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When Apathy Overtakes Grief

Grief can be such an overwhelming emotion that apathy, when it does take over, can be a welcome relief because it’s an absence of feeling. This can be a common occurrence in those who are making their way through the grieving process. Often times, bereavement services in Alameda County and elsewhere can help people move through the different stages of grief without getting stuck. Let’s discuss what happens when apathy overtakes grief.

Grief and Its Opposite

Grief is a complicated emotion, encompassing everything from anger and guilt to sadness and confusion — sometimes all hitting at once. This endless cycle of “feeling” can be exhausting, so when apathy (the loss of feeling) sets in, it can feel almost like a relief. Grief constantly changes shape, and apathy is just one of those forms, manifesting itself in indifference, listlessness, disinterest, lack of motivation, and lack of concern, points out Grief in Common.

Apathy is common in grievers but it’s not talked about as much as the other, more obvious emotions. Examples of apathy in grief may include:

  1. A loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy: Apathy can set in when the activities that once brought you comfort, joy, and peace no longer do.
  2. The avoidance of guilt: Many grievers get stuck in that in-between where they feel guilty moving forward. Maybe a funny movie or night out with a friend brings a smile to your face, which is then immediately followed by guilt for feeling contentment after losing someone you love. This causes many people to pull away from moments of potential joy so they can avoid the feelings of guilt that come with them.
  3. The feeling that nothing matters: When you lose interest in the world around you, from other humans to your job to chores around the house, you may feel as though those things don’t matter. What is the point of it all? You still don’t have your loved one back. Why pay bills when life ends in death anyway? These morose feelings can quickly overtake our thinking and drag us down further.
  4. Apathy and self-preservation: Because grief hurts, it’s tempting to put up a protective barrier to steel us from the potential of further loss so we aren’t vulnerable to grief’s pervasive pain ever again.
  5. No more tears: After we have cried till we can’t cry any longer, the well runs dry and we may feel like we’re an empty vessel. There’s basically nothing left to feel. As painful and intense as grief can be, at least it’s something to make a connection to. Apathy is the absence of feeling, and in some ways can make you feel even more despair than before.

When the Roller Coaster Ends

The roller coaster of grief is a wild ride. But one day, that ride ends and you may feel nothing at all. It’s called anhedonia, and this is the loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable or rewarding activities such as hanging out with friends, finding joy in hobbies, working, eating, and having sexual relations, says What’s Your Grief. This feeling of nothingness is hard to describe to someone who’s never felt it. It’s all about feeling empty, dead inside, and emotionless, with the inability to relate to the emotions and feelings of others (which is why social interaction poses such a problem).

Feeling nothing can be disorienting. You know you’re sad about losing your loved one on the inside, but you’re having trouble actually accessing the emotions that go along with what you’re feeling. You worry that people around you are questioning why you’re not displaying traditional signs of loss, such as crying. Will they wonder why you’re so apathetic and think you didn’t actually love the person who died? Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but you can’t get over that feeling of numbness.

To feel something, you may lash out in anger, pick fights or engage in reckless behavior. But this isn’t the answer.

It’s normal to feel numb when you’re grieving, and you will likely feel those intense feelings of loss eventually. Just be aware, they may come on with a vengeance. But if you feel numb for too long, and it’s having a negative and profound impact on how you live your daily life, it’s time to get help. You can attend a support group or go to one-on-one grief counseling to sort out your feelings (or lack thereof). Even apathy is a stage of grief that you have to work through in order to move on. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To help with feelings of grief and apathy, why not attend one of our bereavement services, such as counseling or support groups? Find out more about our schedule and offerings when you contact us at 888-978-1306.