Why we don’t talk about grief and 5 ways to change this

I had the pleasure of speaking with someone recently who said that as a bereaved parent, nothing’s changed throughout their grief experience of many years. These sentiments echo my own. I’ve been bereaved since 2005 after losing my daughter to suicide.

I’ve written before about my frustration as a bereaved parent, in that we really don’t talk about grief. Which makes the recovery process that much harder. But whenever I have it mirrored back to me through someone else’s experience, especially long-time grievers, I think it’s important to talk about again. And again. Because nobody knows when their world is going to be rocked by a loss or something else that can feel almost as devastating. Read on to discover the 5 ways to change this.

Why don’t we talk about grief?

So, why don’t we want to talk about grief? Grief is really just a mumble jumble of feelings and emotions that can last a lifetime for some bereaved people. But as I’ve also talked about before, grief is not just related to human loss. Whenever anyone has been rocked by a painful experience at any age, it can leave them with these same overwhelming feelings that human loss fills us with.

In essence, what we really don’t want to talk about is our true feelings, except maybe to a select few really close friends. But, even then, I’d wager most people filter a lot about what is really going on in their mind. Hence, why suicide is such a shock.

While connecting doesn’t have to be about spilling every secret or deeply personal thought, it is about feeling free enough to admit to others when life is getting us down and we feel like we’re the only one something bad is happening to. This is especially true when whatever is happening in our life is causing us to spiral downward mentally and emotionally. For some, to the point of no return. Which is why it is essential to remember that nearly every single suicide, if not every single one, is a shock to all loved ones and close friends.

All of us feel silenced in some way

That all of us feel silenced in some way at different times in different environments, is not only frustrating, but can become emotionally debilitating. In my view, feeling silenced remains a root cause of so much of our social and personal dysfunction. Think for a moment how many topics remain taboo and stigmatized. Which forces those who have experienced any number of traumatic and painful situations into feeling different from everyone else.

They are unable to talk about what they are feeling as a result of what they have or are now going through. Which is really bad for anybody’s mind and body when we feel forced to stuff ourselves up with any thoughts and feelings that don’t portray us as anything other than fine in every way. Hence, our normalized and superficial manner of greeting each other is to ask how we are doing without really expecting any other response but the obligatory one of “fine”. Just try asking the question twice and see if you don’t get a different answer!

What happens when we don’t talk about our feelings?

  1. We become isolated from others to varying degrees physically, mentally and emotionally.
  2. We don’t trust others, which is almost always about not trusting ourselves.
  3. We build stories in our head to constantly reaffirm the negative thoughts and feelings swirling around in our mind.

The more we don’t talk about our feelings related to our grief and any other painful or challenging experience, even with just one person, the more at risk we are to a host of negative consequences. Not least, and besides health issues, living a life that isn’t as personally rewarding as it is when we can live more authentically. Which means with all of our bumps and bruises showing others exactly who we are. When and if we choose to share.

Why it’s hard to show our true selves (some of the reasons)

  1. We don’t think people are interested in our stories.
  2. We don’t want to show our vulnerabilities for fear it will make us look weak.
  3. We fear being judged.
  4. The negative impact to us personally if people knew the “truth”. This could be a fear of loss of job, relationships, prestige, power or future opportunities.
  5. The pressure there is to compete in almost everything we do and have.

5 ways to change this:

  1. We must be kind and gentle and really care about each other.
  2. We should be curious and willing to learn about each other’s experiences without judgment or fear that the same thing is going to happen to us.
  3. Don’t ask if we don’t really want to know the truth about someone’s experience.
  4. Don’t pretend that something awful only happens to others. We’ve all had pain. We’re all vulnerable to bad stuff happening.
  5. Become willing to embrace connecting with others through our openness and honesty. It adds colour to the world. Also, people can spot the “real deal” a mile away. These folks are a lot more interesting to talk with and learn from.

Life is so much more interesting and educating when we become willing to open ourselves up to other people’s experiences from a keen desire to share. This helps all of us feel more equal on the playing field in this game of life. Where there are no winners or losers. Only freedom for us all because of the ability we have to proudly be who we are, regardless of what we’ve been through or may be facing today. More resources at vonnesolis.com.



Feature Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash