A while back, Eleanor wrote a great post on grieving as an introvert. If you missed it, you should check it out as soon as you’re done here. I think those who’ve been paying attention will agree: There’s no question introverts have recently been having their day in the sun. After the fantastic book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was published a couple years ago, the internet was flooded with articles about what it means to be an introvert.
Being an extrovert, on the other hand, remained about as interesting as being right-handed. We extroverts are always all over the place anyway, being all outgoing and setting the cultural norms. What’s there to talk about? This is why I was a little thrown off when, after deciding to do a podcast on introverts and grief, Eleanor asked me if we should also do a podcast on extroverts and grief. Everyone always acts like extroverts have it so easy… Would there be enough to say?
Turns out there is enough to say, and not just because we extroverts love talking things out. Once I gave it some thought, considered a few of the grievers I’ve worked with, and chatted with some extroverted grieving friends, I realized extroverts actually face a lot of unique challenges. So we created a second podcast on grieving as an extrovert and decided it would be worth a mention here on the blog. Because guess what? Being an extrovert isn’t always as easy as it looks, especially when it comes to grief.
Before we start, a quick disclaimer: It is neither better nor worse to be an introvert or an extrovert. Each personality type has its perks and its challenges. Sometimes introverts and extroverts struggle to understand one another, but a bit of communication can help ease the tension. We could say a ton about introverts and extroverts, but I think the easiest way to understand the differences is this: Introverts relax and recharge best alone; being in groups is draining. Extroverts recharge and get energy from others. We are all somewhere on the spectrum between fully introvert and fully extrovert, so don’t assume this is all or nothing. But if you have any extrovert tendencies, you may have some unique experiences as you grieve.
Today, we have a quick list to highlight the tough stuff about grieving for those on the extroverted end of the spectrum. You know grief is challenging your extroverted nature when:
1. You are quiet or don’t make eye contact for more than 12 seconds and everyone around you is asking, “What’s wrong?”
2. You desperately want to hang out with your friends, but no one is calling because they assume you want “alone time” after your loss.
3. You decide to go out because you know it will help your mood, then feel guilty you went out because maybe your friends are right: You should want alone time.
4. When you decide to take some alone time with your grief, it is so unusual that your friends and family panic that you have spiraled into a bottomless pit of despair.
5. Talking about your emotions and the person you love is helpful to you, but it makes the people around you SUPER uncomfortable.
6. You keep excessively busy doing things and spending time with other people, only to realize what looked like healthy coping was actually avoidance.
7. When your grief group ends, you desperately want everyone to stay in touch and are shocked when not everyone is on board with a grief happy hour.
8. You share your feelings, memories, and grief all over social media. Some other people think it’s creepy.
9. People around you think you are fine because you are out and about, but you’re not fine.
10. You were already a bit more impulsive than you introverted besties, and now you’re unbelievably close to quitting your job, selling your house, and moving to Bora Bora.
11. You see someone reading ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ on the subway and you can’t help but casually interrupt them to share that you read it too, right after your husband died.
12. People keep telling you that you need to take care of yourself and contemplate the deep impact of your loss because they assume you can’t possibly be self-reflective or introspective.
So How Can I Help Myself as a Grieving Extrovert?
1. Give yourself permission to go out and be with people. It is not something to feel guilty about and can really help in your healing.
2. Plan for some alone time. That may not always come as naturally, but time to write, journal, meditate, and be with your thoughts can be very important. Carve out the time, even if it isn’t easy.
3. Tell your friends what you need. What you perceive as them avoiding you may be them trying to give you space that they assume you want or need. Let them know calls, texts, and get-togethers are appreciated.
4. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that keeping busy = healthy coping. Check out our post on the myth of keeping busy for more on this.
Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment. And don’t forget to subscribe to get our posts by email. If you prefer to listen to your grief support, check out this podcast where we discuss extroverts and grief.