Chapter 3: Challenges you may face
Every conversation felt so mundane after she died. People were talking about the news, and shopping, and holiday plans, and it felt so far from my own reality. None of that stuff really mattered to me anymore.
Sometimes I get asked if I’m married, and it’s hard to know how to answer. I usually tell them, “Yes, I was married, and my husband died,” but if it’s someone I just met or a complete stranger, I sometimes say “no.” I don’t always have the energy to share my heartbreak and answer all of the inevitable questions that come with telling the truth.
Social situations, such as meeting with friends, returning to work, or going to a community event, might feel daunting to you. Whether it is your first time with others since the death or you are meeting new people, the thought of being social may seem overwhelming or have little appeal. You might want to decline invitations or retreat from social interactions to avoid potentially awkward conversations or painful situations.
When you do start to reconnect with others, you may feel that you have to brace yourself because you’re uncertain about what they might say, what questions they might ask, and whether or not they will be sensitive to your loss.
While you may have worries about being social again, you might also feel energized by being out and about and around others. Connecting socially can be a chance for support and conversation; a much-needed change of scenery; a distraction or break from the grief; or an opportunity for enjoyment.
When you are grieving, your perspective on life can sometimes shift. Things and interests that were once important to you may lose their meaning or take on a different one. You may feel that you have changed as a person or that your relationships have changed in the wake of your loss. Some interests and relationships may fade while others may be strengthened.
What may help
- Follow your own instincts, and take your time. Whether you say “no” or “yes” is up to you.
- Plan ahead, but be flexible. It’s okay to change your mind, even at the last minute.
- Rather than turning down invitations because you aren’t sure how you might feel once you’ve accepted them, let others know that you need their understanding if you need to cancel or leave.
- Try easing in gently by first meeting with close friends or people you trust, and then expand your circle and events as you feel ready.
- Practise your responses. Having a quick answer to an awkward question can help to end a difficult conversation when it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time for you.
- Surround yourself with people you trust. Ask a friend to go with you to a social situation so that you feel supported.
- Connect with others on your own terms. You can choose the place, the timing, the duration of your visit, and who attends. Having control over these details may help you to feel more comfortable is social situations.
- If you are returning to work, make a plan. Speak with your manager or a trusted colleague about what might help you in your return to work. When planning, consider your work location, your work schedule, and communication with colleagues.
- Support groups can be a way of connecting with others who are living with grief after suicide. They can help to reduce isolation and also provide a setting for safer social interaction.