Grief is a word that when spoken aloud reddens the cheeks and sends eyes downcast to the floor in embarrassment. It is often treated as a secret to be concealed, a state to be avoided, a feeling to be repressed. And yet it is something that is so inherently human.
“The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’” C.S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain.
I’ve listened to the heartbreaks of friends, observed the heartbreaks of strangers, read the heartbreaks of writers, and experienced heartbreaks of my own. And in these heartbreaks, I’ve learned much of grief — of the way it hurts and of the way it heals.
Give yourself grace in this grief. To the one who is grieving, your grief is not weakness. It is not a flaw to conceal, not a failing to be ashamed of. Let yourself cry. Let yourself yell out angry questions of “Why did this happen?” while you drive down roads emptied by the night’s hour. Let yourself mourn and ache and wonder how things will ever get better.
I once hid my grief, shamefully tucking it in an untraceable crevice deep in a darkened wood. Admitting my hurt felt like admitting defeat, so I shied away from any sort of vulnerability that allowed for an honest confession of “I am hurting.”
“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead,” C.S. Lewis writes in A Grief Observedafter the death of his wife.
Like my writing hero, I tried to think my way out of this feeling that shamed me so, hoping that by logically explaining to my heart how inconvenient and unnecessary sadness was, it’d send those unpleasant feelings back to my metaphorical heart-vault, setting stoic British guards outside it to ensure sadness stayed safely locked away. And when my heart did not oblige by my mind’s persuasion, I became angry at myself – genuinely hating myself, even – for my inability to rid myself of this silly sadness.
“Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?” Lewis asks.
And like my writing hero, I learned the impossibility of reasoning your way out of grief. You are human. Humans have feelings. No amount of logic can overcome your capacity – your human need – to feel. Give yourself grace to feel widely and deeply in your grief.