By Jason Flinn, Certified Life Coach and Grief Recovery Specialist , Contributing Columnist
When I meet with clients who are beginning their journey in grief recovery we start with a commitment to be honest, and offer each other total confidentiality without judgement. Without these conditions, honesty is very hard to achieve. Even when you are with someone who offers you these conditions, the honesty needed to deal with grief and loss cannot be achieved if you are “being strong for others”.
We look around the world right now and have trouble determining who is really being honest. Those of us who delve into the world of social media are moulding our faces. We show everyone what we want them to see. Many people unfortunately use this approach with their loved ones. They don’t show them when they are hurting because they want to spare them from their hurt or the reminder of a shared loss. They show them a mask with a smile instead of their true face. This approach does not actually stop others or yourself from suffering from the pain of loss.
When you are “strong for others” you are losing precious opportunities to demonstrate healthy emotional expression. You can create the echo back from your loved ones that they too need to be “strong for you” and deny their true feelings. You are supporting the culture in your community to grieve in isolation, which is an outdated idea that has caused more harm than good. It may falsely show that the loss has had little effect on you, resulting in resentment between you and those you are protecting from your feelings. Unresolved pain due to loss can stay with someone for decades if it is ignored, even if you are doing it with the best of intentions.
So, what does being strong for others actually look like? It looks like sharing your feelings with your children and allowing them to see you being vulnerable. It looks like seeking grief support from a counsellor or recovery coach when the weight of grief is too much to bear on your own. It is offering your loved ones emotional honesty and total confidentiality without judgement. This is the hardest path to take, with the heaviest emotional lifting you can do for your friends and family. Are you ready to be that strong for others?
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