Why do we isolate?
In times of grief, sometimes our first thought is to crawl into a figurative hole and cry by ourselves. We do this by binge watching TV while eating a gallon of ice cream. We do this by going to the bar and drinking until our card is maxed out. We do this by driving for miles and miles and hours and hours until we cannot afford the gas anymore. We refuse to answer the phone. We pretend we don’t hear the doorbell ring. The thought of church or parties or social events makes us sick to our stomach.
And the causes of our grief are numerous:
- Death of a family member or friend
- Loss of a job
- Being a victim of abuse
- A partner leaving
- Being betrayed by a someone who was trusted
- Struggling with depression, addiction, or other mental illnesses
- Health scares
- Moving to a new home
You can probably add more to that list. It is a fascinating truth of the human experience that although we are social creatures our first reaction in times of grief or extreme stress we often isolate.
Three things have happened this week in my immediate and extended family that were all stressful as well as being reasons to mourn. There was a time when I use to drown my feelings; hoping to forget and numb. Today, however, I fully experience all the emotion that comes with the various challenges life throws my way. And along the way, I have realized that I have learned some important behaviors; some actions I can take to keep from isolating.
First, I ask for prayers from other people. There are people in my life whom I trust. I know they are people of prayer. I go to them and ask them to pray for me. Because sometimes, I don’t have the words to speak. You may or may not be a person of prayer or faith. Let me recommend that you still find those who are and ask them to pray for you. Beyond the spiritual component of prayer, knowing that there are trustworthy, loving people caring for you can be a vital step in overcoming isolation.
Second, I talk to my partner. There was a time in my life when my wife did not hear what was going on in my life. Because I wouldn’t tell her. Now I do. You may or may not be in a committed relationship. If you are, part of that commitment needs to be sharing extreme joys and extreme pains. Intimacy demands openness. If you are not, I ask you to consider who your closest friends or family members are. Find that one person you can tell anything to and, well—tell them anything! And everything! We must speak out to others to avoid the temptation to go off and be by ourselves.
Third, I continue with my scheduled activities. This may not seem like a big deal, but it really can be. Being sad does not mean I should cancel my social activities. Being nervous is not a good excuse for missing work. Avoiding my friends’ or children’s activities will not make me better. I do understand that sometimes, our physical condition calls for rest and relaxation. Often, however, we are better off continuing with our schedules. If we don’t, we isolate. We hide. And we just make ourselves worse.
Are these suggestions a cure-all? No.
Are these suggestions the key to health, wealth, and success in all you do? No.
Will they cure your depression? No.
So why offer them? Because they are steps you can take to avoid isolating. When you are in the midst of grief, despair, or stress one of the worst things to do is isolate. Isolating potentially separates you from people who care about you. Isolating allows you to over-analyze with no other voices speaking into your life. It allows you to stay unchecked in your misery.
To break the burden of isolation, you need to find those few people who can keep you from being totally alone. Break the cycle of negative self-speak. Break the cycle of turning inward.
Find people to pray, share with your closest friend or partner, and do what you are scheduled to do.
And if you don’t who to begin with, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
That will keep me from isolating, as well.