When Introverts Grieve

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Introverts already have a hard time dealing socially with other people.  They can find their energy drained by interactions with other people, social situations, etc.  They recharge their batteries by withdrawing to solitude.   It doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like to engage socially with others, or try to avoid it like the plague.  It simply means that when they do socialize, it takes a lot out of them.  Therefore, introverts will not overwhelm their schedules with lots of plans.  They are very choosy about what they say yes to, and how often they say yes.  They are the most forgiving, of your friends, when you have to cancel.  They are very intentional with their time, and recognize that they need time off.

It would surprise many of friends to hear me say that I am an introvert… but it is the truth.  I’m very selective about my friends, cautious with my time, and can enjoy the complete silence of an empty house.  Even though when I AM out, I can talk your ear off and have a great time.

One of the most difficult times for an introvert, in my experiences, is when we are grieving.   Loss is hard on anyone, but for introverts it is also exhausting.  We appreciate your phone calls, messages, emails, cards, etc.  We are thankful for your offers of help and concern for our well being.   In dealing with death, we are already overwhelmed.  We are overwhelmed by our own emotions.  We are trying to navigate conversations with immediate and extended family members, hosting out of town guests, planning funeral or memorial arrangements.  We are making plans, writing obituaries, or having to think about what we will say at the funeral.  It’s a lot to contend with.

Then we are compounded by phone calls from well meaning people WHOM WE LOVE.  Truth is… introverts do not want to talk about what has happened any more than they have to.  We are not ready yet to answer questions or hear the same words over and over again.  It is NOT because we don’t want to talk to you right now.  It is because it is incredibly hard.  We just can’t do it.  Our conversations will be short, we may not have all of the answers to your questions yet, and frankly we may not even be emotionally or mentally ready to do so… and we need you to be okay with that.

So, how do you show an introvert you care?

Please do not just show up at our door, no matter how upset we are.  We need our solitude right now, and depending on who it was that passed away … we may need to cleave to our immediate family.  If we need someone to come and sit with us, trust me… we know we can call you.  We know you will be there. 

Dropping off meals is a sweet gesture, but we may not be up for the visit.  And I know you think you will just drop off and go… but we all know that a visit will happen.  If you feel like helping in this way, send a gift card for a local pizza place (even Little Caesars for $5.55 ready to go pizzas).  It doesn’t have to be an expensive meal.

Phone calls are a personal touch, but personal can be hard right now.  A quick text, a card in the mail, or an email w/o expectation of an immediate response is better.  It gives us time to respond when we are up to it.  Do not think that we see this gesture as cold or unsympathetic…. we appreciate it more than you realize.

Introverts cope differently than you would expect, the time we may need to lean on you may be weeks or months later, after the dust settles.  Be there for us then, pray for us now.

Introverts appreciate practicality and solutions during a time of grieving.  If you work for a hotel and can help us with discounted accommodations for family flying in to town, that is better than flowers or a meal.  With the recent passing of my Father In Law, there was a specific task that needed to be handled & we had no idea how to handle it.  I reached out to a friend and asked her help in the matter.  This to me was a relief that we didn’t have to navigate it alone, and that there was someone level headed doing the thinking for us.  

Finally, I would suggest offering specific help.  I’m just as guilty of saying to someone “Let me know if I can help in anyway”…. because we love that person, we want to help, but we don’t know how.  It’s a genuine offer.   However, having been on the other side of the situation, our brains don’t always know how to answer that question.  So instead of offering a blanket answer, offer what you know you can.   These are merely suggestions, and not applicable to our current situation:

  • Does your mother in law need someone to mow the lawn over the next few weeks?  My husband said he would be happy to come by.
  • Until things get settled, if anything needs fixing around the house, let the church know.  We’ll send our handy man to help you.
  • Since our kids go to school together, once you go back to work, I’m happy to pick your kids up from school until you can figure out a plan.
  • I’m happy to watch the kids when you guys have to make arrangements.  (Or – I’m happy to keep the kids while you are at the memorial/funeral, if that would make it easier for you.)
  • If you ever just don’t want to be alone, call me… I’ll bring the popcorn and the movies.

My husband and I were just talking tonight about this subject, a family friend called today (my Father in Law passed on Monday).  My husband appreciated that our friends have not been ringing our phone off the hook. It gives him time to process, and I knew exactly what he meant.  It also shows just how well people know us, because this is not a post of complaint.  Our friends have been absolutely amazing in giving us space and time as a family.

This post is just to share a little insight into the mind of the introverts in your life, when they are grieving.  KNOW that we love you.  We KNOW that you are thinking about us.  We KNOW that you care, and are willing to help.  Just know that more now than ever, we need that peace that comes from solitude, to re-energize ourselves for the heavy tasks ahead of us in the coming days and weeks.

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#Write31Days Challenge – Post 27 – God on My Mind

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Some days are just tough, mentally we are at our max capacity.  Our stress levels are high, our emotions are running wild, and our energy is running empty. 

Then there are the days that are just, busy.  It’s not that you are overwhelmed emotionally or even physically, but it just seems like every second of your day has been claimed by some thing or some one.

On days likes these it can be hard to put in some serious Bible Study, we either don’t have the time or the energy to put the mental energy into study.  Our prayers may be short and sweet lists, or even the sigh we exhale as we say “God help me!” as we drop our sobbing eyes into our hands.

Speaking for myself,  I know that when it comes to spiritual practices …. I have good days & bad.  There are days I can accomplish in depth study, first thing in the morning, that will carry me throughout the day.  I also have days where I am on the go, all day long, and it isn’t until those final moments I am putting my head to the pillow that I can stop and pray.

Over the years, I have learned a few tips to help keep God on my mind throughout the day.  I may not getting in 30 minutes of Bible Study or even 5 minutes of dedicated prayer time. 

  • Play worship music on the radio while in the car picking up the kids, or while bustling around the house cleaning.  Often Christian radio stations will read verses throughout the day, replay Pastor’s sermons, or interview of Bible teachers that are worth listening to as well.  Audiobooks and Podcasts are other great options.
  • Pray as you clean, over what you are cleaning.  Be thankful for indoor plumbing as you clean your toilet.  Pray over your children as you fold their laundry.  Pray for your husband’s safety while working, as you prepare to make that doctor’s appointment for him.  Volunteering at the church?  Pray on your drive for the church, the Pastor, or the ministry you are serving on.  In the Parent Pick Up line at your child’s school, pray for the school.  At the gym?  Pray for your health.  At the grocery, pray for those who are going hungry.  As you pay your mortgage online, give thanks for your home and pray for the homeless. 
  • Pray throughout your day.  Instead of sitting down in the morning going through a lengthy prayer session, instead pray throughout the day as thinks pop into your head.
  • Display scripture on walls of your house, either in picture frames or using wall decals. These can be life verses or family mission verses.  Even if you don’t have time to study your Bible that morning, you can focus your eyes on those as you move about your home.  Then can also be fun verses like the ones I have for certain rooms of the house.  In my kitchen the verse on the wall is Psalm 107:9, and in the bathroom is verse Psalm 24:4.  
  • Now this one may make you giggle a bit, however in our old house … I got really creative.   We placed a white board right across from the toilet in our guest bathroom.  Every week I would write a new piece of scripture.  We kept no magazines or newspapers in there, so the only reading material our guests had was from the Word.  We referred to it as “Coming the Throne” (I am convinced God has a sense of humor).
  • Use uninterrupted times to really speak to God.  I find that I am most vulnerable when I am totally alone, away from the noise of the house.  Some of my greatest conversations with God have taken place in the shower, or by turning off the car radio and just speaking with the Lord. 
  • Bring your Bible or Bible Study with you to waiting rooms at doctor’s offices, or even when you are lunching with a friend – particularly if you are generally a person who arrives early.
  • Turn your lunch dates with friends into something more than gossip sessions, and make that your Bible Study time.

All of that said, I would also suggest doing what you can to reduce some of the hectic activity from your life.  Lysa TerKeurst has a great book “The Best Yes” that really helps you take a hold of your life, so that you can carve out time for God, not be overwhelmed by your schedule, and learn to give your best to the things that are most important.

And finally, should you find yourself in a space where you are struggling emotionally or physically with life… please, PLEASE…. see your doctor.  There are many disorders that steal our minds, energy, drive, and make us feel like we simply CAN’T.  Have your primary care doctor rule out physical ailments, and if you need to see a Christian Counselor who can help with the mental aspects.  There is nothing wrong with seeking help or using medication to get you through, and a good Christian counselor can help you do so while leaning on the truth of God’s love.

#Write31Days – Post 14 – The Daily Grind

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Ten years ago or more, I couldn’t understand “invisible illnesses”.  They were those things that I heard people complain about, but thought to myself: But they look totally fine.  Invisible illnesses are the ones that steal things from you, but the rest of the world can’t see.  And, there are a lot of them.

Most invisible illnesses are not even fully understood, we know very little about them.  They hide in plain site, and often go undiagnosed as we attribute our symptoms as aging.  Or, they are misdiagnosed by doctors … and in many cases they are just simply dismissed.   People with “invisible illnesses” are often considered hypochondriacs, making things up or making excuses for things they just don’t want to do.  Some are given psychiatric care and medications for anxiety and depression.

This lack of treatment or mistreatment leaves the person no better than they started, and sometimes worse because the medications add to the problem instead of solving it.  I didn’t understand invisible illness myself, and definitely could have been put into the camp of people who made cheeky comments about those who claimed to have one.

Then, I was diagnosed.

When you look at me, what you see is a person who looks totally normal.  I’m not a svelt super model, long since have been the days where I could shop in the juniors section.  What you don’t see is the war that goes on in my body every single day.

At first I dismissed my symptoms, thinking the toll of three children and getting older was to blame for how I felt.  I thought it would be as simple as changing my diet, hitting the gym, taking a multi-vitamin and I would start feeling better.  I just got worse.

My memory was shot.  I used to be the type of person who could exist without a calendar, recalling details with ease.  Now I was having to write down everything. As a trained actress, I learned to memorize & recall information quickly.  Now I live with a phone full of alarms  to even remember to do the things that are apart of my DAILY life.  If I don’t write it down, count on the fact I won’t remember it.

My brain is in a constant state of fog.  Some days it is as if someone just pulled the plug on my brain and all the information drained out.  I can be listening to a speaker or reading a book, and find it absolutely impossible to comprehend what they are saying.  This is why I am a fastidious note taker.  I need to be able to read through it later to comprehend it, when I am in a clearer state of mind.

My energy is a small percentage of what it once was, some days it is a battle to just exist.  I can see the things that need to get done, but I just can’t.  There are days where my skin literally hurts to be touched.  There are days where my body is swollen to the point it aches.  Add in night sweats, body tremors, fatigue and exhaustion and it doesn’t get much better.

For my particular disease there are over 300 possible symptoms.  I have a prescription medication that I will take for the rest of my life.  I have 14 supplements that I take due to deficiencies in my body.  I see several doctors to address the various ways my disease impacts my body.  I’m giving vials of blood every three months to see what is working, what isn’t, and what has changed.  Dosages increased.  Supplements added or removed.  Try this.  Try that.  Knowing that no matter what I will never get back to where I was, I will never be cured, or 100% better.  Instead I’m just trying to make the best of what I have been dealt.

Some days, it takes me really … really low.   But, then there will be spikes when I have energy, and my outlook on life is a lot more positive.  I try not to burden others with my illness, and I do believe in part it is because I know they simply will never totally get it.

It’s a daily battle.  It’s my daily grind.

Will today be a good day?  A bad day?  Will I give into those feelings and symptoms, or will I push through them?  Is today a day I just need to stop and relax?

I have prayed for answers, and for healing.  I believe with all sincerity in miraculous healing.  Yet, I have never been angry with God that I am still sick.  It doesn’t diminish my faith or increase my doubts about God.  In fact, it strengthens them.  My faith is stronger, because I am not relying on myself.

My Pastor’s wife once called me “high capacity”.  If you talk to others who know me, they will agree with that.  I am a person who gets things done, quickly, and efficiently.  I can multitask with the best of them.  As much as I am a creative person, I also have a gift for administration.  I’m usually the person you want on your team, I thrive on deadlines, and I always give my best.

If this is how they see me now, since being diagnosed, can you only imagine what I was like before I was sick?   It would make your head spin.

The difference between now, and then, is that today I do not work in my own strength.  Everything that I do… is in HIS strength.  He gives me the energy, drive, and motivation.  He gives me the physical strength and mental capacity.  When I look at what is accomplished I can ONLY give HIM the glory.  My flesh is weak, tired, and broken.  His power is perfected in my weakness.   My joy comes from the Lord.  My peace is from Christ.  My strength is from the Holy Spirit.

My thorn keeps me meek, humbles me… so that I do not exalt myself and what I am capable of.  Instead I keep my eyes on the Lord, where my strength comes from.  I know that He goes before me, and comes up behind.  I know that He shields me and protects me.  He will give me charge to battle, or call me to lie and rest.  He is the one who provides the words, lays out my path, and guides my journey.  I simply say:  Here I am Lord, use me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me– to keep me from exalting myself! 8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.…