrief.com/share-your-grief/
More than anything, be patient with yourself!
Rest assured that you are not alone
in feeling the loneliness of grief.
When the pain of grief feels especially intense, consider working with an experienced grief therapist who can guide you through the process.
Call me today to find out how grief therapy can help you. 919-912-5736
Brought to you by:
Pam Kuras, MSW, LCSW, GC-C
Johnston Integrative Counseling, PLLC