I never ask anyone to adjust the thermostat in a car or at home unless I’m suffocating or shivering.
It’s a point of personal pride that I can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than most people.
And for awhile, I carried that same prideful disdain for “weaker folks” into my grief journey.
I was determined to endure whatever blows might come my way via comments, behavior, subtle and not-so-subtle attempts by others to circumscribe, dictate or otherwise influence my loss experience. I didn’t want to abandon pride in my own strength by admitting I wasn’t as strong as I wished I could be.
Then one day I realized that being honest was not the same as being rude. Telling the truth was not the same as acting selfishly.
Nothing is gained by remaining silent in the face of ignorance or arrogance or just plain inattention. The person who crosses a boundary of compassion or grace or love or empathy and goes unchallenged is set free to do it again-to me or someone else.
So I started telling people the truth:
- “I’m sorry, I just can’t talk about this right now.”
- “I appreciate your need to fill this vacancy but I’m not emotionally prepared to take on any new responsibilities.”
- “Today is a hard grief day, can we discuss this later?”
- “I don’t think I will be able to come, it’s too hard to be around a crowd these days.”
- “I know you mean well, but your comments hurt my heart. You can’t understand precisely what I’m going through and I know that. I would appreciate it if you respected that fact and didn’t try to ‘help’ me by sending articles, etc.”
- “I’m tired today. I’m taking a break from everyone but family.”
- “The holidays are hard on my heart. I’m thankful you find joy in them. I won’t be attending the party (family gathering, etc.) this year. Maybe next year will be easier.”
- “I’m getting anxious, I need to go.”
Except for a lone individual, every time I chose honesty, it was not only accepted, it was applauded.
People got it! Not that they truly understood in the deepest sense what I was going through, but they respected that I was, in fact, GOING THROUGH something hard, heartbreaking and life changing.
Like I’ve said before, my emotions will leak out somewhere. I can’t keep them bottled inside forever.
When I choose to be honest AT THE TIME it’s so much better.
When I let folks know that what they say, do, expect from and thrust upon me is unhelpful or overwhelming or even painful, they usually respond with gratitude. They almost always accept my boundaries.
Those of us walking the Valley often say that those who aren’t just can’t understand. They don’t know what they don’t know.
But they can be educated about some of what we know.
They can learn that some things hurt and most of them would be glad to know it because they don’t wish more pain on our already broken hearts.
It’s OK to ask someone to make adjustments to make the journey less difficult.
Being honest is not being rude.