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9.28.2014

When Extroverts Grieve






When Extroverts Grieve

Grieving is hard. It is good to have some friends to help. Extroverts are people who are neurologically wired to aggregate energy through human social contact. They then spend that energy on tasks that require focus and solitary work. Some parts of grieving are solitary. No one can do it for you, and because your loss is as unique as the relationship you had with your loved one, no one can truly be with you in your personal pain. But extroverts need accompaniment. They need a steady stream of energy producing contact. And some of what they need is counter to our expectations.
Here are some suggestions and tips for helping your extroverted friend or family member grieve. Remember, the default instruction is always ASK them what you can do to help, and then do that thing.
  •  Extroverts will want to see and be seen sooner than some people expect. Open the house or the church up, and make a gathering place. Bring food.
  •   Extroverts will want to tell their stories of their loved one. They will not get tired of this. Listening is the greatest gift you can give them.
  •  Extroverts want you to share your memories. They will not get tired of this.
  •  Extroverts desire feedback. They want active listening. Your silent presence is not enough, although it helps. They need you to interact with them around their grief.
  •  Extroverts will appreciate the public rituals of grief. They may take on roles that others consider heroic, or even unseemly. They need to be actively involved.
  •  If the extrovert is despondent, do not leave them alone. Work with others to keep them accompanied. This will require teamwork.
  •  They will appreciate it if people are willing to carry their story with them. The shared experience is what makes it seem real to them.
  • Ask them if they want a care committee or grief support group to meet with them. Let them set the time schedule. Do not put too many introverts on this committee. Have a plan for switching people in and out as needed. The griever will often need it to last longer than people can commit to.
  •   As the weeks and months go by, continue to call and email and visit your friend. They understand that the world must go on, but they will FEEL abandoned, when everyone else seems to have moved on.
  •  Use social media. Where the introvert will use it as a buffer, the extrovert will use it as a lifeline. Share pictures. Memories. Whatever you have.
  •   If you are a pray-er – call them up and pray with them on the phone.
  •   As the months go by, have play dates. Fun times of re-engagement. It is ok for people who are grieving to have fun. They will use the energy they gain from this to do their hard work of personal grieving.
  •   Group therapy may be better for the extrovert than one on one counseling, although they will like that too.
  •   Church, AA, hobby groups, all groups will be safe places for the extroverted griever.
  •   They may need to be reminded to rest and do self-care.
  •   If the extrovert has an introverted – focused and solitary -  job,  they may have severely decreased productivity.
  •   Extroverts may seem to be doing better than their introverted counter-parts – because our culture applauds the social and the busy. But know that they are hurting just as much and for just as long.

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