If you’re avoiding life because big emotions feel like they’re in the way, this is for you…
Have you been saying “no” to life because you’re afraid of the feelings that may come up? In my biggest moments of grief (like the early days right after I was diagnosed or the weeks after my Dad passed), I remember being so worried that my raw emotions would leak out—and freak out the people around me.
Declining an invitation to connect—what if I cry, shout or make someone uncomfortable?
Worried that caring questions will be asked at work—what if I cry, shout or seem unprofessional?
Nervous to meet new people—what if I cry, shout and seem unhinged?
When I most needed support and connection, I was tempted to isolate, afraid that my big feelings would burden others.
Thankfully, writing my new book, I’m Not a Mourning Person, allowed me to expand my understanding and compassion for these often misunderstood (and avoided) emotions.
Grief (and other messy feelings) comes in many shapes, sizes and colors.
They’re big and loud. Tender and tumultuous. Above all, they ask to be witnessed. Not polished or punished for existing. Not relegated to the corners of our psyches or buried deep in our tissues where all they can do is fester. And yet, more often than not, that’s what happens.
But, I get it. Most of us don’t want to be “mourning people.” Quite simply, it can suck.
And because of that suck-a-tude, many of us will do anything to avoid that experience—myself included.
Before I did this work, I’d rather gnaw my own arm off than sit with my sorrow. Gruesome, I know. But less gruesome than my unleashing a tsunami of tears (or so I thought).
But then life brought me to my knees—again. Loss knocked the wind out of me. Anger tore me from my composure. And hopelessness drained my batteries.
Try as I might to control myself, others, and my surroundings, everything shattered—especially my heart.
But that painful shattering process allowed the light to pour in.
It created an openness in me, and a softness in my approach to life that I hadn’t allowed for quite some time, if ever.
I’m starting to think that resisting the truth of our experience is another way we unintentionally keep ourselves from fully living. It’s like saying, “I’ll take the rainbow, but not the rain.”
It takes courage to be fully alive.
Facing my mortality and walking with my Dad through his own reminded me of this. And when we’re fully alive, it’s because we’re saying “yes” to life more often than not—even when it activates our pain.
So WTF do we actually do when we want to avoid the world because we’re afraid to feel our big feelings?
How do we traverse this terrain?
Well, my therapist gave me some breadcrumbs for us to follow.
She encouraged me to try “talking about talking about it.”
Reach out to a true friend, someone you trust who you can share your big feelings with.
Set the stage for what could happen so you’re not as overwhelmed if it does. Let the person know that you’re tender about the topic, that you feel very raw and because you’re in that place, you may get emotional. I used this very same advice when my Dad wanted to talk about dying and I wasn’t quite ready so I had to ease into the conversation by “talking about talking about it.”
“I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about [whatever the thing is]. But I think it would help. Would you be open to having a conversation like that? What would you need to feel better about talking about it? What would I need?”
Unless that person is a total jackass (my words, not hers), they’ll likely meet you with kindness. You may even inspire them to gently sit with their own big feelings.
It takes a lot of strength to face your fear and let someone know what’s really going on.
But I’m craving real connection and I bet you are, too.
So if you’re hiding sometimes like I was, maybe this medicine will help you. Don’t shrink, my friend. Life wants you to say “yes” to it.
I’ve come to learn that we can’t have love without grief.
They’re two sides of the same coin. Plus, grief is a master healer when we’re brave enough to allow ourselves to experience it. You may not believe me when I say that you can be an overcomer but it’s possible.
When we invite our most challenging (and painful) emotions to be seen, heard and felt, freedom and healing can begin.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you, my friend. Do you ever feel tempted to bury big emotions? What helps you open up and share? Let’s share our collective wisdom in the comments section.
Courage & Connection,