Griever's night in: What to do when you need a break from the outside world

FOMO? Let’s talk about FOGOWPWmSST (Fear of going out with people who might say stupid things).

Sometimes, it’s not only easier but best to stay in for the night. There are lots of things that make socializing (and working) hard when you’re navigating the first days, months, and years of grief. For example:

Death makes OTHER people do dumb shit that you can’t control - We all say dumb things, try to help by doing dumb things, and at the end of the day “the thought” doesn’t really end up counting if you made me burst into tears because you didn’t think before you spoke. This can cause us to be constantly “bracing” in social situations, be hurt more than helped, and just eye-roll to the point of headaches.

Grief can change your priorities - Before someone dies, it can feel like lots of things are the most important thing in your life: career advancement, social circles, family time, or hobbies. But after you’ve suffered a major loss, it can turn your life inside out causing what once seemed like a priority feel a little less (or a lot less) important.

Grieving can be exhausting - There are so many things that cause it to be straight soul-sucking sometimes, including the stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and interruption of routine that come with a death. Because of the fact that grief can turn your world upside down, it can be super important to just take a damn break sometimes.

If you’re sayin’, “omg… right? I just wanna sleep and eat my way through the weekend puh-leeease,” know that there’s no shame in staying home when you want to, staying in when you need to, and curling up for the time being when you have no idea what you want.

So! Here’s a few ideas for things to do for yourself while you’re staying in for the night (or day, or weekend, or month).

But first, let’s start with three things you don’t have to do when you’re in:

  1. Cry: One of the misconceptions people have about grief is that it starts, we cry a lot, then it ends, and we cry again when things are REALLY hard. But that’s not always the case. If you’re home and happy, home and anxious, or home and numb, tears might not come and that’s alright.

  2. Sort through a loved one’s things: I started sorting through my mom’s stuff IMMEDIATELY, because there was nothing else to focus on (but whiskey and tv). But unless you have to or want to, there’s no need to force yourself to sort through someone’s belongings everytime you’ve got a spare minute. It’s can be a really good or bad experience, but one that’s worth thinking about before you jump in.

  3. Take care of someone else: Sometimes you just need to do you. If you have the space, time, and opportunity to spend even a half hour focusing on what you need and want, it can actually make you a better carer for someone else in your life that’s grieving. Taking time for your own thoughts and processing can bring to light things that you can pass on to someone else in your life. And… just simply having some bubbly in a bubble bath can give you time to breathe so that when you come back to reality you’re better prepared to focus on someone else.

Alright, so let’s get down to what you CAN do to:

Try new things

Sometimes all you need is some alone time to try new things without pressure. Maybe you want to cook something you’ve never tried before and don’t want to worry about it turning out nasty. Maybe you want to try a new craft or project but might give up five minutes in if it’s hard or exhausting. Regardless of what you try, finding alone time to stretch your brain muscles in a new way can be a good distraction from your grief, or a nice way to feel productive from the couch.

Eat well

I am all about cooking on a daily basis, but sometimes take-out is what I really need. It’s easy, it means fewer dishes to do after, and it’s hella tasty. And when staying in usually means that you want to DO LESS, cooking isn’t always how you want to spend a night “off”. Note: take-out doesn’t always have to mean 4 pizzas and a gallon of ice cream delivered through Prime. It can be good, feel good, and taste good (though.. .yes, pizza can also do all of those things).

Take a long bath or nap

Taking a bit of time to actually relax and sleep can be HUGE when we’re grieving. Our brains our going, our nervous systems can become shot, and it takes extra energy to do everything. So stay in, run a bath on a night that you’d otherwise take a quick shower, or go to bed hella early and catch up on the sleep you likely lost at some point over the months or years since you started grieving.

Exercise or stretch

I’m not talking about running a marathon in circles in your living room. I’m simply suggesting that you get your blood moving after a weekend of (well-deserved) couch sitting. If you’re up for it, consider a walk literally around your apartment complex block, a few rounds of stair climbs in your house, or a reeeally good stretch. Personally, when I’m feeling like I need to move somewhere other than from my bed to the couch to the kitchen, I go with a short yin video from YouTube (free and readily available) to release tension in my back and hips.

Rework your schedule

Like I said, sometimes our priorities shift when someone dies. But so does our ability to remember things, keep plans, and meet deadlines. One thing I like to do when I have a night in is look at the weeks or months ahead. Who have I made plans with that I don’t actually want to see? Who have I not reached out to that I’d really love some support from? Canceling plans doesn’t ALWAYS have to be a dick move, it’s mostly just a dick move when you do it 15 minutes after you were supposed to meet someone at the bar. Cancel things in advance and simply explain whatever you feel like. Hopefully, your friends and fam will respect you more for doing it in advance and taking care of yourself.

Invite someone over

But on that note! Staying in doesn’t mean not seeing people. Sometimes you just need to see LESS people or not have to deal with idiot strangers. Consider having someone over that can bring supplies, shut up and just watch a movie, or clean your kitchen while you sit in the bath (#truefriendship).