I'm an introvert. I enjoy being alone to think, to relax, and to recharge. I'm fine being alone, but I'm not fine when I isolate. There is a big difference. When I'm alone, it is only for short periods of time, and then I re-engage with family and friends. When I isolate, I stay there. I remain by myself, alone in my thoughts, even if people are around me. There have been a couple times in my life that I have isolated myself. Both of them were because of a loss. I isolated to protect myself, believing that if I had control of my environment, I could find the help and healing I needed. Part of that is true. We can look inside ourselves to find courage and strength and healing, but if we allow negative emotions, like fear and anger, into the situation, isolation can cause very negative consequences.
The first time I isolated was after a fatal crash I was involved in. I was seventeen. Three friends and I were on our way to a friend's house after a high school basketball game when we were hit head-on by a drunk driver. One of my best friends was driving our car, and he died from his injuries. Another friend had extensive injuries and was hospitalized a long time. The third spent the night in the hospital. I was seated in the passenger seat without a seatbelt or airbag and only got a fat lip. Imagine dealing with this as a seventeen-year-old in the late 1970's. I didn't have access to mental health professionals, so I dealt with it on my own. My comfortable place was being alone, which became isolation. I had a lot of survivor's guilt, especially since my friend who died only lived two houses away from me. I eventually came out of the isolation, but never really resolved this issue until my own son died.
When my son, Mark, died, I isolated again. I was trying to answer unanswerable questions, and spent a lot of time thinking of all the things I could have done differently. None of that was going to bring Mark back. It lasted for about two weeks before I had to get out and be around people and begin to seek normality. I had know idea what that was going to be, but I knew I couldn't continue to isolate myself. A couple months later, I started attending a support group with the recovery ministry I was starting. This gave me the place I could talk through my grief and also deal with the survivor's guilt from so many years before. Several years later, I was able to help a mother who had been isolating for a few months after losing her son. After a couple of weeks of communicating online, I was able to convince her to go outside of her house. Then we met for pastoral counseling, and eventually, after being able to talk about her grief, she was able to re-engage with the world around her.
If you are isolating yourself, dig down deep to find the strength to talk to someone about your grief. You can talk to a trusted friend, another parent who know the pain of losing a child, a grief counselor, a pastor, or someone else you feel comfortable talking with. Just don't stay isolated.