Communication. It is the foundation of every relationship and every interaction we have – and we all know it. Good communication leads to connection, along with a better understanding of ourselves and each other. Bad communication can result in anger, hurt feelings, misunderstandings and fractured relationships. Comparing the two it seems that we would all choose to have good and clear communication with those we are closest to, but it doesn’t often work out that way.
Communication can be hard even when life is good.
Sharing how we feel makes us feel vulnerable. We may worry about hurting someone’s feelings, making them angry, or coloring their perception of us. Perhaps we assume that words aren’t even needed. That those in our inner circle already know what we need, think, and feel.
So imagine how hard this can be in life after significant loss. In the support groups I facilitate we spend a lot of time (and I mean A LOT of time!) talking about “other people”. Close and distant family, friends, coworkers…all of whom seem to make a griever’s life more challenging at one point or another. And mostly it comes down to a lack of open and honest communication about life, death, grief, and loss.
At some point through this grief journey you have probably felt or thought the phrase I so often hear…”no one understands”. But why is it so hard for people to be supportive when we need them most? And what options are there to improve this very troubling consequence of loss?
Anger is a common experience when you’re grieving. It’s intense, uncomfortable, and powerful. You may feel like you can be angry at many different people, for many different reasons. You may be angry at your loved one for dying in the first place. Their death may have resulted from one of the choices they made. You may recall memories of some of the things they did when they were alive, something you had a hard time accepting, and that makes you angry now. You may also discover something about your loved one that you weren’t aware of when they were living. That can make you angry too.
Some will immediately relate to these labels, and some maybe not so much. Yet most people I work with exhibit at least some of these traits, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. For the perfectionists, it may come as an almost badge of honor. A commitment they’ve made to themselves to do everything the best they can, without fail, in every single category of their life. The people pleasers may not be as satisfied with that title. But they also understand it as a necessary skill to function in their lives, and as a way to get along with the people around them.
But what happens when life falls apart? Expectations for ourselves often remain the same, but how can they when EVERY SINGLE THING in life has changed? Do these old habits and old roles still work?
“How are you?”. How many times a day are you asked that? And how many times do you think the person asking wants (or is ready to hear) the REAL answer? This is the challenge for a griever, and one of the many things that comes up daily when surviving grief. Being out in the world can be a very difficult place to be, and unfortunately it may seem that no matter who is asking, we give the same answer, “I’m fine”. But why? Is it a matter of trust, fatigue, or is it something else…?
Self-esteem. Insecurity. Doubt. Just the mention of these words can make us think of a very specific time in our life. Perhaps the teenage years or young adulthood – when how you feel about yourself and your place in the world can be so uncertain. But as time goes on and you settle into your adult life, self-esteem may not seem so important, and it’s not something you may have paid much attention to. In other words, if it’s not great, it’s at least good enough.
It’s also not something you hear spoken about in grief. And yet significant loss can completely drain and deplete any self-esteem you may have, making it feel impossible to move forward in a healthy or purposeful way.
So why does confidence take such a hit after loss, and how do we begin to improve this invisible symptom of grief?
Worry. It can be such a futile and empty emotion…like thoughts leaking out of our head without purpose or direction. It’s a bad habit that exhausts our time and energy, leading to heavy days and sleepless nights.
So why do we keep doing it, and what does worry accomplish? Why is it worse in grief, and what can we do to finally break the cycle and stop the bad habit once and for all?
Lazy. Such a strange word in the way that it can be used so differently throughout our lives. A lazy coworker or teenager can be a terrible source of frustration but a lazy Sunday can be one of our greatest joys.
In grief, I find it works a little differently. So often I speak with people who tell me they feel lazy or identify as this new lazy person that they don’t recognize – so new from the go go go that they were used to before.
In this respect these aren’t people enjoying the leisure of a well deserved break, but instead a frustrating new side of themselves that they don’t understand and can’t see a way out of.
So first and foremost, let’s start by changing the language. Because I don’t think lazy in any of the ways we’re used to saying it works for someone who has had a loss. The circumstances are too different, too extreme, and a change of our language and perspective may just be what we need to make the change.
Continue reading Grief Making You Feel “Lazy”? Why It Happens & How To Help →
I was working with a Grief Coaching client the other day, and she said that while she was doing okay in general, and feeling that her life was mostly in order after the loss of her husband over 2 years ago, there was one feeling she just couldn’t shake: how lonely she continued to feel each day.
Loneliness is an epidemic in our country and is more pervasive and perhaps even more impactful than any physical virus. Why? Because for most grievers, feeling lonely can often bring with it feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Meaning each day that a person finds themselves in a lonely state they will feel even more powerless to change it.
To some degree, it makes sense. If we’re lonely after the loss of a spouse and we either haven’t been able or don’t intend to find another partner to share space with, we’ll continue to feel lonely forever. If we’ve lost a beloved parent, especially one we cared for or even lived with, we’ll never be able to feel anything but the loneliness of the void they left.
Let’s take a minute to break down some of the language and understand that being alone and feeling lonely are not the same thing. They absolutely can go together, and for someone who has lost someone they shared living space with, feeling lonely is almost 100% guaranteed to be experienced at some point while grieving.
But are we forever sentenced to be a victim of our circumstances? Or can we be alone, without feeling lonely?
Continue reading Lonely? A New Perspective On Time Alone →