If you’re an introvert like me, you find it hard to share strong emotions even in the best of times. This presents a problem when we’re faced with grief, which is the worst. If left alone, we will choose to close the drapes and hole up until grief is gone. The problem is, grief isn’t going to leave without work.
Evelyn and I were radically different in our expressions of emotions. She could freely share 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.
There are several reasons why I shouldn’t be writing about grief and emotions. First, I’m male, 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 at the table with 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.
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 to anyone at any time.
Even if people don’t know what to say, they can bring their presence and their compassion.
Then grief hit, the doors on my emotions were blown open, and I couldn’t control the flood that surged through. 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 or disgust when I haltingly tried to share my anger, despair, and loneliness. Then they came back to listen again, which surprised me even more.
The beginning of grief 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, especially if they’re young and have never lost someone close. They probably won’t know because we don’t talk about grief in our society. While we would dearly like answers, what we need more are people to be present and listen. As introverts, we don’t want to chit chat about the weather or sports. We don’t want polite. We want what is honest and what is real.
We exist in this world in relationships with others.
If you’re an introvert, find a way to share what’s going on inside with someone else. If people offer to come over for coffee, take them up. They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t mean it.