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Not Quite Sure How To Handle Social Situations


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Since my brother passed in January I feel shut down. I was a social person before, going out with my boyfriend and our friends. Now even a trip to the grocery store send me to a panic. The only place I am ok at is work, but I kinda have to be in order to make a living. Went out with my boyfriend and his parents today and I just cant seem to form words. Im there, but my mind slips away, I don't catch the humour in peoples jokes until its explained and I just find myself smiling along like a fool without any input. I feel weird and uncomfortable. I was promoted at work recently after it happened and the new people surrounding me don't know what Im dealing with. I don't how to talk, or when to bring it up and I cant stand the sympathectic glances and the constant are you ok? I never feel ok. I used to get more angry but as Ive learned ( none of my old friends talk to me anymore) that kinda pushes people away. I want to be that person I was, but every opportunity that presents itself to me I either dis-invite myself or leave after five minutes. Drugs were a factor in his death so I will not take anything, multiple people have suggested Prozac or other antidepressant/anti-anxiety but I refuse. Im too afraid to even take Tylenol. How do you cope with this loneliness?

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Hi Caitlynadams,

I think you are right that the experience of grief changes our personalities. At least while grief visits us. In the 9 months since you lost your brother, you have changed from being an outgoing and very sociable person to being anxious and awkward in many social situations. I don't think there is a simple recipe for getting back into your old self. But most of us here have also been crushed by grief and experienced similar kinds of breakdown in our social relationships. I can describe how my grief disrupted my normal social life, and explain how I recovered.

I had almost nobody to turn to for support when my Mom died almost 3 years ago. Most of my family lived hundreds of miles away. My network of friends in my place of work was cut off when I lost my job. Other casual friends couldn't really understand my grief, as most of them had never been through it. l slid into depression and almost became a shut-in in my own apartment. Would go out once a day for exercise or food. Had nowhere else to go. Couldn't focus my mind on much of anything and was constantly upset. At about month 4 I decided to go in for psychological counseling. It helped put me back on my feet. I had a good counselor. And while in counseling I read a lot of literature about grief, anger, and forgiveness. I stuffed my head with positive thinking. And my levels of distress became more manageable. I think it was about 18 months before I started to recover a sense of normal. Up until that time I cried every day. I remember at about that time I was watching a comedy movie on television, and I laughed out loud at one point. And it made me do a double take. I had not laughed out loud for many months. It was like some of my old self was resurfacing. Other things fostered my recovery. I found ways of preserving the memory of my Mom. I scanned all her childhood photos and sent them to family members. I created a cook book of my mother's recipes, and distributed that. Keeping these links to my Mom really helped. At about the 2 year mark I started my own business which was slow at first, but now my business is flourishing. Keeps me very busy, and people value my work. I am in constant interaction with the people I do business with, and my social skills are getting very good exercise. It's taken me almost 3 years for me to feel a sense of good recovery. And in many ways I am stronger than I was before I lost my Mom.

Your loss is, however, is different than mine. My mother lived a full life, whereas your brother's life was cut short. The really hard losses like yours may have left you traumatized in some ways, or so I guess, but I don't really know. A professional counselor, such as Marty here in these grief forums, can better advise you about sibling loss issues. I hope you will consider going in for counseling, as it was of great help to me. One thing you are certainly doing right, and that is giving expression to your grief in these forums. There are others here who have lost siblings, and their posts will probably be of help. But the Loss of Sibling forum is quite slow, with just a couple new posts each month. If you don't mind swimming in other forums here, you will find a lot of activity and a lot of support.

Ron B.

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