February 2018

Grief and Isolation

We all need a little alone time now and then.  It is healthy to take a pause, reflect, and enjoy the peace and quiet of being in our own space.  This is true in normal day to day life, and even more so when we are grieving.  So where is the line between healthy alone time and unhealthy isolation?  It's a blurry line that is drawn in different places for each individual and based on the situation.  It changes.  And often we don't even realize that we stepped over it until we have been sitting too long on the wrong side.

This month we are sharing two articles written by two very different people who share what it felt like for them when they were isolating themselves from others.  They also talk about how they pulled themselves out of it and found ways to reconnect to those around them.  We hope that by sharing their stories we can remind others that isolation while grieving is not an uncommon event, but that finding those connections again will help you move forward in a happier and healthier way when it is time.

The Isolation of Grief

by Maria Kubitz

Now, I’ve never been a stranger to the isolation that comes from feeling like you just don’t fit into your surroundings. But I’ve never felt as isolated in my whole life as I have after the death of my daughter.

As a child, I was a shy, introverted person and often felt different than the people around me. At the time, I never really knew why. While I didn’t like the feeling of isolation, I didn’t understand what caused it so it just became a fact of life. Over the years my shyness has lessened, but I still prefer interacting with small groups or one-on-one in-person conversations, and still look forward to time alone. I’ve learned to accept it as my personality, and it works for me.

After my daughter died, my sense of isolation grew exponentially as a result of grief.

In the immediate aftermath of her sudden death, our house was filled with family and friends who were showing their support for us and helping us do what had to be done: planning the memorial, visiting the cemetery to secure a plot, working with our insurance company requirements, etc. They prepared meals, made sure we were left alone when we needed our space, gave us hugs, and shed tears with us. The phone rang often, and I found myself doing most of the talking when the other end of the phone was uncomfortably silent as people struggled to find the right words to say. Even in my numbness, I was able to understand the dilemma of “I’m sorry” doesn’t seem to be enough when someone has just lost a four-year-old little girl.

A few days after the memorial service, everyone went home. Less sympathy cards arrived in the mail until there were none. The phone stopped ringing. Our daughter’s preschool arranged a weekly meal donation and then my work did the same, which was a huge help…but eventually those stopped coming too. We were left alone to figure out how to pick up the pieces of our shattered hearts and shattered lives. We went to counseling and support groups. But we were forced to accept the fact that life was going to keep moving forward without our precious girl in it. It was devastating.

That devastation led me to a self-imposed isolation from a world I could no longer stand to be a part of. I didn’t want to talk to people who couldn’t understand my pain because I didn’t want to have to explain myself.   Read More...

The Heart and the Bottle

There is a wonder and magic to childhood. We don’t realize it at the time, of course... yet the adults in our lives do. They encourage us to see things in the stars, to find joy in colors and laughter as we play. But what happens when that special someone who encourages such wonder and magic is no longer around? We can hide, we can place our heart in a bottle and grow up... or we can find another special someone who understands the magic. And we can encourage them to see things in the stars, find joy among colors and laughter as they play.   Shop Here...

Tear Soup

A Recipe for Healing After Loss
If you are going to buy only one book on grief, this is the one to get. It will validate your grief experience, and you can share it with your children. You can leave it on the coffee table so others will pick it up, read it, and then better appreciate your grieving time. The “tips” section at the back of the book is rich with wisdom and concrete recommendations.   
Shop Here...

This Is What Social Isolation Looks Like

by What's Your Grief?

It’s winter.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  I’ve been socially isolating.  There, I said it.

I’m guessing I might not be alone.  Social isolation in grief is oh so common.  Social isolation in winter is oh so common.  Conversations about social isolation?  Not so common.  We reference social isolation a lot around here, but we have never had a whole post about it. Seeing as I have recently been in the depths of social isolation, it seemed time to change that.

First, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way.

Social isolation is not the same as alone time or solitude.

Social isolation is not introversion.

Okay, so what is social isolation? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

What Does Social Isolation Look Like?
This probably seems obvious.  Social isolation looks like isolating oneself from other people, right?  Right.  But it isn’t always that simple.  Sometimes social isolation isn’t just holing up at home and watching Netflix. It can be more nuanced.  Let’s use my own social isolation as a little case study, in the form of a little self-interview:

Have you left the house? 
Sure.  I have been going to work, running errands, going to the movies, going to yoga.  I see other people all the time.

Have you been answering your phone?
Uhhhh . . . . not exactly.

Have you been replying to text messages?
Hmmmm . . . yes.  Usually when someone finally texts me a question like "Hello?? Are you still alive??"

Have you gotten together with any friends or family socially?
Wellllllll . . .  I had dinner with someone a few weeks ago I think.  Or maybe it was a month ago.  And I always chat politely with the guy at the counter when I pick up my carry-out falafel.

Have you lied and said you weren’t feeling well to decline or cancel plans?
It wasn’t lying, I am mentally not feeling well!!!

Here is the thing about social isolation: there are cases that it looks like hiding in the house 24/7 with no outside contact.  But often it doesn’t look like that.  Many people who are socially isolating are like me – they are still getting out and doing things.   When you going to work or school, the gym, you kids’ events, etc so it is easy to say, “I’m not socially isolating, I’m out and about”.  But it is the content of that time that is important.  Seeing other people and engaging in meaningful social interaction are two very, very different things.  I might have gone to yoga and seen 20 other people there.  That doesn’t mean I am not socially isolating.  Sure, the yoga was great for my physical and mental health in other ways, but it wasn’t social engagement if I didn’t talk to anyone!   Read More...


Men, Grief, and Solitude

When men experience a loss, their first step may be to move inward into their solitude, where they can express themselves, confront what has happened, deal with feelings, and begin to sort out their next steps. Typically, this process helps them to eventually move beyond their solitude and into relationship again with the significant people in their lives. This book explores why this process may be important for men, tells stories of men coping with loss, and looks at gender difference in grief and the various doors into the core of grief.   Shop Here...

Couple Communication After a Baby Dies

Sherokee Ilse and Tim Nelson offer their individual perspectives as a man and woman following the deaths of their children, and share how they and their spouses met the challenges many couples face during that stressful time. Addressing one topic at a time, they each share their thoughts and memories and end with some suggestions for couples to consider. They have also incorporated insights from other couples who chose to share their experiences. Finally, in hopes of creating a meaningful dialogue, the book concludes with a mini-workbook where couples are posed questions on a variety of relevant issues. Provides a unique approach to this difficult issue.   Shop Here...

Quote of the Month

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.   Leo Buscaglia

But grief is a walk alone. Others can be there, and listen. But you will walk alone down your own path, at your own pace, with your sheared-off pain, your raw wounds, your denial, anger, and bitter loss. You'll come to your own peace, hopefully, but it will be on your own, in your own time.   Cathy Lamb

Mission Statement

MISSION: The Grief Watch mission is to offer spiritual, emotional and other support to persons who are grieving and the professional caregivers who assist them.  For more information about us please visit our info page.

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