Emotional Detachment: What Is It and How to Overcome It
Do these statements “my grandmother who was 85 died, my house is going into foreclosure, my childhood dog died, I lost my job, or I was diagnosed with cancer” bring more anger and resentment than empathy? I know that after Connor took his life that I was challenged by these statements. I sometimes felt like I wanted to shut down to others pain. I could not relate to it. Mine was special. It was unique. For a while, I felt nothing for others.
This nothingness is called anhedonia which is a reaction to anxiety, trauma, loss of a loved one, feeling unwanted stress and anxiety. It is the inability or unwillingness to connect with others on an emotional level. Typically, this is not a voluntary response. Rather it is the result of events that make a person unable to be open and honest about their emotions.
In grief, it is common to experience emotional numbness or detachment in the weeks following death. You might even barely recognize yourself, feel like an alien in your body and have difficulty ever imagining experiencing emotions for yourself and for others.
As with many things, there is a good side to it and a bad side. The good is that you may use it purposefully to set boundaries with certain people and groups. You may use it to stay at an arm’s length for those demanding emotional attention. For example, if you are grieving and have a friend who has lost their job, you may not have the emotional wherewithal to support them. It may be beneficial for you to put the relationship on hold while you heal and feel strong enough to help the two of you.
Emotional detachment is a way of coping with overwhelming people or activities. In that sense, it can be healthy. You choose when to be involved and when to step away.
The bad side of emotional detachment is when you cannot control it. You may feel numb or unable to demonstrate sympathy or empathy for others. I often hear from suicide loss survivors after losing their loved one, they feel somewhat insensitive to other people. They do not care about the complaints of others. They pass them off as trivial compared to suicide death. Losing an older relative to natural causes, a sibling to cancer or parent to automobile accident trigger feelings of emptiness and inability to care.
My clients ask me what are some signs of emotional detachment? They can include avoiding people, activities, or places because they are associated with a past trauma or event, difficulty empathizing with other’s circumstances and not easily sharing their emotions and feelings.
Please note that if you are taking medications for depression and anxiety it can also contribute to emotional detachment by suppressing feelings. Ask your medical provider for options that allow you to feel and experience all emotions, positive and negative so that you can move forward with your healing.
How do you overcome emotional detachment?
It is important to evaluate if you are experiencing this through repeated patterns of inability to express emotions for others. Check in with yourself. If you normally feel numb after a death or shocking experience, then your current numbness may just be part of your makeup. But if your emotional numbness is causing long-term problems in your life and relationships, then it may need more careful attention.
The most important thing you can do in this time of emotional numbness is keep hoping and believing that you will come through this. If you give up hope, you die inside. Be open to healing. As you feel the heartache and loss, you will heal from it. It feels contrary to feel pain to heal. Trust in the process. People before you have survived. Believe you will be happy again.
Give yourself grace and nurture your feelings. Accept you are grieving. This is a fine line between how long to allow yourself to shut off your emotions and feelings before becoming an active participant in your healing. If you see yourself slipping into isolation and depression, it is time to do something and do it now. Keep yourself from allowing your loss to define you.
Understand that your brain controls your emotions is injured with loss much like actual physical impairment from an accident. Take care of it. Think positive thoughts. Nurture it with good nutrition of fruits and veggies. Reduce sugars, alcohol, and caffeine. They all impact your brain’s ability to heal. It made a difference for me. I use Juice Plus+ capsules to make it super easy and focus on overall health with the 4 Cornerstone of Healing: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
A grief coach will be a good resource to help you. Someone like myself who has experienced the same loss. I can help you regain your empathy for others and experience your own feelings. There is hope for your emotional void.
If you are ready to understand your grief, schedule an appointment with me today.
Peggy Green is a has experienced the grief of losing many loved ones including two of her children. Walking through grief caused her to seek out ways to heal her own grief and then share those steps with others. Her mission is to bring hope to mothers who are grieving the loss of a child and support to those who feel they can't find hope for the future.
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