As introverts, we can have a hard time dealing with major life events like loss. Unlike our extroverted cousins, we often don’t have large support networks of friends that we can confide in. What’s more, expressing our feelings to others can sometimes make us feel even less comfortable than when we were keeping them to ourselves.
When my grandfather passed away last year, I felt isolated. My isolation was ironic since people couldn’t stop offering to talk about it with me. As an introvert, this wasn’t the right way for me to grieve, and it didn’t help me deal with and understand loss in my own way. In a society that so often leaves out introverts, it’s no surprise that support for someone who has suffered loss is designed for extroverts. If you’ve suffered a loss recently and the way that society is telling you to deal with it isn’t right for you, here are three things that I learned on my journey that might help you, too:
1. Reading is your friend.
Like most introverts, I grew up getting lost in books. Although I don’t read as much fiction as I used to, the first thing I do when I want to learn something new is to go read about it. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably the same. Well, my advice for you is don’t stop here! There’s a lot to read about coping with grief, from counselors’ lessons to the personal experiences of others. Something that helped me the most with my grandfather’s passing was just reading the stories of others who had been in my position. Reading their thoughts and feelings helped me to feel part of something bigger without being suffocated by support.
2. Create a positive environment for yourself.
Like most introverts, I have a sort of den where I go to unwind and be alone. I’m not here to tell you how to spend your precious alone time, because that would be pretty hypocritical of me. I can tell you, however, that there are some things that you might not know about creating a positive environment for yourself.
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The biggest surprise for me was that lighting affects our mood. I used to keep a single dim lamp for light (and sometimes that’s still the right choice for me), but now I find that opening up the windows and letting in natural light helps me feel better. So if you’ve lost someone, don’t shut yourself away in a dark corner. Even though darkness might reflect your feelings, a well-lit space is what will help you feel better.
Another thing that you might not know is that what we smell can also affect our mood. I love to put out scented candles, but things like the smell of food cooking also slay me. I’ve also been experimenting with slow cooker scents. The point is that if you’re feeling down, something seemingly unrelated — like filling your apartment with nice smells — will help you feel just a bit better.
3. Don’t be afraid to get help.
Finally, we should talk about seeing a counselor. Grief doesn’t mean that you have to see a therapist. Many people will probably be fine without one, but I don’t know of anyone who was worse off for trying.
It took me way too long to admit that I needed professional help. I made up all sorts of excuses about why I shouldn’t go, but in the end, I was just ignoring what was best for helping me deal with my grief. I told myself that, since I was an introvert, it would be better for me not to talk to anyone, even a professional. I told myself that a therapist would only tell me to go socialize and give me other suggestions that would apply only to extroverts. I bought into the stigma surrounding people who seek out counseling.
In the end, none of these were good excuses. There’s no shame in seeking out professional help, and a good counselor ought to be able to give you advice with an understanding of your unique situation. I know I’m a better person today for getting help when I was grieving. Counseling helped me understand that it was okay to be sad, that my feelings were justified and nothing to be ashamed of. In some ways, therapy made me a stronger person than I would’ve been had my grandfather never died. My counselor helped me to define my own sense of self-worth that didn’t depend on the opinions of others, something that I think a lot of other introverts probably struggle with as well.
A lot of advice for dealing with loss is directed at extroverts and includes a lot of social therapy. These suggestions weren’t right for me when I lost my grandfather and, if you’re an introvert, they’re probably not right for you either. Good luck out there, and keep your head up.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert