Something interesting happens when you lose someone close.
At the time when you are begging the universe for a friend, a helper, a pair of loving arms…those around you may not act the way you would hope or expect.
I was young when Matt died; too young to know that I couldn’t expect love and understanding from everyone around me, sometimes not even from my closest relatives. Many of them did not understand the friendship I had with Matt, or why I would be hurting so much (he wasn’t an immediate family member, after all), or didn’t realize I was hurting in the first place. Some even felt threatened by my grief, ignoring or twisting my words, making it all about them.
There are those that offer you the usual clichés:
He’s in a better place now.
Heaven needed another angel.
There are those that offer their own hardships in an attempt to relate, distract or detract from your story:
My friend’s dad just died of cancer. Now THAT was sad.
My boyfriend and I are living in such cramped quarters, that’s not easy either. (Yes, someone actually said that to me.)
Then there are those who feel uncomfortable with the fact that you’re grieving at all. I, for example, was told that it wasn’t right to be this upset about a (male) friend dying, when I had a fiancé to think about.
Some of my most painful experiences happened when I attempted to be vulnerable with those around me and would get hurt in the process. It caused me to put up walls that, to this day, are still standing.
If I were locked up, I thought, they would finally know how deeply this affects me. When I have a nervous breakdown, then they’ll get it.
I’m here to bring you a very tough, yet liberating message: No one can ever truly understand what you are going through.
Your circumstances, your relationship with your loved one, your personality, your unique perspective on the world – they are all very much yours. No matter how long you share and explain, there are those who are able to be present, to listen, to comfort and to love, and then there are those who feel threatened, disinterested, skeptical, or unable to understand.
And while it’s sobering to hear that no one ever really knows what you’re going through, this wisdom can bring with it some incredible relief.
The relief comes when you stop trying to prove to them how much it hurts, how much you loved someone, or how unable you are to keep going.
It’s totally natural – we all crave acknowledgement and comfort – but sometimes your family and friends just aren’t able to give you what you need. They may be grieving as well, or not have the skills for dealing with someone in pain. Their ego may be reacting to you. They may not be speaking from a place of wisdom and awareness, but rather unconsciously.
I’m here today to tell you that it’s okay. You don’t need them to understand.
You do not need to justify your pain.
You do not need to defend or explain yourself.
You do not need to go into hiding.
Inside of you, there’s a beautiful, small being who needs comfort. You may feel comfortable calling this your Inner Child, or you may not. Whatever you would like to call the being, it may be necessary for YOU to say some of the words it needs to hear. It means mothering yourself, taking care of yourself only the way a compassionate, soft, wise mother could.
How does it feel when you say the following things to yourself out loud?
- I’m so, so sorry this happened to you.
- You’re right. This is so unfair.
- You didn’t deserve this.
- I’m here. I’m listening.
- You have every right to be angry/sad/shocked.
- Let me hold you.
- It’s okay to cry.
- I love you. I love the parts of you that are in pain. I love the parts of you that feel like they’ll never get better.
- I’m taking care of you. You aren’t alone.
- I understand.
- You did your best.
If those don’t fit, try creating some of your own based on these three questions:
- If your loved one were here, what would you want them to say?
- If your grandmother/aunt/favorite comforter from childhood were here, what would you want them to say?
- If your friends or closest relatives could know one thing about your grief, what would it be?
Remember that you may need to come back to this process over and over again as your grief changes. Depending on your feelings and your thoughts of that day, you may need to hear different things.
Also remember that this is NOT to say you must resign yourself to loneliness and stop looking for the comfort of your friends and family. You do not need to take this as evidence that you are alone, or that no one understands you. Indeed, I counted on the support of several friends who WERE understanding, loving, and caring. This is simply a way to call upon the enormous capacity for love that you already have inside.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you are still longing for the company of others, there are hundreds of local and online support groups that may offer comfort and the gift of anonymity. Of course, it’s important to choose with care and be observant of the overall climate/tone of the group before posting. Look at the comments offered and decide if you feel comfortable being vulnerable in that space. You may find the overall vibe to be incredibly accepting, or it may be judgmental. Only stay for as long as the group serves you.
Finally, one-on-one therapy may be an option depending on your location and income. You do not have to be alone. If you open yourself up to the possibility of being comforted and loved, the right solution will present itself.
May you be blessed with the ability to mother yourself and care for yourself in a loving, compassionate way. May you find the words you need to hear for a bit of relief. May you feel the love and support that is surrounding you at all times. May you know that you are never, ever alone.
Photo by Jean Gerber