A family friend recently asked my sister how I was doing, and then seemed surprised when she replied that I'm still very sad a lot of the time and cry often. It got me thinking, if I don't regularly remind the world that I'm missing Dan and still grieving him, will they assume I've 'finished' or was past that 'phase'?
In the months after his death I spoke about my grief without inhibition and posted about it regularly on social media. When I was having a particularly bad day, I used Facebook to express myself and purge the painful thoughts from my head. It was a release and also helped me feel connected to my community and receive support when I couldn't bring myself to actually call someone or go out into the world in person.
If I was having a good day, I would post a happy or positive thought but still connect it to Dan - either because I wished he was there to share it with me; or to acknowledge that even in the good times he was still very much a part of me; or because the particular thing I was grateful for was due to him coming in to my life and giving me blessings that were going to stay with me forever.
I think it gave people insight into how complicated the bereavement process is and some of the particular challenges I was facing, which in turn, helped them to work out how to best support me.
However some time in the past few months the grief posts became less frequent. They haven't stopped altogether, I still share the highs and lows and talk about Dan constantly, but I probably don't broadcast the lows as often.
Maybe this is because I'm getting better at coping with the pain and processing it internally rather than feeling that need to shout it out to the world every time a wave hits?
Maybe I'm becoming more private with my grief, more aware of how people may interpret it, more self-conscious about being so raw and vulnerable.
Maybe there are less lows now? That one is more difficult to identify. I honestly find it hard to define when the tough times build and ease because when I'm deep in the loss, I forget there has ever been anything else other than the total mental and physical agony of missing my husband.
Whatever it may be, I don't like the thought that by containing my grief or limiting my public declarations of sadness, I'm giving people the notion that I am 'moving forward' and not grieving as much anymore.
I would love to get to the point where it no longer has a dominating presence but I still don't fully understand what that means or looks like. I think sometimes I can feel so worried about people's expectations (or my own expectations) that I don't want to raise them to the point where I can fail to meet them.
But at the same time, it doesn't feel right to keep announcing that I'm missing Dan, just to keep other's informed of my state of mind, like some kind of public service announcement. When people tell me that they have learnt a lot from how much I share and appreciate my openness, that's a nice thought. It means my experience is helping others and it's good to think there's some kind of positive to this.
However, it's not my job to educate and I have to be careful not to take on that responsibility. So I chose to let go of that sense of obligation and my fear of being judged and just be. If I want to talk about how I'm feeling, I will. If I want to keep that private, I will.
This is a long road as I integrate Dan's death into the new life I'm rebuilding for myself. I have enough to worry about, so I'm working on not adding 'what other people think of my grieving process' to that list.