Your Vulnerability in Grief is Not Your Weakness

This blog is officially two months old.😱 And while that seems like nothing, it’s been a revolutionary couple of months for me. Okay, maybe not the first month.

The first month, I was allowed to coast on the quippy topics I had dreamed up on my walks in the park with Huck. The second month, though, has been a trying stage of life- and an even more difficult time to share my person life. But more on that in a bit!

This month has called into question the reason I write, and the reason I chose to share my experience. Often times I’ve wondered, does this simply come across as seeking attention? Will people believe that this is a cry for help? It’s even made me realize that my recent onslaught of thoughts about grief and loss on the general public may seem sudden and alarming- why now, two and a half years after the loss?

A month ago, I made an Instagram post about how seriously I was struggling that particular day. The reaction was immense, and so many people showed up for me. It was lovely, but it also challenged and deepened my understanding of why I started to share my writing in the first place.

The comments were kind. And supportive. And brimming with concern.

While it was touching… that was the last thing I had wanted.

The reaction I received from friends and family bordered on alarm. Y’all were seriously worried about me. I was surprised, though, because I hadn’t been looking for help or advice. I had shared a post that opened with the fact that I was hurting, but more importantly it had gone on to impart that I was going to proceed on with strength and determination. I even mentioned that I was sharing that day in part because of this blog and my desire to be transparent and honest with those following along, reading my weekly thoughts.

I wondered why that post garnered the reaction that it did. Was my message not clear? Was it too dramatic? I couldn’t understand what had gone wrong.

I was SO embarrassed.

I worried that it may have come across like I wanted pity. I’ve thought long and hard about that particular post and the writing assignment I have given myself this year. I have taken a step back in the past few weeks, trying to digest all of this feedback.

Why am I doing this?

And then the answer became so clear. THIS RIGHT HERE IS EXACTLY WHY I AM WRITING. People reacted that way because our society has taught us in Western culture that admitting vulnerability is akin to admitting weakness.

You know what? It IS alarming to hear people admit that they aren’t okay. It IS out of the ordinary, because our society has made it so. We have been taught to feel shameful about our more troubling feelings. It is so hard for us to discuss our inner lives openly. But here’s the kicker. Once you do so, the relief immediately follows.

When you keep sadness, anxiety, and fear as a secret inside yourself- when you hide it away from others as if it is something to be ashamed of- it only gives the heartache more power. When it is a secret, it eats away at you.

What did J. K. Rowling say? “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” We are so scared of saying these words because we stress about how it will come across to others. We are more worried about what these terms say about us than what the actual feelings are doing to us.

Here’s the backstory to that post. I was missing my mom something fierce that week. I was in the process of quitting my job and moving to a new part of the city with a new roommate. My habits and my day-to-day life as I knew it was shifting drastically. I was facing an alarming health issue of my own that had me concerned.

I hit share on that post from my car at the parking lot of my gym. I had cried through the car ride there, and I didn’t feel like I could shoulder my burden alone anymore. I hated sobbing all by myself behind the steering wheel, with no one to turn to in the passenger seat.

So I did something about it.

I jotted a few quick sentences and made the promise to myself and everyone on social media that I wasn’t feeling well- but that I was going to bust my ass to get there. And you know what? I immediately felt lighter. Before I received any likes or read any comments, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. My battle that day wasn’t a secret anymore, and I felt as though I could simply allow myself to be having a hard day- by which I could also allow myself to turn it around. Once the shame and the anxiety of trying to hide my pain melted away, my emotional burden was cut in half. I literally cannot impress upon you enough how unburdened I felt.

I wiped off the tears, grabbed my gym bag, and ran into the studio to conquer my workout.
Sharing that post felt… casual. Pressing the post button was intimidating, admittedly, but once it was done… the world surprisingly hadn’t ended. I suppose that’s exactly why the response it received online took me aback. Posting made me feel better, but it made others think I was feeling worse.

That contradiction right there has been confounding me all month.

While trying to work through this, I was talking to my dad one night and he reminded me of this old adage to which he frequently turns: “Misery loves company.”

I used to have a different perspective of the saying. I honestly thought it meant that whiney people gravitate to each other, akin to “birds of a feather flock together”- that negativity breeds negativity. I took it to be a judgement on being outwardly miserable. But now I get it. Misery loves company because nobody can endure the feeling that they are alone. Especially when we hurt, we need each other more than ever before. The adage is about the comfort of having each other to turn to in hard times.

I encourage you all to turn to each other. At any moment of any day, no matter how you’re feeling. I know there is a fine line between sharing and complaining, but I think the more we exercise that skill, the better we can discover that balance. Start sharing with us. Hell, if you’re having a fantastic day then PLEASE share it with us!We could all use some good news, couldn’t we?

We have GOT to stop waiting for people to ask us how we’ve been- because they won’t do it. Not because others don’t care! That’s not the case at all. In my experience, I’ve observed that we have become so nervous about asking each other how we’re doing in any more depth than the most basic social niceties… because we fear that if we genuinely ask others what they’re thinking and feeling, we could potentially hurt them by bringing up hard feelings, or worse, embarrass them by forcing them to open up to us. We fall into a circular pattern of ignoring our richest internal lives out of fear.It’s a toxic spiral towards social blindness and drives us further and further inward.

I want to open us back up. 

I am doing fine- because I have all of you. It takes courage to make yourself vulnerable, but I promise you the trouble is well worth the outcome.

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