Is It Normal Not to Feel Social After Someone Close to Me Has Died?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 13, 2014
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it normal not to feel very social after someone close to me died, even though I'm usually such a "people person"?

Expert Answers

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

You might expect that extroverts would want to be around other people while they grieve. But even the most gregarious extroverts have been known to bow out of social situations while they're mourning. This is considered a normal response to grief, especially in the initial months after a loss.

If you're known as a social extrovert, this preference may seem odd, if not alarming, to others. People around you might be saying things such as, "You're just not acting like yourself" or "You usually love these kinds of events." This may be true, but while we're grieving, we're not necessarily our usual selves. It can be a challenge to hold steady with your own preferences while others coax you to go to a dance or other social event that you have no desire to attend. Know that the coaxing is usually offered with good intentions, fueled by a concern that you get back to "normal."

If you find you sometimes need or want to be with others, this is normal, too. But it's fairly typical now to choose your social time to be quiet and conversational, rather than loud and raucous. You're likely to prefer a small dinner gathering over a big celebration.

There are those who hope to get lost in the crowd while mourning, with no mention made of their loss. For them, social situations can offer a welcome respite from their deep sadness. Others will only tolerate social situations where they can speak openly of their loss. These are folks who might feel less inclined or able to put their grief "on ice." Either way, a benefit of being with others is that it breaks the isolation that can accompany the grieving process.

Like you, many people question the "normal" way to socialize while grieving. Some say that they evolve into a "new normal" after a major loss. There are traces of the old self, but the grieving process shifts things around quite a bit. New preferences emerge, old habits sometimes disappear. You might make new friends -- for example, you may feel particularly drawn to others who have weathered a similar loss. And sometimes, old friends fade to a less prominent place in your life. All of this is normal.

If you're still wondering whether your specific response to grief is normal, seek some help in sorting out your feelings. Help can come from friends or family, but the downside of seeking them out is that their opinions or advice may be influenced by who they want or expect you to be. Someone less familiar with you might be able to offer a less biased assessment of whether your preference for solo time is a cause for concern.

Finally, a warning: It's not uncommon for solo time to evolve into excessive social isolation, which, if prolonged, may be a sign that you need outside assistance in coping with your loss. Ultimately, most of us need a balance of solo time and social time. If your percentages are more like 85 percent solo/isolated and 15 percent out-and-about, and it's more than a year after the death of your loved one, you probably need some gentle guidance. (For suggestions on finding a grief counselor, see FAQ: How Do I Find a Grief Counselor?

Community Answers

Rph answered...

Yes, it is normal. I am a widow. The grieveing process is not just a few simple steps. You feel differently at different times. Every person grieves differently---please don't compare yourself to someone else. I think you are probably "self-protecting" yourself right now. Perhaps writing in a journal would help you get your feelings "out" so you don't keep it inside.

I agree with the above--seek help if this is going on too long. Other widows are probably your best confidants. I found that family and friends seemed to have "timelines".

You will be in my prayers.

Joann1949 answered...

YES>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>!!! When my son passed away, I stayed in the house for almost 3 months. Then I decided to go back to Church, then later in the year I went out to find me a part-time job. I couldn't stand being in the house anymore. In my circumstance, there wasn't any love in that house-so I had to get out!!! Jo-Ann+