Years ago, a grieving woman said to me that she wouldn’t attend a family gathering because, “I don’t want to infect them with how I feel”.

What a powerfully sad, and truthful thing to say.

It’s very common for grieving people to feel that they’ll ‘make others feel miserable too’ if they talk about their experience, and their sadness.

It’s uncomfortably common for those around a grieving person to avoid all mention of their deceased loved one, and not to ask how the grieving person is.

Grieving involves heavy emotions. It’s unavoidable. Grieving people don’t intend to be miserable.

The grieving woman who said the powerfully sad and truthful thing about her reluctance to attend a family gathering speaks for the millions of grieving people who discover that their grief is so weighty and unbearably painful and sorrowful that it prevents us from being the sociable person we used to be.

Grief isolates us. It takes us out and away from what we used to do, and away from the person we used to be. Sometimes we can barely recognise ourselves in our grief. Inevitably, grief changes us.

But what needn’t be inevitable is how others respond to us in our grief whether these are close friends or family members not directly involved in the bereavement.

We feel isolated in our grief when our friends avoid mentioning our beloved and asking how we’re faring.

We feel isolated in our grief when we feel that to say anything about our experience would be more than friends could bear.

The silence of others around us and our grief makes us feel that we’re living in a different dimension to them, on another planet. Their silence shuts us down, makes us silent.

The avoidance of grieving people by friends and colleagues makes me think that instead of Bereavement Support Groups there should really be Bereavement Education Groups for those who’ve not yet experienced a major loss in their life. Such Groups would educate and inform people so that they feel more confident and knowledgeable in talking with their grieving friends and colleagues about their loss, and perhaps lending a listening ear too.How good would that be!

Being sociable is an opposite of being and feeling isolated.Grieving is exhausting at every level, depleting our reserves of patience and tolerance of those social situations we once found pleasant.

Being sociable on a small scale demands a certain level of determination and energy. On the one hand we can only be as sociable as we have energy for. On the other hand, getting out more can also increase our energy levels as we begin to feel reconnected (on some level at least) to friends and the world around us.

We may need lots of encouragement and practical support to help us to be a little bit sociable in our grieving state, and that’s ok. What isn’t ok is that we retreat into ourselves and into our grief more and more, cutting ourselves off from everyone and everything. Friends and colleagues need to be alert to this possibility and help us out here.

What can we do to be less isolated in our grief?

  1. Identify those friends and colleagues with whom we can talk freely about everything, especially those we can call at short notice and cry “Help!”
  2. Hard as this might be, talk about our beloved with our friends and colleagues. This means initiating a conversation when, maybe, our instinct is to say nothing, to stay silent (and isolated). Often, it’s when we initiate thatconversation that our friends are more likely to join in. We’ve given them permission to talk with us about our beloved.
  3. Consider joining a local Bereavement Support Group, either in person, or just online. While these groups do have some disadvantages, one of their key benefits is to provide a safe place where we can talk about our beloved, and our grief experience with others who’ll understand and not need everything to be explained. Solidarity eases our isolation. Who knows, we might make new friends?
  4. Attend some social gatherings, even for a short time. Putting low-key and relatively undemanding social events in the calendar can have benefits, even if we don’t really want to go along to them. Make sure that we go along with a good friend/family member to support us. The key is to be aware of what we feel we can manage, and to choose our events accordingly.

Then take the courageous step of reaching out to me to begin your healing journey.