Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Introverts and Grief

If you’re an introvert like me, you find it hard to share strong emotions even in the best, or worst, of times. This presents a problem when we’re faced with grief. If left alone, we will close the drapes and hole up until grief is gone. But grief isn’t going to leave without the help of others. If you’re male, this presents an even bigger problem.

My wife and I were radically different in our expressions of emotions. She could freely express whatever she was feeling at any moment. Me? Not so much. You could order take-out and have it delivered before I figured out what I was feeling. You have to ask how I’m feeling, and then wait.

There are several reasons why I shouldn’t be writing about emotions and grief. First, I’m a man, and talking about emotions almost seems taboo, like I’ve walked into a women’s yoga class. Of the grief blogs and writings that I value, most of them are written by women, and I would love to sit across the table from any one of them and share our discoveries and frustrations.

Second, I did not learn how to talk about feelings when I was growing up. My family wasn’t into that, partially because my great grandparents were German and Scottish, people not known for being expressive in nuanced ways. So I learned to be reserved, almost stoic, and this frustrated Evelyn to no end because she expected everyone to share their emotions like she did.

Third, on the Myers-Briggs scale, my personality type is INFJ. The “I” indicates Introvert, which means that I would not choose to talk about my emotions, any of them, to anyone.

Then grief hit, the doors on my emotions were blown open, and I could not control the flood that surged through me. People came and encouraged me to talk about what was going on inside, and to my surprise, they did not run away screaming in horror, disgust or boredom when I haltingly tried to share my anger, despair, and a bucket of assorted emotions. They came back to listen again, which surprised me even more. Now I’m more casual sharing emotions as they come, even the wibbly-wobbly ones.

If you’re an introvert, find a way to share what’s going on inside you with someone else.

Grief is easier to bear if you share it. Every couple of days confide in a friend about how you’re doing. Or line up a group of seven people who will come over the same day each week. Now is the time to share because people expect you to be emotional. Two years from now they won’t be so willing to listen.

Don’t expect your friends to know what to say that helps, especially if they’re young. They probably won’t because we don’t talk about grief in our society. While we would like answers, we don’t need them. What we need is for people to support us and listen, so that we don’t feel alone in what feels like an intensely personal experience.

If people offer to come over for coffee, take them up. They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t mean it.

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