*(I am filling in for Mike today, as he had some emergencies at work come up that needed to be taken care of, and couldn't fulfill his widowed blogging duties for today. And as everyone knows, if the widowed person cannot fulfill the widowed duties, another widowed Runner-Up steps in and fulfills those duties for them. So, here I am, and Mike will be back next week with more of his awesome writing.) *
We all have different ways of coping, or not coping, with loss. Some might say that there are healthy ways to grieve, and unhealthy ways. I would agree that there is no right or wrong way, and that what works for one may not work for another - and yes, there are definitely choices people make in the throws of grief, that would be considered very unhealthy. But, when you are in that state of mind, where your world has fallen apart and been stolen from you, nothing feels like a decision. You don't make a choice to start over-drinking or getting into bad relationships or gambling or over-eating or starving yourself or having meaningless sex with too many people or a number of other things. Technically, yes, these are choices. But they do not feel like choices at the time. When you are numb and zoned out and in a constant fog and in massive pain and existing through death and confusion - nothing ever feels like a choice. You just sort of fall into things, and sometimes, it can take years and years to climb your way back out.
This past week, I was let inside the world of someone's deepest, darkest secret. They showed me that place of darkness and hell that they hadn't shown anyone, because they were terrified of the shame. They were frightened to see that look on the person's face that says: "You just made me think lesser of you." And so instead of sharing their deepest, most painful things - they continue to hide them from the world, and put a mask over them, so that nobody will ever see or discover what is going on. But masks are flimsy, and when you hide, you have to unhide - eventually. And when that happens, and you finally reveal the inner-truths to someone, and that someone doesn't judge you and doesn't run away in fear or think less of you like you thought they might - then a weight lifts, and you are finally free. This week, somebody in my life became a little bit more free, and I was there to witness it. I apoligize for this piece of writing and my descriptions being so vague as to what Im actually talking about - but sometimes - it is way more important to protect the heart and integrity of the person who chose to share their darkness with you - than it is to share that darkness with the world. That is not my place, and it is not my story to tell. But being brought into that place - it made me think.
It made me think about all of the things that we hide from the world, when we are hurting. It made me think about how you never actually, really know what is going on behind closed doors - literally and figuratively. You don't know what is going on inside someone's home, until they show you - and you don't know what's going on inside someone's perhaps tormented soul, until they let you in. It takes a lot of courage to let someone see that kind of pain. This person was so nervous and so afraid that I would judge them, or think less of them - but they were so wrong. Seeing what I saw, it made me more empathetic. More compassionate. It made me see first-hand what can happen when someone has no emotional support, or when someone is driven to the edge by multiple losses. It made me want to meet this person, exactly where they are, and sit with them inside of that dark hole, just so they know that they don't have to sit there alone any longer.
Millions of people get up everyday, go to work, put on a "brave face", smile and act happy and like all is well - when they are coming apart inside. People do that every single day. But to actually take that mask off -and show someone the true darkness that lies underneath - to take the most vulnerable parts of yourself and open them up for someone to have a look - that takes courage. That is brave. And once you do that, it begins a spiral effect toward more healthy behavior. When you show someone something awful, and they don't run away screaming - you feel human again. And then, even if it's been an entire decade, you can finally start to heal.
When you let someone inside, to the things inside, that is where freedom lives.