You Are Not a Grief Ninja

I’ve often considered myself pretty good at dealing with hurt in life, you know besides a few I’m driving to the dump just so I can rip up his picture and leave it there kind of moments (might be a true story). I had high hopes for my ability to process and cope with the loss of my mom. This isn’t so bad… I thought. I’ve got this… I now know that these thoughts were simply called numbness and they stood tall for about 12 seconds.

Turns out, I’m really not so “good” at grieving. Because, news flash to me, it’s impossible to be. Grieving just is. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult to hide that I’m hurting – there is no get well soon technique I can trick people with. To grieve is to be prescribed a large dose of humility, one that can especially haunt an “I’m fine” kind of person like me. Asking for help; feeling low when people hope to see you smile; having tears overrun their barricades as your weary husband was about to sleep… those are the kind of things that make grieving so hard. I have to take without giving; I have to ask energy of people without returning it.

I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine… the words are a safety net, protecting me against the need to be open about myself. But, my mom died; on a vast number of occasions I have not been fine. On these occasions what I meant to say was something like, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING! THIS SUCKS!

It is so hard to go from somebody whose life was, quote, normal to being somebody who is forced to show their vulnerability. The added complication is that because everybody “knows” what I am going through, I must decide who and who not to show my brokenness to. In learning to block out those who aren’t doing me any favours with their advice or less-than-authentic concern, it becomes easy to build up walls against those I am close to as well. Unfortunately, it can be easier to shut down altogether than to expel the energy required to sort out who I’m safe with.

How do I let my walls down while protecting myself? Like most things in life, I’m learning it comes down to balance. First, I think that it’s crucial to know which one or five or twenty people I feel safe enough with to break my own rules of emotional social conduct. And then, of course, I actually need to make myself break the rules, fighting thoughts like: Is this depressing? Have I talked about this too much? Do they get it? Am I making sense? How do I even bring this up? It’s hard. I’m still working on it.

Second, I think that it’s okay not to talk. You and I have the right to protect our emotions and our energy – if it’s not the right time or person, it’s just not. I am actually quite amused when I think about some of the conversations I’ve had to escape from – sometimes you just need to run (don’t worry, all odds are it wasn’t with you).

Bottom line: Tell yourself the truth about what it is that you need. I’m fine can be true, or it can be used to avoid being a burden to other people. Listen to what your spirit is truly asking for; know that it’s okay not to be a grief ninja.

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9 thoughts on “You Are Not a Grief Ninja

  1. I know that our situations are nowhere near alike, but I went through a grieving process about few years back, and the best experiences (what few there were) were those when my friends just let me be “vulnerable”, and sat with me when I grieved. Unfortunately, the worst experiences (and there were more of those) were when I felt like my friends were expecting me to just “move on” with life, and weren’t able to be there for me when I was visibly grieving and asking for comfort.

    I try now to let my friends who are grieving know that it’s ok to be feeling what you’re feeling right now, that you’re allowed to express it anyway you want (so long as you’re not hurting yourself and others, obviously), and that I’m here, even if it means we just sit here while you cry or yell or whatever. I wish someone would have told me that when I was grieving – it would have made the grieving process that much more bearable, even if the grief itself was still hard to deal with.

    1. Thanks for sharing Kristina. I wish you would have had more people around you telling you telling you that too! It’s so great that you have been able to move through your situation and become so strong and focused… You are a beautiful person!

  2. Wow this is quite accurately nailed it on the head and I need to thank you for writing this because it makes me feel a little more sane reading that other people feel this way too. They say grief is different for everyone and I understand that but its comforting to read your words and completely be able to relate to your pain.

    Being left with no choice but to show your vulnerability is probably the worst thing because I have always been the strong one in our family. My grief now is completely different than when I lost my dad 15 years ago because now I feel completely exposed and am forced to show people the brokeness inside. Like you I have realized I am not a grief ninja and do NOT have this skill mastered in the slightest.

    Thank you for the reminder that it is OK to not talk sometimes and I wish more people understood that simple conversation can be excruciating. And thank you for sharing your grief process with us.

    1. I’m so glad that you could find a place to relate here, please also feel free to email me if you need to talk more. I’m so sorry for what you are going through, know that you are being thought of and hugged from afar.

  3. I lost my mother 6 months ago, and I’m so happy I found your blog because no one around me understands the pain I feel every second, and how the day she died haunts me everyday. Grief is a very lonely process, and you just explained everything I am feeling. I’m tired of protecting others from my sadness. Thank you.

    1. Hi Emily, thank you for stopping by the blog and taking the time to share your experience. I truly wish you didn’t have to experience this type of pain. I’m so glad you could relate to something here. It can be so hard to do what we need to do for ourselves during these times instead of making sure everyone else is feeling okay around us. My heart is with you as you figure out what this looks like for you. Take care and lots of love.

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