One of the unexpected and most soul destroying effects of grief is loss of confidence. As if bereavement isn’t hard enough, just at the time you need energy and confidence it can appear to have vaporised leaving you feeling you are house-bound, inadequate, unable to function and overwhelmed.
Friends, relatives and indeed yourself might wonder what happened to that person who could cope well, the person who raced around getting stuff done, who went to work confidently, who had energy and vitality and who tackled the world face on.
If there has been a long illness before the death, you may have been in super-human mode, coping with whatever that situation threw up. Very often, there is not the time, nor the inclination to think about that situation or indeed what the future holds. Emotions are often fear lead, and frequently angry and sad, but still the care of someone who is terminally ill takes all your energy and time.
In the months (and year/s) that follow the death it might be a very different story. All the energy that you put into being a carer evaporates and grief becomes a huge part of your life. This is a time when confidence can be at an all-time low.
How does that manifest itself in everyday life?
Well, it could be feeling you cannot drive, or drive in the dark like you used to. Long journeys either by car or public transport seem overwhelmingly difficult, so you decide not to make them or possibly you go out of your way to avoid them. It might be socialising. When you no longer have your other half to go to events or parties with, going along can feel very frightening. It might be your appearance and that could go either way. You might feel you need to dress up to boost your flagging confidence or you dress down to avoid being singled out because you feel you cannot cope with, nor want attention.
Lack of confidence can profoundly affect your work too. Bereaved workers often feel they are no longer able to do the job they did effortlessly before the death. If you are feeling emotionally wobbly, work can be challenging. You may feel less resilient and more vulnerable in the workplace. This can lead to quitting jobs, reduced income and sometimes a change in career.
The other area often affected is wider travel and this can be in unexpected ways. Leaving home can feel very scary and daunting, especially when there are so many loose ends to tie up before you lock your front door. Equally returning home can be something that you dread. Going into an empty house can be heart-breaking. It is a reminder of what is missing, of no-one to come home to, no-one to tell all the stories to, or to share the experience with. Some people may find themselves putting it off in unconscious ways, for example continuing to visit friend’s houses before going home, or adding extra days onto the trip rather than face the inevitable.
By the way, one small tip for that particular problem is to leave the radio or television on. It can be comforting to come into a house that isn’t silent.
The good news is that with support of family, friends, colleagues and maybe some counselling if needs be, over a long period of time, confidence usually returns in increments. As you become more able to cope, so your confidence receives a boost and in turn, that helps your mood and your ability to get out into life more and take on some of the challenges ahead.
Start small though, for example, plan a short journey to visit a friend, negotiate a shorter week at work (if possible), or a staged return to work, or take a friend to a social event for moral support. Think about what you need to boost your confidence and then go and find the help. People are just waiting to support you in your time of need, you only have to ask.
If you think counselling might help boost your confidence at this difficult time, contact me here