There’s a common bit of advice in grief circles: Fake it until you make it.
It’s not bad as far as it goes and can be pretty useful-especially just after the initial loss and activity surrounding it.
Like when I met the acquaintance in the grocery store a month after burying Dominic and she grabbed me with a giant smile on her face, “How ARE you?!!! It’s SO good to see you out!!!”
I just smiled and stood there as if I appreciated her interest, a deer caught in headlights, silently praying she’d live up to her talkative past and soon move on to another target.
BUT there comes a time when faking it is not helpful. In fact, it’s downright dangerous.
Because if I fake it long enough and get good enough at it, I can convince myself that I have done the work grief requires.
Grief will not be ignored forever.
It bubbles up in physical symptoms and sleepless nights. It boils over in anger and impatience and anxiety and nervous habits.
There is no way through but through. It has to be faced head on.
Life circumstances kept me distracted and busy for the first four or five months after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.
I cried, screamed and was heartbroken-I definitely had my moments. But for the most part I functioned at a pretty high level.
It wasn’t until things slowed down that I had my come apart. And it caught me by surprise.
I was forced to sit in silence and face the feelings. I was compelled to hear my heart shatter-over and over again.
I’ve now had 33 months of this burden of sorrow. Almost three years to think about, work on and pray through the pain.
I’m learning to pay attention to my own heartbeat, to my body, to my triggers, to my joy-bringers, my joy-stealers and my limitations. I’m beginning to accept the bellycrawl progress through this tunnel of darkness by focusing on the bright light at the end.
I still fake it sometimes-it’s not worth it to me to get into a long conversation with that person I only see every year or so. Too much time, too much energy and too little reward.
But I’m learning to be more genuine with the people that matter most. I’m learning to be honest about how I feel, what I need and how much I can do.
And I refuse to allow busyness to creep up on me so that I don’t have the time and energy to continue doing the work grief requires.