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.