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Grief: The invisible pain

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

Understanding how grief can affect you so deeply and profoundly, can of course leave you shattered and broken-hearted and so we close down and retreat, to protect ourselves and in doing so, we avoid our pain – we often seek escapisms and short-term relief in things such as alcohol, drugs, food, cigarettes, work but this doesn’t help us in the long term. …. What makes it more difficult is that this pain is an invisible one, it’s not as obvious to others as a broken leg, so harder for people to recognise, particularly if they don’t know us well and easier for us to hide behind, besides grief not being a topic that others are comfortable asking about. If you were to break a leg, it’s a much more comfortable question for someone to ask how it’s healing, we accept broken bones because they will mend, but we struggle with asking about broken hearts, they don’t mend quite so easily and people find that difficult and therefore avoidance of saying anything at all is often the result of that …

Or those that do try frequently offer meaningless platitudes of “it was meant to be” …. “they’re in a better place now” …. “you’re stronger than you think” …. “you should move on in your life”… “I know how you feel, when my great-uncle died, I felt awful too” ….“You’re young and beautiful, you’ll meet someone else”…. Oh, I could go on and on …. How do these often well-meaning but completely out-of-touch phrases help to cope with the searing pain of feeling like your heart has been ripped out of your chest? Your world has literally been turned upside down – everything that was once familiar and taken for granted, has been snatched from you.

I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of these comments and recognised that most of them were well-intentioned but didn’t understand why they could equally anger me, upset me and I’d wish that people just wouldn’t attempt to say anything at all unless it was truly loving and supportive. I often found these go-to cliché phrases so removed from the reality of what I was feeling. When I was asked about closure after my sister’s funeral all I could think of was that I may have said goodbye to her in the physical world only but I would continue to love her, that pure emotion doesn’t just disappear when someone dies, we still carry that love for them within us and that’s why it hurts so much. So of course, you need somewhere safe to voice this pain, somewhere to be held, supported, listened to without judgement, to have it witnessed.

And that’s why it’s important not to bury your grief because it causes discomfort to others or they think it doesn’t exist because they can’t see it quite so easily. If those around you choose to ignore it, or don’t want to hear about it or think that your grieving has ‘gone on too long’ then you need to find alternative ways of expressing it. Joining support groups both off and online can be invaluable to your healing as you will be connecting with others who have experienced similar loss and pain, and from whom you won’t be judged or shamed, as many claim they feel.

And of course, find your own ways to express your grief, whether through writing a grief journal (meant to be second-best to one-to-one counselling), art, music, dance, exercise … whatever helps you to relieve pain and tension and offers a way of letting go of emotions.

What are you thoughts on this? Have you found grief to be an invisible pain? Do others around you encourage you to grieve fully? I’d leave to hear your comments

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