Monday, August 10, 2015

In Grief: Ashamed To Share Negative Feelings In An Online Forum

Don't push the river, it flows by itself.  ~ Chinese Proverb

[Note to readers: Permission to share the following exchange with all of you has been granted by the person who wrote to me.]

A reader writes: I was going to post this on our [online Grief Healing Discussion Groups] forum, but it’s such a downer and people posting these days all seem so upbeat that I didn’t want to throw this post in right now. I do need to put it out there just so I know someone hears me. I hope you don’t mind. You’re it. I’m not looking for feedback – just an ear and an understanding heart.

Everything seems so shallow. No matter how hard I try to move forward in my new life I am left with the sharp pain of missing the one and only true love of my life. There is a void that cannot be put into words. Words, music, nature, and dance are all expressions of the love I have for [my beloved], but nothing fills the void of his death. Nothing.

My memories are treasures but they do not replace the need to be held and told that I am loved. Words of encouragement are appreciated but they do not nor can they replace the conversations we had together over coffee and dessert. Music soothes me and provides a calm over me but it does not replace the ache I have to be sitting with [my husband] and listening to the music together. Beautiful flowers, trees, brooks, mountains, and sunsets are all breathtaking but the joy of watching and seeing all these things without [my love] is heartbreaking to me at this time.

I want to be grateful for all that I have but the most important person I want is no longer with me. I am trying to place him in my imagination but it is not the same. It is not the same and I want it to be the same.

I feel ashamed to have all these thoughts that appear to be so self-centered but I can’t seem to accept the loss of the one and only person who completed me.

Moving forward is not going to be an easy task and I want it to be easy so it is not so painful. This awakening of the death of [my husband] has stopped me right in my tracks and I only have energy to cry until I’m exhausted. I once told someone that I was not an angry person but now I find myself lashing out at [my husband] for leaving me alone. I know I gave him permission to go but I now realize that I didn’t want him to leave me. If I had known that it would have been so painful I never would have told him it was ok.

This mourning is so hard. I am not as brave as I pretend. I don't want to seem vulnerable to others but I really am not as brave as I try to be. It does make me feel better when I put my thoughts out there but I am somewhat afraid of rejection if others do not respond. You are so right when you say grief is hard. It is painful. I am not good with pain. I am super sensitive right now and tend to take things personally. I cry if there is something happy or sad. What an emotional mess I'm in. This journey is so painful. And for me, I really don't want to be on it.

My only comfort with all of this right now is that I do believe that I am grieving and that it is all right for me to have all of these thoughts. I am sharing this with you because I am sure I am not the only one who is or has felt this way about any loss of a cherished one.

My response: I'm so sorry that you're hurting so badly my dear, but what you say in your message only confirms how indescribably difficult and seemingly impossible it is to mourn the death of your beloved [husband]. There is nothing in your message that reflects poorly on you. It hurts my heart to think that you would feel ashamed of yourself for being human. Your words simply reveal the depth of your sorrow and the magnitude of your love for your precious [husband]. If you truly love him as much as you've told us you do, I don't see how it could be otherwise!

Truth be told, I don't think any of us is as brave as we pretend to be. What is more, I don't think that we'd want everyone else to know how we're really feeling most of the time. I'm sure that even before [your husband] got sick and died, back when life seemed more "normal," there were many times when things were not going as perfectly as you'd planned, but still you put on a happy face and soldiered your way through. We all do that ~ sometimes it's the only way we can get through the day. I'm sure there are very few people in your life who know (or even want to know) what's really going on inside your head and heart ~ and in truth, you don't want everyone to know. You don't want to feel that exposed, that vulnerable. So you "pretend" to be brave. It is also true that when we set our mind a certain way, our behavior usually follows. That is, when we pretend to be brave, we begin to act as if we are brave. There is nothing wrong with that. It's that old notion of faking it till you make it.

That said, I think of our forums as one of the few places where we don't have to fake anything. We can say exactly what we are thinking and feeling at any given moment, without fear of being judged. That's because so many of the feelings and thoughts in grief are universal, even though each person's individual experience of grief is unique ~ so everyone can relate. You don't have to explain to a fellow mourner why you're feeling as you do. We all "get" it. No explanation required. No apologies needed. What a powerful gift! And the best part? Each and every one of us (your dear self included) make it happen, every time one of us posts a message on that site. That's why I don't want you ever to be reluctant to post whatever it is that you need to say, my dear. That is what makes the rest of us respect and admire you for your honesty. And if you can't be honest there, where are you to go? I understand completely that fear of rejection ~ but in all the years I've been monitoring that site, I've never once observed anyone being rejected for expressing their honest emotions. It just does not happen.

As for your being an emotional mess right now, it seems to me that you are right where you need to be, dear one. Yes, it's uncomfortable. Yes, it's painful. Yes, you don't want to be there. Yes, it feels so foreign to you. But that is where you are, and there is nothing to be gained by fighting it. So go with it. Immerse yourself in it. I promise that you will not stay there forever. That's the thing about grief. It changes. You will change in your experience of it. Do not question it. Just go with it. As the saying goes, Don’t push the river ~ it flows by itself.

I hope after giving it some thought you would consider placing your message onto the forum as a post, for several reasons. Trust me, you are not alone in the feelings you describe. What you are is brave enough to acknowledge them. When you do that, you give others permission to be honest about what they are feeling, too. You reassure them that they are not crazy, or selfish, or weak, or "wallowing," or looking for pity. You NORMALIZE the fact that grief is hard, and ugly, and brutal, and painful, and totally unfair. Do you realize what a precious gift that is to others? Our site is not meant to be flowers and music and sunshine all the time. All of that is wonderful, but we all know that real life is not always filled with flowers and music and sunshine ~ and sometimes, when all we can see is darkness, it helps to know that we're not the only ones who look outside and think it's been raining too hard and too long, and we need to be free to complain about it.

The other reason such a post has value is because I know it will cause others to come to your side with their own words of comfort and support ~ and that is what you need and deserve right now. Do not isolate yourself from our members at those times when you need them the most, dear one. This is what our site is for: to offer comfort and support, compassionate companionship, reassurance that you are not alone, encouragement that you won't always feel as you are feeling now, and the comfort of knowing that others have been or still are exactly where you are right now. It offers all of that and more. Please don't deprive yourself of any of it.

Still, if you decide not to share your words with anyone but me, that's okay too. I hope it brings you some comfort to know that I am holding you gently in my heart, and your words are always safe with me.

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