Throughout my active grief, I was tempted to withhold what I was honestly experiencing, thinking I would spare myself added discomfort, or spare the one who casually asked, “How are you doing?” Did they really want to know, or was it simply syllables filling the silent space? I began to experiment with my options. I could look past the person and respond, “Oh, just fine.” Or I could look into their eyes and ask, “Do you really want to know?” Most caring human beings said, “Yes. Tell me.” The conversation ball was back in my court and I had a choice to make. I could respond with polite avoidance, or be honest with them. Which option would benefit us the most? Always, it was honesty. But being honest about our grief is a bit of an art.
Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.
While my son died over 32 years ago, there are times the wave of grief sweeps over me. This often happens when I volunteer at Camp Agape; a bereavement camp in Texas for kids ages 7-12. I serve as the lead grief counselor and grief educator for the volunteer training. This past summer, I found myself overcome with the need to share stories about Dawson. And there was Darlene. It took courage, yet in the nurturing atmosphere of the camp activities, I was able to cry freely and be real with Darlene. She listened so well, and I was free to be honest.
Have you ever connected the virtue of honesty as important in your grief? Please give it some serious thought. Are you beginning to understand how important it is to first be honest with yourself? If we haven’t made it a practice of telling ourselves the truth about how we feel and think before we became a griever, it might feel quite unusual to begin now. Begin by honestly assessing your thoughts and feelings at the beginning and the end of each day.
Just how do you take this kind of personal inventory? It is so easy to fool ourselves into believing something differently than our authentic self really knows. Now that your heart is broken, there is less need to pretend with yourself. The healing feeling is grief. If you want the grief to move through on its flow to the sea, then you have to get in and ride the current to its destination to find restitution, resolve, relief, and renewal.
Let’s begin right now. What are you feeling, thinking and experiencing at this moment? What have you already experienced? These questions are made easier when you evaluate your grief with the word back below.
Shock, Denial, Hurting (physically, emotionally, spiritually), Numbness,
Panic, Depression, Despair, Loneliness, Blame, Regrets, Guilt, Anger, Relief,
Fear, Hostility, Acceptance, Anxious Loss of Emotional Control, Socially Awkward,
Reconciling, Resigned, Confusion, Loss of focus, Loss of appetite,
Helpless, Hopeless, Moments of Joy~Trust~Peace.
If you wish to gain the highest amount of benefit from being honest with yourself, take out some paper and a pen and do some reflective writing about your grief experience thus far. Further ideas on the positive effect of writing about your grief can be found here. Now that you have been honest with your current grief experience, you might find the courage to be honest with others. Talking with a trusted friend is a safe place to begin. This might be out for coffee, on the golf course, or with a fishing pole in hand, on a hike, or sipping a cool lemonade on the back porch. You could start by reading them this blog, or simply summarize what you are learning about the importance of honesty with your grief.
Not every Inquiry Needs a Full Explanation
It is true that we can sense when others are not emotionally safe for us to share an honest reply. I found that a few pre-planned replies helped enormously. Without going into detail, I sometimes honestly responded, “Today is a little on the hard side right now. I don’t feel like talking about it. Thank you for asking.” Or “I don’t think I will be fine for a long while.” Or “It is exhausting for me to talk about my grief right now. Thank you for understanding.” With these responses we can still maintain the virtue of honesty, but avoid the mismatch of the timing or the person inquiring.
The virtue of being honest with ourselves and others, is a useful tool in the bereavement process. It opens our hearts to the healing presence of the One Who knows us best. When we exercise our trust in God’s faithfulness to heal our broken hearts, we can experience it even more readily when we practice honesty with Him. No need to hide any of the pain from His authentic healing presence.
Have you ever had a time you practiced being honest or avoiding honesty about your grief either with yourself or with others. Your story just might encourage another reader. I am guessing it will.
© Karen Nicola/Comfort for the Day Sept. 2017