Muse: to reflect, contemplate, to
meditate in silence on some subject.
“We spend so much time asking where our suffering
comes from it leaves us little time to ask where it leads.”
- Why me?
- Why did my loved one have to die?
- Was there something more I could have done?
- Why did God let this happen?
Even if we got answers to these questions it would not lessen our pain. We all seem to wrestle with unanswerable questions such as these until we don’t. When we try to find answers to our questions we are trying to think our way through grief. We can’t think our way through grief we can only feel our way through grief.
I heard someone say once that it is our resistance to pain that causes our suffering. (Pain + Resistance = Suffering). It takes time to be able to surrender to what is instead of fighting what isn’t.
Hopefully, in time we will be able to look at where our suffering has led us, how it has been woven into the thread of our being and ultimately transformed us.
Instead of searching for answers to our questions perhaps we can, like the poet Rilke says, live our way into the answers.
Invisible wounds are the hardest to heal
Over time grief has become invisible in our culture and when the bereaved feel they have to hide their grief they too start to feel invisible.
Grief seemed to be more visible and accepted when our loved ones died at home surrounded by family and friends. The deceased’s body was cared for by the family and laid out in the parlor where friends came and paid their respects. Grief was also made more visible when we wore mourning clothes or black armbands for a period of time to signify that we were grieving the loss of a loved one. Having our grief witnessed allowed us to mourn more openly as we were supported by our surrounding community.
Life becomes confusing when we eliminate the truth. When grief becomes invisible we are eliminating the truth of how we feel and it can be very perplexing. We eliminate the truth of grief and make it invisible by not talking about or acknowledging it, by shaming people for their grief, when we deny, avoid, or distract ourselves from our grief or when our culture sees grief as a weakness or as something that we should be able to put behind us or something we should just get over.
Invisible grief becomes like a dark secret that we can’t share. Any time we try to keep secrets it takes a toll on all involved but especially on the one carrying their invisible pain. Carrying our pain weighs us down and it affects all areas of our life. Michael Slepian found in his research that secrets can weigh us down just like a physical burden (2012) and unexpressed grief can also feel like a heavy burden. The more we try to make our grief invisible the heavier the weight of our burden becomes.
We begin to try and make ourselves and our grief less visible by withdrawing more from the outside world which leads to isolation and makes us feel even more alone in our grief. When we do interact with the outside world we may make ourselves invisible by pretending to feel better than we actually do so we don’t make anyone uncomfortable with our grief. “There is a desperation to be seen, and a knowledge that I won’t be” (Ross 2018). Invisible grief also affects our ability to trust others but even more concerning is how we start to distrust ourselves and our feelings. Just because grief may be invisible doesn’t mean it won’t make itself seen in other ways. It may appear as anxiety, depression, headaches, stomach issues, sleep disturbances, etc.
There are no bandages or ointments that we can place upon invisible wounds that will help them heal. Instead, we need to expose these invisible wounds to the air by talking about them with others who are willing to see and hear what our wounds have to say. “People start to heal the moment they feel heard” (Ungunmerr 1988). Our wounds can be made more visible by allowing ourselves to be authentic with our feelings instead of hiding what we feel.
The more we can be authentic with our grief and talk about it openly the more our culture that we live in can come to understand that it is a normal reaction to loss. The more visible we can make our grief the more we can all become a healing salve for each other’s invisible wounds.
“Invisible wounds are the hardest to heal for their healing depends upon the love of others, patience and understanding, and the gift of time.”
The Written Word
There are many ways to express our grief and putting our thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper can be a very healing process. The suggested prompts here can be done one time or multiple times. I’ve learned it helps to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and keep your pen moving for the entire time. I encourage using pen and paper rather than a keyboard as there is a hand/heart connection when writing longhand. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar, just write. When the timer goes off you stop writing even if you are in mid-sentence. Don’t reread your work at this time. Just set it aside for a couple of weeks and then go back and see what your words may have to say to you.
(If you choose to use a keyboard the same instructions apply).
Try this writing prompt:
What happens within me when I keep my grief invisible?
I will list some books, articles, poems, movies, or other resources that I as well as others have found helpful on this grief journey. I hope these resources may deepen your understanding of grief, maybe bring you some sense of comfort, and help you to feel less alone in your grief.
Photo Credit: Jason Robb
The Healing That Comes
I know how long
you have been waiting
for your story to take
a different turn,
you have gone in search
of what will mend you
and make you whole.
I bear no remedy,
for the easing
of your pain.
But I know
that lives in a story
that has been
the healing that comes
to hide ourselves away
with fingers clutched
we think are
none but ours.
See how they fit together,
we have been carrying–
how in their meeting
they make a way
we could not