The Importance of Grieving Openly

I never really knew how to handle sadness. It could be this American thing we do, where we bring casseroles over to each other’s houses and awkwardly pat each other on the back, waiting to cry until everyone has gone. We don’t know how to grieve in front of people. We feel this pressure to pretend like everything’s okay, that we will be okay, when sometimes the reality is that our world will never feel okay again.I don’t know why we are that way. I don’t know why we feel like we have to present a composed face to the world so soon. I’m not just talking about death, or losing someone you love.

It can apply to all the kinds of grief we experience, from the pain of a devastating break-up to a falling out with a best friend. The kinds of sadness that we’re allowed to dwell on for a month, but then we’re supposed to just pack up and move on, regardless of the lingering traces of heartbreak that follow us wherever we go. I’ve always felt the pressure to appear like I’m totally okay when I know I’m not. There’s always felt like there’s a measure of dishonesty in that. I’ve lied to my friends to their faces and told them I am doing fine, I’m happy, I’m good. I’ve said that when what I really wanted more than anything was to confess how not-alright I really was. I’ve lied to myself, convincing myself that I really was fine. I’ve tried to distract myself by any and every means possible. The level of double-living required by that is exhausting. Running from sadness seems to be my default mode, and I think it’s sort of something we’ve all done.

I mean, I’m not advocating falling apart in front of every stranger on the street. There are times when you don’t want to or need to tell everyone just how sad you are, and there are seasons when you have to hold things together and you don’t have the luxury of falling apart. But I propose that if we do not turn and face the sadness, it will eventually hurt us more than we can heal from.

When you’re recovering from anything, the most annoying thing is that the world doesn’t care. You still have to go to work and buy groceries and socialize. But I think scheduling time in for sadness is crucial to recovering from it. If the only time you have to yourself is on a Friday night at 7:30pm, plan on sitting down, listening to a sad song, and letting yourself cry for a little while. That’s what I need–everyone’s different. All that matters is that you accept that you’re hurting and let yourself hurt. You’re not running from it. You’re sitting in the sadness for a time, knowing that to ignore it would be worse.

Many of my friendships declined when I was going through a time of huge, prolonged grief in my life. I made a decision that I couldn’t afford to put a happy face on tragedy, and so I became brutally honest with myself and others. The friends I had, who stayed through that became my support system. In being honest with them, I felt like I had a net to fall back on. I wasn’t alone in my grief, and that alone helped me so much. Those friendships became so much stronger because of what I went through.

Have you ever found yourself unwilling to acknowledge your sadness? How has it impacted your life?

(Image via ShutterStock.)

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