I remember a moment during my intense grief over my mother’s death. I was sitting on the oatmeal-colored carpet in our living space, tears streaming down my face. My husband looked at me, sighed, and asked the question: “Haven’t you cried enough?”
I didn’t know back then what I know today. I didn’t have the words to explain to him the depth of my grief. I didn’t know how to say my heart contained two hundred gallons of tears and I’d shed only two of them. There were many more tears that had to be cried. I had a long way to go. And, it was a long time before I stopped crying.
I know my husband meant well. He just wanted me to stop being so SAD. But I also know that what he was transferring to me in that moment was the judgment he carried around “feeling one’s feelings.” My husband is not the only one. And I am not the sole recipient of that question, designed to help one feel better.
Grieving people run into this all the time. Friends and family want you to get over it. People want you to count your blessings. The workplace wants to rush your grief so everyone can just get on with it.
People bring their own misconceptions into the grief experience and tell you how you should be feeling. That’s not very helpful, is it!
What are some of the most common misconceptions we carry about feeling our feelings? Remember, we all have them because our parents or primary caregivers gave them to us. School, church, and society reinforced these misconceptions. And so we bring these judgments to bear on our grief experience — and wonder why grieving is so hard.
Here are the top 3:
#1. Don’t Feel Your Feelings And You’ll Be Fine. Bury them. Hide from them. Run from them. Distract yourself from them. But whatever you do, please don’t feel them. People want us to feel better — so they can feel better. Our grief is hard on other people. This is why you hear “God wanted a rose for His garden” or “You’ll have more children” or “At least you had all these years with your mother.” They rush you to a better-feeling place. They don’t talk about your loved one — for fear of triggering your sad feelings. They joke and laugh around you because they think it is their job to make you happy — because, clearly, you’ve forgotten how to be happy.
#2. Your Sadness Has No Room in the Workplace. The workplace expects you to check your feelings at the door, wear your ‘happy’ face and walk in. We’re human beings with a beating heart. The heart is where all our emotions live. And, they don’t live in tight, separate cubicles. It is entirely possible that someone mentions a song that was your loved one’s favorite. Or you’re riffling through your purse and your loved one’s picture falls out. It’s hard not to feel the growing lump in your throat or the tears pooling in your eyes. But because you’re at the workplace and likely to be judged, you swallow your sorrow and pretend to be doing fine.
#3. If You Feel Your Feelings, You’re Weak. Unfortunately many people believe that vulnerability = weakness. No one cares to remember the truth of Emotional Intelligence. Listening, empathy, compassion, and kindness are all key skills to success in the workplace — and life. Feeling your feelings makes you a warrior, not a weakling. It takes courage to speak the truth about what you’re feeling — whether it is anger, sadness, guilt, or fear. We can never heal what we don’t allow ourselves to feel.
What other misconceptions have you heard? Share them in the comments box.