Grief and depression can be a lonely place, yet it is so important to surround yourself with people. I am, by nature, an introvert. Not painfully so, but I like my alone time. Solitude rejuvenates me. I get exhausted being with a large number of people. People often describe me as quiet and hard to get to know, when really, I am very self-aware and learn by watching. This is not to say I am shy. Shyness is a fear of people or social situations where as being introverted people appreciate being around people but find ‘small talk’ tedious. I like to get into the nitty gritty, deep, meaningful conversations. To be in a crowd of people making small talk is difficult, but finding a corner in that busy room and talking about heart matters rejuvenates me.
So, how do you deal with grief and depression when you’re an introvert and you need people around you? And even thinking about extroverts, like Jason. In the past two years he’s become more of an introvert too. We sometimes come home after a fantastic day out with people and we both have to work on not falling asleep on the way home. When we get home we were beyond exhausted. We are learning that balance is so important.
Because we had only lived here for 7 months before Mikail passed away, we didn’t have a tight group of friends who truly knew us, to support us from nearby. This was no one’s fault. It just was the situation. Making heart friends doesn’t follow a timeline and usually takes longer than just a few months. In a way this was really, really difficult, but in our age of technology there are so many ways to support long distance. Our ‘life group’ from out west supported us via daily texts, phone calls, visits, meals (yes, meals from afar, can you believe it? There are so many possibilities), and unconditional support.
There have also been a couple of very committed friends who have been a life-line via text. Checking in on us. Asking the hard questions. Putting up with my sadness and never giving up. Always there, one text away. This has truly been a huge, huge blessing.
As important as this long distance support is to us, for nearly two years we prayed for local friends who could be real with us about their joys and struggles in life and weren’t afraid to share those joys and struggles, and who weren’t afraid of our grief and muck either. Who would laugh hard with us and cry with us if needed. We needed to be with others who weren’t afraid to share their life with us. (It’s funny how people shy away from those who grieve when in reality, the ones who are grieving need others so desperately). Large groups are exhausting to us, so a small intimate group that intentionally does life together was what we desperately needed. And guess what? God showed up and provided. When the months turned into a year and then nearly two years, we wondered if it would ever happen, but God provides. He truly does. Our Friday nights with friends have now become the highlight of our week. Oh how we’ve missed ‘doing life’ with others.
Having a doctor, counselor, and pastor who are on your side is so important. I think that often people tend to give up when they feel their needs aren’t met, but we are learning that you can’t. You keep on searching until you find someone with whom you have shared beliefs and values. We struggled to find a doctor who wasn’t afraid of grief and the long lasting impact it has on people–especially children. But we didn’t give up and we are blessed to have found one close by. In the span of the past 2 1/2 years I have seen four different counselors and each one helped bring healing on this journey in their own way. One helped us learn about the grief journey. One helped us understand grief and the work-place. Another has helped me understand the affect of grief on the brain, bringing biblical truths and science together. While a fourth has helped bring understanding into the trauma aspect of our situation. I remember being frustrated that I felt we’d come to a dead end in the road of grief after seeing the first counselor. We received so much knowledge and wisdom, but there were aspects that were left untouched and I felt like we were left hanging. Now I see that each one brought with them wisdom to one particular aspect of grief for us. Each was important in their own way.
When I hear people frustrated about the lack of support they get from their doctor or counselor or pastor, I am now reminded that we cannot give up. You keep on searching until you find someone that brings wisdom and knowledge and speaks life into the places that need help and healing. God provides.
Yes, I am an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need people. I need people desperately, just like everyone else. We need to surround ourselves with a support system that walks with us on this journey. I think that is true for all of us in all aspects of life, grief or depression aside.