Grief: As An INTJ… And Emotions In General

INTJ’s aren’t without emotions. We just express them differently. This is how some of us experience grief.

A few years ago my mother was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. She fought every day since the diagnosis, up until her last day March 8th (2018).

I was called the day she was told that there were no other medical options and that she was now in hospice’s hands. They said she had days to weeks. I flew out that night.

Numb. This was my first emotion. Is numb an emotion? For an INTJ it certainly is. We are normally very aware and cognizant of everything happening around us. To be numb is unique. I was numb, almost just floating through those first few days with the knowledge of my mom’s finality.

Sad. When I first saw her I felt sadness creep in, but for some of the most unexpected reasons. I felt sad that she had to deal with pain and this place of helplessness, and felt sadness for what my father was experiencing.

I knew this would happen. It was expected. I was comfortable with it because it was expected. Although I hated seeing my mother in pain, and she was scared, I also knew I could do little to comfort her. We talked the first few days, while she was still conscious. But the last 36 hours were more like “final words” and “last goodbyes”. This felt exceptionally awkward for me, as I knew my words to her were for her last few moments of comfort, and were not for me. Why? Because I didn’t have anything exceptional to say.

Perhaps some people will have things they’ve never said that they think they should. I didn’t. Everything I thought was worth sharing (things that make a difference, or can affect change, have been said.) My words now were to calm her fears, and let her know she was loved and appreciated. These words did make her smile, even through the pain.

I had tears, but not nearly as many as I thought I should have. That’s the thing with grief… we have this preconditioned view of what grief should look like but until we personally experience it we really don’t know. Until you lose a parent, a child, a partner… you just don’t know how your grief will express itself.

How you express grief is okay… no matter how it is… unless is self-destructive. Sure, maybe eating a half a pint of ice cream can be construed as self-destructive, but I’m going to let that one pass. One experiencing grief does need to ensure they’re taking care of themselves. I wasn’t too good with that.

Sure, I was doing the little things, keeping up exceptional hygiene, eating… but I wasn’t eating well, wasn’t practicing any stress resilience. I did work out; that felt good. It’s difficult to do, taking care of yourself, when you’re out of your element. This is especially true for INTJs. We take comfort in solitude and structure. Any deviation to this adds stress.

The one thing I found fascinating was the response of others. Everyone, and I mean every single person who found out my mother died, shared their condolences. Some with simplicity, some with their own ideas of where she is now and how much better off she is. I preferred the simple… but I quickly learned to just accept their other opinions. I know they meant them with love and support, and tried to find the best way to comfort me.

I’m about two weeks into this new state of being. I miss texting her and sharing what progress is done on the new house, or the million sunset photos I take. We’d often send each other dog photos… because our dogs are so damn cute.

Oddly, I don’t miss her. Let me explain… She experienced my life with me and shared in a variety of events. I learned from her, and she from me. She was more emotional than I am, and as we grew as adults we developed a different type of relationship. I appreciated her, loved her. I also expected this result when we got the diagnosis. I knew it was coming, and I prepared myself for it.

Perhaps I’ll reflect back and realize I miss her, and not just the things we did.

This has been a confirming experience when I see how various family members grieve. How some are very emotionally based, and others as logical as I am (or even more so). I’ve noticed the difference between myself (a female INTJ) and the male INTJs in my family. And I’ve also realized how rare it is to be an INTJ female. Almost alien-like.

Grief is a process of letting go. We grieve all losses, because we had expectations that no longer apply. This goes to my level of grief… I expected this to happen, so I’m not grieving a loss of an expectation. I didn’t expect more yet get less. I’m grieving a loss… but, to me, it was the known end. Expected.

Bereavement. The state of loss. The true INTJ that I am, I’ve researched all the science behind grief, loss, and bereavement. I study various psychosis, and psychological states. This recent event has me evaluating my own response and looking for improvement, strength, and an opportunity to grow. I am comforted in seeing that my resilience response is normal, and I assume I’ve passed through the early stages of grief when I first heard about my mother’s diagnosis, although I didn’t go through bargaining or depression.

I’m continuously coaching INTJ’s around their emotions, reactions, and most importantly their emotional resilience and communication skills. I find that even in grief, your emotional resilience and communication skills play a huge part in your response and path through grief. Healthy psychological states require emotional resilience and the ability to communicate well. Grief will test you; grief will push you to your limit and expose your areas of needed improvement.

That may not sound compassionate. All life experiences test you, and expose you to areas of growth opportunity. However, the most emotional ones are the ones we need to pay attention to. They can do the most harm if we ignore them. Experiencing grief is a state most if not all of us will go through. I doubt you’ll want to analyze it like I have… but you will evolve from it either way.

I’m still in bereavement, but I’m appreciating the learning and reflection aspect. I’ve noticed my priorities have changed a bit, especially around human relationships and some life goals. It’s a state I’ve accepted and made it a point to be mindful and present.

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