Freshman year of college was one of the best and worst times of my life. On one hand, I made amazing friends, loved dorm life, met a great guy, lived in a cool city, had new found freedom, and took some amazing classes. On the other hand, I left everything I had known behind: all my friends since childhood, the safety and comfort of my home and my parents, my high school sweetheart, and the simplicity of my routine. To add to the challenge, my grandma, my friend Travis, and my dog Cleo all died within a very short amount of time.
Needless to say, I was a little bit distracted from school and didn't put as much effort in second semester as I "should" have. Due to my lack of effort, I was very nervous to check my grades when I got home that summer.
Even though I grew up in a very loving home, my parents' extremely high academic standards were slightly intimidating. So not knowing my grades (which produced more and more anxiety every day) was somehow better than knowing how I actually did. As the days and weeks passed, the fear of failure grew and began infiltrating my dreams, my moods, and my ability to enjoy daily life.
Finally, the end of the summer came, and my parents cleverly said that I couldn't go back to school until I checked my grades (they wanted to check on their investment). So, with butterflies in my stomach and anxiety in my chest I logged in to check my grades.
Low and behold, I hadn't failed at all. In fact, I made above a 3.0 which I thought was impossible at that point. All that worry, anxiety, fear, and avoidance was for nothing.
My fear of failure or disappointing my parents got bigger and bigger the longer I avoided my grades, but when I finally looked, it wasn't that bad at all. Sure it was scary, but not knowing was much worse.
I share this story because the longer we avoid looking at our feelings, the bigger our grief gets. Grief can become like the darkness in a closet - scary when we don't know its contents, but once we turn on the light there is nothing to fear.
Remember in Home Alone when Kevin McAllister has to go down to the dark basement and it seems super scary? At some point he has to do his laundry and overcome his fear. When he bravely ventures downstairs and turns on the light, he realizes that it isn't that scary at all.
When we brush our feelings under the rug and avoid talking about grief and loss, the more daunting our feelings become. We have been conditioned not to talk about grief, but it is time for that to change.
If your kid were frightened of the dark closet, you would probably hold his/her hand and turn on the light so they could see what all the dark shapes really were. Let's shed some light on our grief so that it no longer has to live in the corners of our mind, heart, and body paralyzing us with fear, anxiety, and numbness.
Here are some things that will shed light on the grief hiding in the darkness:
- Grief is not just sadness. As defined by the Grief Recovery Institute: "grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of, or change in, a familiar pattern of behavior."
- It is natural to grieve any and all losses.
- You are not broken because you experience grief. It just makes you more HUMAN (which is what you are).
- What we resist, persists. If we resist feeling our feelings, they will get bigger and louder.
- If we allow ourselves to feel our feelings as they come up, they will pass more easily.
- Sharing your story with a non-judgmental, loving person can be very powerful for your healing.
- Our body carries both memories and pain. If we acknowledge our grief and experiences instead of ignoring them, we can release the pain from our bodies.
If you want to explore any unresolved grief you have been carrying around, please consider joining me for a life-changing 2 Day Personal Grief Recovery Workshop. I look forward to standing beside you as we bring grief out of the darkness and into the light.