My tears are not a sign that I am broken.
My smile is not a sign that I am healed.
They are signs that I am human. They are signs that I am capable of feeling. Of processing. Of accepting the ups and downs of my current life. They are a sign that I am right where I should be. I am not hiding. I am right here for all to see. As I said in my last post, I am holding on to the possibility that one day I will have strung together enough happy moments to truly say I am happy again. But until then, I am happy. And I am sad. I am both. It makes some people uncomfortable. And I think even a little annoyed.
“Let it go”
“You’re better off…”
If I had a dime for every time people have said that to me, well let’s just say that there would probably be more presents under the Christmas tree this year.
What they don’t understand is that I am moving on. I am letting go. And yes, I will eventually be better off. But it’s a process and one that I refuse to foolishly rush for the sake of others’ comfort. I’ve seen what happens to people when they rush through these things. It’s not pretty, folks. It usually lands people in a worse place than where they had been. And let’s be honest, if you have ever been in my shoes (or similar ones) then you know that the people rushing you the most (and likely also giving you unsolicited advice) are the ones who have never gone through what you are experiencing. Listen, I’m not being ungrateful for their efforts. The sentiment is greatly appreciated. These friends are genuinely trying to help. I get it.
But here is what people in situations of loss are looking for (I think):
Empathy – try to understand our feelings even if you have never experienced a situation such as ours. I get that your spouse probably didn’t have an affair and abandon your family, but I’m pretty sure you could probably understand the devastating impact that could have on a person.
Validation – recognize our experiences and emotions as worthy of the time we are spending feeling each of them; don’t try to talk us out of them by saying things like “you have so much to be grateful for” – we know this already and understand that, but we are capable and allowed to hold multiple emotions at the same time so let us do that.
Patience – don’t rush us through our healing process for the sake of your comfort. We know that it’s not easy to watch us cry or listen to us question our situations for the hundredth time. But do it anyway because that is what friendship is about some times – putting your own comfort aside for the sake of others. And I am betting we will find ourselves returning the gift of patience one day.
I write this today because it is Christmas Eve and I have friends who are hurting. And I am hurting. The Christmas season is tough for those who have had a recent (a term that gets to be defined by each individual so please do not impose your definition on someone else) loss. We are trying to hold ourselves together and enjoy the beauty of the season while also grieving (and keeping our emotions hidden from others out of fear of judgment or even pity). Some of us have lost spouses to divorce or death. Others have lost relationships with a loved one. Traditions have been lost. And so while we are trying our best (and being pretty darn successful) to enjoy every little morsel of happiness that is truly this magical time of year, we are also in pain.
With that all being said, as we gather this weekend to celebrate this glorious holiday with our loved ones, I ask one thing of you – consider my words when you are assembled around the table or the tree. Extend the gifts of empathy, validation, and patience to those around you who may be trying to hold many emotions at one time. It could be the greatest gift you give all year.