People are us how we're doing. How are we supposed to answer that one? "I'm fine," is a typical response, even though that might be the opposite of how we feel.
From the Grieving Heart:
Wearing a mask is exhausting. No wonder I don't want to be with people much right now.
I'm sad. Everyone wants me to be happy. I'm irritable, and people close to me wonder why. Others ask how I am. Do they really want to know?
No, I don't think they do. So, I say, "I'm fine."
I'm not fine. And apparently, it's not okay to not be okay. People seem to get upset because I'm grieving. I miss you. Can't they understand that?
I'm learning to hide. It's like I'm on stage playing a role. I thought it might be better to keep the emotions inside when around others but stuffing them away and trying to hide them can be totally exhausting for me. It's like I’m having to separate from myself and my own heart.
I feel like a hypocrite. I don't enjoy being fake, but at the same time, I don't want to be emoting all over everyone and everything either.
I'm caught, stuck, and frustrated. If I must wear a mask, then I must also find safe places where I can take it off.
No wonder we're not fine
We're wired to love and be loved, and that requires honesty and authenticity. Most of us strive to be real, but none of us are completely ourselves with everyone we meet. We're naturally more vulnerable and open with those we trust – the people we know that love and accept us for simply who we are.
In other words, all of us wear masks from time to time, depending on where we are, who we're with, and the state of our own hearts. Some masks, of course, are thicker than others.
Loss and grief pose a special challenge because the world around us typically doesn't respond well to emotional pain and suffering. We run from grief rather than drawing closer to it. We decide what's most appropriate for any given situation and we act accordingly.
Grief, however, will not be boxed that conveniently. Though we can hide it momentarily, it refuses to be silenced. The heart will express itself, one way or another.
Grieving well is not about getting rid of all our masks. It's about finding a few people we can be real and honest with -- people with whom we can share our pain, frustration, and confusion. We need to feel safe. Our hearts need to be heard.
I will be myself and express my heart with those I trust and feel safe with. I will honor you by sharing my grief.
Adapted from the newly released Comfort for Grieving Hearts: Hope and Encouragement for Times of Loss.