When we are dealing with the loss of a loved one, those four short words can cripple our heart and pierce our soul, leaving us feeling misunderstood, abandoned and hurt, very hurt. Here we are doing the very best we can, grieving and hurting and actually thinking we’re doing quite well, considering. Considering our hearts have been wrenched out of our bodies. Our life as we knew it has been decimated and then someone says, “Isn’t it time you moved on?” or “I don’t want to hear about it anymore” or “JUST GET OVER IT” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We retreat in shock and can’t quite believe what’s happening. It’s almost as if we’re being told to not speak, not show, not be our true self, our hurting self, our human self and our loving self. “Where’s the old you? Be something else because I don’t like what you are now.” That’s essentially how it can make us feel.
In my grief I’ve had friends and family totally disappear from my life. Some went for ever. Some until I was back to, what they called my “normal” self. It was more about them than it was about me. Even more surprising were the people who did appear and came into my life, often unexpectedly and supported me totally. They were the ones who accepted the hurting parts as much as the other parts of me. They may not have understood but they tried and I love them for that.
Whilst we may have the support and understanding of many there will still be those family and close friends who just don’t get what we are going through. Who don’t want to hear and who make us feel we have to be something we’re not. When we are trying so hard to deal with grief in whichever way we can, they are just not able to be there for us. They cannot accept and support us, much as we wish they could. This could be for many reasons.
They have no experience of grief personally and have no idea what to do. They think they are helping when in actual fact they are doing just the opposite.
Emotions, especially the sort we are experiencing are way off limits. Avoid, avoid, avoid! Ours, theirs, any ones. They just don’t go there.
They don’t like change; they want us as we once were. So they tell us what to do and how to be to try and get us back to how we once were. They don’t realise that’s no longer possible.
Our expectations of family and friends can be surprisingly challenged in our grief and cause a huge internal conflict that we have trouble reconciling. The dilemma for so many of us when faced with such a situation is what to do now. How can we be someone we’re not? We’ve got this mishmash of emotions churning whenever we think about it and our internal chatter is giving us options, none of which seems ideal.
“I’m different now. I can’t be that person anymore. I’m dealing with this as best I can. If that’s different or longer than other people think it should be then that’s just how it is. I can’t be something I’m not just to please them or protect them in some way. I need to find my own way through this and if they can’t be there for me then I accept that but I don’t want them in my life anymore and they probably don’t want to be in mine either.”
“I love her but she just doesn’t understand. I just don’t need this right now. I want her love and support not all the stuff she comes out with every time I see her. It’s just making it worse. I’ll talk to her and see if we can work something out, tell her what I really need. I’m not looking forward to it; I just wish she’d understand. I shouldn’t even have to do this.”
“When I’m there I have to put on my happy face, my everything’s ok face because I know they can’t deal with it and they don’t want to. It annoys me but I love them, so it’s just easier this way. They feel comfortable and I don’t feel they’re judging me and being unsupportive all the time. I’m just glad I do have people I can be honest and real with.”
Grief impacts our life in every way and that includes our relationships with others. There are no easy answers in all of this because I, you and them are all so very different with its own set of dynamic circumstances.
In each of your relationships consider the importance of that particular person for you now and in the future. If that person and having an ongoing relationship with them isn’t important anymore, for whatever reason, then cut the rope and let the drifting begin – the speed is up to you.
If that person does matter to you but they aren’t able to be there for you, accept them where they are at. You want to keep them in your life, so how can you be you and they be they and have it all work out. In deciding that you may come to an understanding with them about what topics are off limits, the time you spend together and how you pass that time. You can relieve yourself of the burden of expectation you used to have.
Seek what you need elsewhere. Find the people you can be truly yourself with. They may be in your life already or yet to come. Those people who will understand and support you, who will be there for you in your darkest and rawest moments when you truly are stripped bare. Spend most of your time with them.
Remember we all have choices and even in difficult relationships we have a choice to let go, change what isn’t working and find what does and can.