Hidden Grief, Let's Finally Talk About It.
Let’s talk about hidden grief for a moment. Go ahead and grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea, curl up on your bed or your favorite chair and let’s talk about it for a minute. You ready? Ok sister, let’s get real for a minute together.
Grief…hidden grief is a lonely business. It’s agonizing and relenting, and at times even paralyzing. It’s cruel and unjust when it visits, if it ever leaves it’s brief. Hidden grief doesn’t care if your having a bad day already, it doesn’t mind throwing you off your balance when you least expect it, it could care less if your significant other has any say, and it seriously could care less about that big promotion you’ve got to focus on.
No, grief…especially hidden grief is a huge asshole… yes I said it. Like the playground bully kind of asshole. The one everyone wants to punch in the face but no one wants to confront so the bullying just continues ruthlessly. Hidden grief is an obstacle that every woman at some point in her lifetime will encounter. It’s a sneaky little bastard that has a way of killing the joy when you want to find it the most.
Our hidden losses are often not shared with others because that would require a level of vulnerability that is downright terrifying. It would require a transparency that says “I’m able to be crushed, I’m not as invincible as I elude myself to be.” Hidden loss is harder than we care to admit because that would mean admitting we can be weak. Who the hell wants to do that?
The early miscarriage that happened before anyone even knew your were pregnant, including your SO. The ending of a romance that was still so early in it’s stages that no one in your intimate life had even met them yet, but it held so much promise. A failure to meet a goal that no one else knew you were trying for. The sharp disappointment of learning that we are not who we thought we were (or that someone close to us is not who we thought they were).
Other times the loss is very tangible like losing a child to cancer, or dealing with the runaway antics of your teen. It could be as real as the loss of your adult sibling, whether through absolute disconnection or their sudden unexpected death.
The pain felt when only you are aware that your spouse enjoys abusing you physically behind closed doors when everyone else is asleep, but smiles and dotes on you in public so well that if you dared to share your reality, no one would believe they are capable of being such a monster.
So how should we deal with hidden loss? How do we calm the f*ck down inside and begin to heal?
When I went through this tornado of grief in late 2017 my first instinct was to reach out for support anywhere I could find it. Afterall, grief is a form of emotional panic and instability. Which each failed attempt to find the support I so desperately needed I fell further and further into the storm.
It wasn’t until I chose to take full control of the grieving process on my own that I began to heal. For me, that meant getting very clear about what I had been searching for from others and finding ways to give those things to myself. The key gifts that I gave myself that helped me turn that corner toward healing were seemingly small ones, but consciously giving them to myself (without waiting to get them from others) made all the difference.
Validation | One of the biggest things I kept searching for was someone else to validate the intensity and reality of all of the losses and grief that I was experiencing. When I realized that getting validation from someone else was only a means of getting permission to validate my own experience, I chose to skip the step of getting permission and validate my experience all on my own. It took some conscious repetition, but just this validation in the face of so much misunderstanding eased so much.
Space to grieve | Take a time out girl, from everything. Even that really hot guy your into right now. Put down your phone, get outside by yourself and just learn to simply be. Grief takes a lot of mental, emotional, and physical space, and people are unlikely to give us that space when they can’t even see our hidden losses and griefs. Choosing to make that space for myself without waiting for permission or understanding gave me what I needed to move through the grief and begin to heal and rebuild. This included focusing on supporting my body with extra sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. It’s so much different than isolation. It’s not about cutting people out, it’s about loving those people enough to be the best version of you when they come back around. You don’t want to be the one that snaps off something rude to your SO or child because you’re all edgy under the surface. So calm yourself first, find time and space so that when you come back together you can offer your love quality and calmness.
Creative expression | Pick up your camera, play your ukulele on the beach as loud as you want, even when there is no one to hear it. Write that book your have been thinking about for years. Write down your thoughts in a blog, get it all out there. Writing became of huge part of that expression for me, but my photography work also grew out of that time. For others, creative expression might involve dance or drawing, sculpting or building something. Maybe for you, it’s running or any of dozens of other ways of working out grief. The point is to release it somewhere.
Being present | Often when we grieve, we long for someone else just to be present to us and our grief. In the absence of that, consciously being present to ourselves, being our own witness to our grief, listening to ourselves all work to give more comfort than you might imagine.
Selective support | Even with all I was doing alone, I still found it helpful to get support from others, but as I became clearer about what I needed, it was easier to choose where to get that support to ensure that I got what I needed. Sometimes that meant hiring support. Other times it just meant picking and choosing who to talk to about what, knowing that not everyone was equally able to support all needs.
I am no expert by far, but if what I have shared can help you find your way through the pain and back to the fullness of life you deserve then amen sister. Amen.