How Does Unresolved Grief Impact Life?
Ashley Gersh LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Grief’s impact on our social life is profound. So much of life is altered after losing a loved one: routine, relationships, careers, etc. The impacts of grief can impact various aspects of our lives as the symptoms of grief manifest emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually, or financially. Losing a loved one can feel extremely distressing so it’s not surprising if small talk with friends, large gatherings, or going to parties is the last thing you want to do. During this jarring time, just getting out of bed might be a big deal compared to the energy you might’ve had before the loss.
Here are four signs to consider to inform you that grief is impacting your social life.
You’ve been isolating yourself from friends and family.
It’s common to feel physically fatigued from grief, so it’s normal if your capacity for social interactions is low at this time. So much energy is being used just to keep you functioning and afloat, especially in the beginning stages of grief. Your energy is needed to meet basic needs like getting out of bed, eating, and hygiene. After that, your energy might be needed to then complete funeral arrangements, or coordinate work responsibilities. This exhaustion can make social interactions difficult and small talk can feel challenging.
You find yourself underachieving or overachieving at school or work.
Engaging with others might bring up the possibility of having to bring up the vulnerable reality that you recently lost your loved one. This might be too raw to confront in conversation for you. While you may have an inner circle of support that can comfort you in that grief, newer social activities or interactions might feel too raw and overwhelming. The avoidance of this sadness and grief might lead to throwing yourself into your work or school responsibilities, or, on the other hand, avoiding them altogether. One might be underachieving especially when socializing feels challenging and exhaustion makes focusing difficult.
You’ve noticed an increase in aggression, irritability, or resentment.
Grief makes you confront the reality that life is short and you might naturally self-reflect on your identity or beliefs. This might also lead you to examining your current relationships. You might reflect on what hasn’t been working that’s leading to your feelings or irritation or resentment and relationships where boundaries might need to be set. Maybe you tolerated certain behaviors that you’re realizing are not conducive to reciprocal, healthy relationships you are wanting now. There may also be secondary losses and grief when learning who can and who cannot show up and witness the pain of your grief.
You’ve noticed an increase in forgetfulness as it relates to scheduled events or appointments.
You might be experiencing brain fog from the exhaustion of grieving. The reality that your loved one has died becomes the focal point of your life, which makes it hard to follow current events or remember scheduled appointments. This jarring realization that life is still moving on without your loved one might make you feel disconnected to your community.
You are not alone if you’re going through or related to any of these experiences. It can be extremely unsettling navigating back into a world that is different now. You’re processing the loss of your loved one while also processing the changes in relationships with those still alive, your routine, identity, careers, and more that the loss has impacted. That is a lot of undertaking. We grieve as many times as we come in contact with the loss. When something happens that we wish we could call them up and tell them about, or a time when we would have typically asked for their advice, or a milestone that they can’t witness. Be kind to yourself over and over again as the pain resurfaces. You may want to withdraw to escape the hurt, but it’s important however, not to isolate. Individual and/or group therapy services can be a great place to start as you work towards showing yourself compassion during this time.