Feeling Disconnected After Loss: Tips From A Therapist On Navigating Grief
Updated: Nov 3, 2022
We all know that loss is part of life. As difficult as this can be to acknowledge, the reality is that everyone experiences loss at some point in their lives. While everyone is impacted differently by loss, many people notice feeling disconnected, numb, or isolated. If this is your experience, know that you are not alone. In this post, I share my tips for how to cope with feeling disconnected from people and explain how therapy can be helpful in navigating grief.
What Is Grief?
Simply put, grief is a reaction to loss. Many people associate the concepts of grief and loss with death. While death is certainly a common form of loss, it’s not the only one. Life changes like unemployment, divorce, or being diagnosed with a chronic illness are also forms of loss, and it’s normal to experience grief as a result.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it often looks much different from person to person. One person may also have different experiences to different losses, or their reaction to one loss may change as time passes or circumstances change.
For many people, grief is a feeling of intense pain. You might feel sad, guilty, angry, upset, or any number of other complex emotions. You can feel all of these emotions (and more) at once, or you might shift between different feelings. Grief is a winding road through a mountain pass.
With that being said, many people also feel nothing when they first experience loss. The initial shock or disbelief may make it difficult to connect with emotions. You might also numb your emotions if they feel too intense to deal with. This is a natural response to feeling overwhelmed by emotions.
Remember that grief reactions come in all shapes and sizes. Our emotional reactions can be unpredictable, but it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. Just like the rest of us, you are human–if you can try to extend compassion to yourself during these times of grief and loss.
Is feeling disconnected from friends normal after a loss?
The short answer is yes: feeling disconnected from friends (even family) can be a normal grief reaction. Again, there is no formula for how to grieve, but there is a spectrum of reactions that people typically experience following loss.
You can take comfort knowing that feeling disconnected after loss is normal. However, having this knowledge doesn’t make the experience itself any easier. Feeling numb or isolated from your loved ones is difficult, especially when you may need support more than ever.
Can grief make you feel disconnected from yourself?
Again, the short answer is yes: after experiencing a form of loss, like the loss of self after a diagnosis, some people find that it is hard to be themselves, as if something deep inside is gone or been buried.
As Van Der Kolk writes in his book The Body Keeps The Score “Trauma makes people feel like either some body else, or like no body. In order to overcome trauma [like a loss], you need help to get back in touch with your body, with your Self” (p.249).
Some peoples’ internal beliefs system takes a dive into helplessness and hopelessness. Negative or blocking beliefs like “I’m not good enough,” “I’m weak,” or “I’m not worthy” may become dominant. This (temporary) change in belief system can make you feel disconnected from the person you know yourself to be.
While it’s important to acknowledge your current experience, know that you won’t feel this way forever. With the right kind of support, you can reconnect to yourself and others following loss.
How To Cope With Feeling Disconnected From People
Just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is no standard way to cope with feeling disconnected after experiencing loss. While that can be frustrating, it also provides the opportunity for you to find what works best for you instead of trying to fit a mold.
These strategies simply provide a jumping off point as you figure out how to cope with feeling disconnected from people. Check out my blog post on navigating grief and loss for even more suggestions.
Get grounded in your body
When we feel numb or disconnected, we’re often wrapped up in our own thoughts, untethered to our physical experience. We might also pour ourselves into external things like work, social media, or substances. Either way, we get pulled away from our physical (somatic) experience of grief.
Physically reconnecting with yourself can be a helpful first step before you attempt to reconnect with others. To get back in touch with your body, try movement like walking, dancing, or yoga. You can also use coping tools like a butterfly hug or mindful breathing to help you feel grounded in your body again.
Try different forms of communication
It’s okay if having deep conversations with your friends or spending a lot of time with your family feels too intense for you right now. Everyone needs different things in times of loss, and your need for space is valid.
With that being said, navigating grief by yourself can be lonely. Using alternative methods of communication can be a way to connect with loved ones and yourself in a way that feels accessible to you during this hard time. Try writing letters, sending cards, or even sharing artwork with each other to stay in touch.
Find support elsewhere
While your natural support network of family and friends is invaluable, you might crave a different kind of connection when experiencing grief. It can be painful to be with loved ones if you all lost someone, or if you feel like they might not understand what you’re going through.
Many people find support in online communities or local support groups for people with similar loss experiences. Connecting with others who can resonate with your specific type of grief can be incredibly validating.
Therapy Can Help When You’re Feeling Disconnected In A Relationship After Loss
When grief has you feeling disconnected from everyone in your life, consider therapy. Grief counselling in Vancouver can be a useful tool for reconnecting with yourself and others after experiencing loss.
Bereavement counselling doesn’t “fix” you or make the loss go away–that’s not the point. Instead, therapy gives you the opportunity to explore all of the emotions within the experience of grief. Acknowledging and validating your feelings is an essential part of learning how to live with grief.
As a bereavement counsellor in Vancouver, I approach grief with a lens of emotional resilience. From my perspective, grief isn’t a linear process, and there is no end stage of grief. We must learn how to move forward with loss, not move on from it.
By learning to name, validate, and make space for your emotions, you can build resilience and trust in yourself. Therapy doesn’t shield you from difficult experiences (past, present, or future), but it can show you that you have the inner resources to cope with whatever life throws your way. Building your emotional resilience can help you have more capacity to reconnect with your loved ones, too.
If you’re ready to stop feeling disconnected after experiencing grief and loss, I’m here to help. I encourage you to reach out and schedule your complimentary 15-minute initial phone consultation to get started.