When Isolation Sets In

I feel the need to comment on the words and meaning of Please, Don’t Ask Me by Rita Moran, this morning.

As I mentioned yesterday I had a counselling session, and we touched on how other people react around me. Basically, how I see myself and how I’m handling my grief is not necessarily the same as how other people view things. I always knew this, but I never realised how vast opinions might be until a few days ago. I’m not going to go into details, but let’s just say that a discussion made me step back and think about things for a while. Then, due to confusion on my part, I discussed this with my counsellor.

I told her that since the funeral, people (family and friends – online and personal) have drifted away, leaving my immediate family feeling isolated and alone in our grief. At a crucial time in my life, I feel that I’m forced to deal with everything I’m feeling and experiencing by myself. I feel that I’ve been abandoned. At this time, I need those people’s support more than ever.

This feeling has been with us for a while. I thought it would improve as the weeks go by, but it only worsens. I find myself asking, “why would people turn their backs on me?” I can only guess at the answer.

Maybe I’m driving them away with my mood swings and irrational behaviour. But wouldn’t you think that if these people really cared, they’d make allowances and stick close anyway? Or is that an unreasonable thought?

Maybe they just don’t know how to act or what to say. They might want to help, but can’t and maybe avoiding me makes them feel less hopeless. But avoiding me isn’t helping me. It adds to my problems, because I’ve lost a son and now I’m losing friends.

Maybe they were never real friends to begin with. Well, in this case, I’m better off without them anyway.

Yesterday, my counsellor asked me a question. “If you had the opportunity, what would you say to these people?”

I’d ask them to be patient with me. I’d ask them to read the piece I’ve linking to at the beginning of this post and know that those words are exactly how I feel. I’d request that they take special note of the last five lines. I need for them to be themselves, to talk about everything and anything including Barry, because he will always mean everything in the world to me and talking about him confirms that he existed. I’d beg for them to stay close and support me, not turn their backs and pretend that nothing bad has happened. I need for them to ask me about my feelings and acknowledge the struggles I’m going through. Yes, I might get upset. I might even cry. But at least I would know that people really care and in a small way that knowledge would release the burden I carry.

For me, it’s important to keep Barry’s memory alive. Don’t fight me on this, help me. Don’t avoid the subject because you think you will upset me, talk about him to me. Tell me about your memories of my son. Share stories with me. With time, the crying will stop and I’ll be thankful that you helped me remember every aspect of Barry’s life. I need this more than anything else.


7 thoughts on “When Isolation Sets In

  1. Frances aka Jondra

    I have to rush off to work in a few minutes. I just found your website this morning and wanted to jot down a few words from my heart. The isolation you are feeling is not your imagination. It is real. I’m not sure what causes it in everybody. Some of my friends thought that my father killed himself because he was weak and didn’t want to hurt me so they just didn’t say anything. Some of the people around me thought he was in hell and they’d better keep their mouths shut or be prepared to defend themselves and not just scripturally. Some people are just afraid of emotions and can’t address even their own let alone yours. My co-workers two-year old son died in a car crash and people told her God wanted another angel for His garden. All it did was make her hate God.
    Please know I cry with you.

  2. Heather

    Be patient with your friends, Karen. They care about you but are probably unsure how to show it in the way you need. You’re not irrational, and your mood swings are NORMAL. People pull away because they don’t know how to support you, or if they’re saying the right/wrong thing. People pull away because they’ve had a bad experience with death themselves and it’s hard for them to relive it through your grief. People pull away because they feel you may want some space of your own, to be with your immediate family only to work on the issues… if you don’t want them to give you the space, if you want them to be present, don’t be afraid to ask friends to be an ear, be with you, come and visit. It may not seem like you should have to ask them, but they’re as unsure of “what happens next” as you are. Be patient with your friends and try not to be angry or push whatever efforts they make away, even if their efforts seem more lackluster as time goes by. They love you even if you can’t see it. Keep asking them for help. *hug* Email them a copy of this post!

    Regarding fear of saying the wrong thing: I fear I already have! I fear I will in the future. I fear that if I keep talking I’ll make it worse. And I’m probably not even anything close to what you would consider a close friend! But I won’t go away (how much farther away could *I* be, huh?), and I’ll keep reading and I’ll keep sending you periodic emails. Don’t doubt. Be strong. Be patient with others and yourself. Your friends and family love you!

  3. I’m still here, Karen. I care, and I’m not planning on going anywhere. You know, I’m generalising, but I’ve noticed that nowadays people get caught up with the pace of life and get wrapped up in themselves. Even though their problems may be trivial, they afford them great importance and are less sensitive to the sufferings of those around them.

    I’ve recently been wrapped up in Kiko. This is not a problem on the scale of what you’re going through but his health issues have been affecting me. Yet someone I know has ignored every test he has been for and has insisted on agonising to me about whether she has made the right holiday plans. I’ve been staggered by the selfishness. It’s made me realise the importance of what you’re saying – that I need to open my eyes and be considerate to the people around me. Everybody should do this! What is really a problem? Missing the bus? Being short-changed? No. Not even remotely. We shouldn’t be afraid of listening to each other and acknowledging what is serious.

  4. Frances, thank you for commenting. The “in hell” part of your post is something I can truly relate to and I have a post almost ready concerning that topic.

    Tina, thank you for the hugs.

    Heather and Helen, my comments in the post were not meant to be accusing or to place blame. The purpose of the post was really to help those people who know us to understand what we want from them. Which is nothing more than to be their normal selves, and to talk about everything without fear. Yes, we might get upset, but that doesn’t matter. It’s part of the journey we are making.

  5. Karen, I know what you mean. Having had four deaths in the family in the last five years we’ve noticed a consistent pattern: at the time of the loss, people flock to you. They bring food, they run errands, they sit with you, call you, etc. etc. In those first days (or weeks) they are very supportive. And then–when all the “business” of death is done, the funeral/memorial is over, etc. and you are settling down to the “job” of figuring out what life is going to be like now–they disappear.

    I think that it is mainly that *they go back to their own, mostly unchanged, lives.* Yes, some people don’t know what to say or how to act around the bereaved. They may well be uncomfortable. They may feel that *you* will be uncomfortable around them. But I think it’s mostly the fact that *their* lives are still going on just the same, and although they are more than willing to take time to help you at what they see as the time of crisis, that time for them is finite–it passes and it’s over. What they don’t realize is that the hardest part for those who have suffered the loss–adjusting to this new reality–is just beginning.

    But if it’s friends or family–before we write the relationship off–we have to talk to them. Tell them how we are feeling, that we’d rather have them around saying the wrong thing than not have them around at all. Tell them that we’re aware we may not act “normal” at times but we hope they’ll try to ride out the storm with us. If they still seem to avoid us, then perhaps they just aren’t capable of dealing with our pain, and we’ll have to let them go–at least for a while. It’s still early days, for everyone. Give it time.

  6. Sherry, I will never write-off family and close friends. I couldn’t. Besides from the fact that there aren’t many of us, I love them all too much to do that.

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