A loss doesn’t have to be earth-shattering to hurt.
A loss doesn’t have to wreck your life in order to require mourning.
The culture around us loves to judge the appropriateness of our feelings. We get all sorts of feedback every day on whether we’re being too emotional; whether we’re getting upset over something we “shouldn’t” be upset by; whether our emotional reactions are sufficiently “adult.”
The world loves to tell us we’re making too big a deal of something we’re feeling.
The thing is, the world doesn’t have to live inside our skin.
The culture out there doesn’t have to deal with it when we experience a loss that may not be of the magnitude it judges “acceptable” to mourn, but which leaves us sad and asks us to acknowledge it anyway.
I’ve said to before, I’ll say it again: other people don’t have to go to sleep inside our heads and hearts, and wake up with our heads and hearts. We do.
Sometimes we’re going to feel sadness over losses that other people think are “silly.”
Sometimes we’re going to feel pain over losses that other people feel aren’t big enough to qualify for “mourning.”
Whether other people want to offer us sympathy or support is up to them. Nobody is required to mourn our losses with us. Acknowledging and coping with our losses is an inside-out job, and nobody is asking anyone else to swoop in and do their mourning for them.
Let them go ahead and think it’s silly, in other words.
We can grieve for a person; we can grieve for a pet; we can grieve for an opportunity; we can even grieve for a time of life or a relationship.
“Grieving” doesn’t mean that our world stops. It means taking the time to feel what we’re feeling, to assess the meaning of losses in our life, and to adjust to our new, post-loss reality.
A lot of people get sucked into kind of an extreme, all-or-nothing model of loss and grieving. They get this idea in their heads that “grieving” necessarily implies the world stops, that one can’t do their job or interact with other people, that all of one’s energy gets focused exclusively on the grieving if a loss is big enough to require grieving.
No wonder some people set the bar so high for what kinds of losses are “okay” to grieve.
The truth is, most grieving actually happens on the down low.
Most grieving happens quietly, almost invisibly.
An awful lot of grieving happens almost exclusively in our heads and hearts, simply because the world has made it so radically “uncool” to acknowledge that loses hurt, no matter what the magnitude.
You need to know that you’re not alone in your need to acknowledge and grieve losses, no matter how big or small.
You need to know that it’s normal and human to experience pain and confusion when things go away.
You need to know that, whatever the culture thinks, you feel what you feel, and no amount of their judgment or scorn is going to change that.
You need to know that you have not only the right, but also the responsibility, to process your losses in a way that allows you to thrive and function on the other side of that loss.
What losses have you been pressured to “let go of” before you’re ready?
What grieving have you been pressured to rush because it’s not “okay” for you to be upset?
What emotional reactions have you been nudged into denying and disowning because emotions make someone ELSE in your life uncomfortable?
It’s really, really hard to build healthy, durable self-esteem when we’re denying and disowning our emotional lives. Especially if we’re doing so to please and appease someone else.
Do your grieving the way you need to do it. Be mindful of the fact that you may or may not receive the support and empathy of everyone around you— nor do you need it in order to successfully process your losses.
What you absolutely DO need, however, is your own unequivocal support and compassion toward your own emotional life.
Don’t wage a war on your emotions just because it’s what other people have done.
Be kind to yourself. Especially around losses.
Self-acceptance and compassion is a decision you can make— only and always.
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