Are you finding the right life balance while you’re grieving? The right balance between social activity and social isolation?
For many people who are grieving the inclination is to isolate.
After my mother died, I remember not even wanting to go into the grocery store. I couldn’t be around people living their normal lives when something so momentous had happened in mine. It was too uncomfortable, so I sent my friend in.
After the funeral, all I wanted to do was be by myself, and that’s what I did. I hopped the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and biked to a B&B up-island. I stayed there for 3 days, writing, walking on the beach, and writing some more. It was a quiet, reflective time, and it felt like the perfect way to honor my mother’s death and my own grief.
While some of us choose solitude, others make a choice to keep crazy busy doing anything that will distract them from the magnitude of their loss.
Certainly, all of the activity around funeral planning, the wake, and the funeral, is designed to carry us through the first few days with massive social support. I remember appreciating all the folks who came by the house in those first few days. It helped.
When my grandmother died, I had hated the social chit-chat during the visiting hours. By the time my mother died, I had come to appreciate the distraction of the normal.
After all the activity of the first few days, I needed to be alone. At that time in my life, I hadn’t discovered meditation retreats, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to meditate anyhow, but sitting in that B&B was the retreat I needed.
But what next?
Many people make a choice to socially isolate. Sometimes that’s because they desperately need to be alone with their own thoughts and feelings. Other times, it’s because attempts to be social have led to hurtful interactions with other people.
For others, the impulse is to stay busy, busy, busy as a distraction from the pain. It can be helpful for a few days, weeks, or even months, but sooner or later, there just isn’t enough busy to dull the pain.
The challenge is to find the right balance between social time and social isolation.
We need both, but the balance point is different for each of us. There is no one size fits all, and there is no right or wrong.
So no matter where you are in the process, you need to be paying attention to what you need at any given moment. It doesn’t matter what you may have planned. It’s important to listen to your inner voice if you need to do something different.
Sometimes you will need to be around people who understand what you’re going through. There is nothing worse than being shamed for your grief by people who want you to get over it. There’s nothing more miserable than that, and those people should be avoided at all costs.
Sometimes you need to be around people who have no idea what you’re going through. You’ve had enough of being the grieving person in the room and need a tiny bit of normalcy.
Then there are the times you want to be by yourself. Sometimes you want to reflect on the person who died. Other times you just want to putter around the house, weed the garden, or do a jigsaw puzzle.
We all need social support and social distractions, but we also need alone time.
The issue isn’t so much what you do. The challenge is finding the right balance for yourself at any given moment.
The balance is unique to each of us, and the moment you think you’ve found it, it will probably change.
So what can you do?
Trust yourself. You are the only expert there is on your grief. Trust yourself, trust your intuition, and trust your grief.
Be selfish. Grieving is one of those times in life when we get to be selfish in the best possible sense of the word. Being selfish is about taking extraordinarily good care of yourself.
Choose wisely. Identify those people who understand what you’re going through and those who don’t. Spend time with those who get it.
Be flexible. Listen to your own inner voice about what you need at any given moment. Be willing to change plans when you need to.
Be gentle with yourself. Grief is one of the hardest thing you will ever face, so be gentle and compassionate with yourself.
Please feel free to share your thoughts below.