This is me over ten years ago (pictured centre), aged 20, a few months after I lost my beautiful mama. Most people would say that my smile looks real, and in some way it was. Backpacking through Europe with my best friends, I escaped the reality of what had just happened in my life and for two whole weeks I was just a normal girl having the time of my life. I wasn’t ready to accept that my mum had died and confront the fact that I was now a grieving daughter.
A little escapism didn’t hurt anyone right? Wrong.
This suppression of emotions and grief became my coping method for so many years. I was terrified of exposing everything I was feeling inside for fear of it changing how people saw me and appearing weak or abnormal. I was terrified of falling behind with my studies and letting my family down. Taking a break to come to terms with losing my mum and heal from the trauma of watching her rapidly deteriorate just wasn’t an option, at least not one that was (is) encouraged by our society. My masquerade was bolstered by everyone around me marvelling at how ‘strong’ I was. I wasn’t strong. I was a good actor. But there was a limit as to how long I could play that role.
Be true to your emotions
One of the most significant life lessons that grief has taught me is that it is okay to be sad. In fact, it is important to give yourself the space to be sad. Crying, wailing and even squealing are all forms of release, and release is how we heal. Nowadays, if someone asks me how I am, I won’t just say ‘fine’, especially when it is my way of covering up how I really feel. Being sad is lonely enough, so if there is a chance I can release that sadness by talking or crying to/on someone else, hell yes, then I’ll take it. I’ve often been told that I’m dramatic and emotional, which could be perceived as a negative trait. But to me it can only be positive. It takes a very courageous and stable person to confront their emotions, even the darkest ones. If that makes me ’emotional’, I could not be prouder of myself.
I wrote this post to reassure those of you who feel the pressure to appear strong and stable, that it is okay to be sad. It’s not just okay, but confronting and releasing your emotions through talking and crying is one of the most courageous and valuable steps you can take for yourself.