You know those “Please Do Not Disturb” signs people hang up when they want to be left alone? The ones used during office meetings or in hotels when you don’t want the maids coming in? Well, for a long time, I wanted one of those taped to my forehead. I straight up wanted to be left alone. Everything was caving in on me by the minute and I couldn’t handle another stupid (although most of the times, unintentional, but still stupid) comment.
There are two different types of grievers. Sharers and non-sharers. Some people feel more connected sharing every detail with the world and some don’t even want to share what they had for breakfast. It’s important for you to know that there’s nothing wrong with either. This is true for all hardships in life whether it be a tragic loss, a devastating divorce, a debilitating illness (remember this includes mental health, not just physical), etc. For so long, I felt like I was being shamed for not sharing “how I was doing” with those around me.
I can’t count the number of times someone was upset with me for not responding to a text message or phone call. How was I supposed to respond to “How are you doing?” when I couldn’t even brush my hair? Seriously, right after all of this happened, I had a close family member section off and brush out my hair after days of not brushing it because it got so knotted up.
To “the sharer”:
Keep sharing. If it makes you feel better, keep sharing. Do what you need to do to feel connected to others. Share pictures, experiences, memories, whatever you want. If someone says something stupid, tell them. Tell them that what they’re saying doesn’t help you or make you feel better. And guide them on what will make you feel better, if you know. If you don’t know, tell them that. And once you do know, tell them.
To “the non-sharer”:
Keep not sharing. Don’t let someone make you feel like you need to be providing updates about your hardship. Don’t give yourself one more thing to get upset over. This is about you. I promise, it’s okay. I felt completely empty for so long. The last thing I wanted to do was to share that with others because it made this living nightmare even more real and it made it more painful because absolutely no one around me could relate. How am I supposed to share my despair with you when I can barely get myself dressed? Yes, it was hard for me to put clean clothes on each day.
To everyone else:
My suggestion for you if you know someone going through a hardship is to let them guide you and don’t take anything personally. This isn’t about you. Things like “I can’t imagine” or “I don’t know what I would do” or “everything happens for a reason, it’s going to be okay” ARE NOT HELPFUL (I’ll dedicate a post to this later). I repeat, NOT HELPFUL. Please, please don’t tell someone that. I literally couldn’t imagine what I was going through as well, so why would that make me feel better? It made me feel even more alone, if that was even possible. With that said, it’s okay if you’ve said the wrong thing before. We all do. We’re human. It’s just important that you learn from it. The sufferer doesn’t have the ability to comfort you. They’re the ones that need to be comforted. So do better next time, just like you were told when you were little, “learn from your mistakes and do better next time.” You’ll have plenty of opportunities to say something more appropriate in the future because sadly, the world is packed full of lemons. And it’s our job to turn those lemons into lemonade.
Keep going. You’re worth it.