Solitary Holiday: Grieving for Introverts
Part 1: Balance Alone Time with Social Time
Your prescription for the 2020 holiday season:
Every day you will:
Respect your own physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
(This requires more thoughtful planning than simply “doing self-care”!)
Honor and/or connect with your loved one who died.
Grieving alone can be rough.
Grieving alone during the winter holiday season is rougher.
Grieving alone during the holidays, during a pandemic? Well, that is next-level challenging.
Remember way back in November of 2019, we were all planning our usual holiday gatherings? The lists, the decorations, the endless shopping, baking, and wrapping. You were possibly dreading the annual family dinner that includes a loaded political commentary from your slightly tipsy Uncle Albert. But you were resigned to the idea of the usual holiday chaos that starts before Halloween and continues at breakneck speed until New Years Day. You might even be one of those holly jolly folks who enjoys every minute of this twinkly time of year!
The world has changed. Most large family gatherings are going to look altogether different, if not totally skipped this year. Depending on the dynamics of your family, this might be a welcome change. If you are mourning the death of someone you love, your world changed in an even bigger way. Grief can feel isolating, even in non-pandemic times. But this year, it has felt more difficult than ever to stay connected.
Introverts unite! (separately, in your own home)
Does it feel draining to socialize? Do you replenish your energy tank by being alone and quiet? If so, you might be an introvert. I can relate. I enjoy socializing with friends and family, but I need lots of alone time to recharge my batteries.
Holidays preparations are typically overwhelming for me. I find that attending multiple large group gatherings in the span of a few weeks leaves me depleted and feeling not-so-festive.
This week I realized that 2020 might just be a free-pass time for introverts! Think about it: you can avoid the big parties and family events this year, because … social distancing, right? Introverts benefit from reduced social pressure and the opportunity to control when, where, and how we connect with others socially!
Wait, you know there must be downsides to this as well, right? There are definite risks to grieving alone during the holidays. Watch for these red flags:
Complete social withdrawal: you haven’t left the house or spoken to another human for nearly a week.
Focusing on your inner pain to the exclusion of anything positive.
Denying or ignoring cherished traditions that you used to enjoy.
Increased symptoms of depression, feeling hopeless, or not wanting to get out of bed.
If you are noticing any of those red flags, take them seriously! Consult with a grief therapist right away. Even for introverts, solid social support during grief is essential for your mental health. But the amount of interaction you need is probably much less than your more extroverted family members prefer. The key is balancing your alone time by focusing on quality time with those you trust.
How to balance social time with alone time
Identify your Inner Circle: two or three of your closest friends or family members who you can rely on for positive support. Hint: these will not include the folks who are pressuring you to “move on, get over it, just stay busy,” etc.
Commit to maintaining a connection with your Inner Circle people at least once every week.
Decide if a quick text, phone call, or video call makes the most sense. You might even opt for a socially-distanced coffee meet-up.
Whatever you choose, keep it short and sweet: avoid all-day commitments that will drain your energy.
Round out your social networking by going old school: send out a few emails or actual snail mail Christmas cards!
Thanksgiving and Christmas usually include lots of social events. This year, dear introvert, you get a free pass to avoid all the gatherings. Make the most of it!
Stay tuned, next month we will dive deeper into Holiday Coping for Introverts!
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