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The secrets we keep (that keep us from healing from grief)

The secrets we keep (that keep us from healing from grief)

The secrets that stop us healing from grief

A barrier to truly and completely healing from grief after a death is to lump everything painful in to a ball, call it ‘grief’ (I’ve even seen it described as a single emotion)and never try to look into it to see what it is made up of, what’s causing it, whether it was there before or not, etc.

Imagine being in an accident and, at the hospital, talking about your ‘body pain’ but never actually taking the time to investigate the pain, see where it exists seperately in the body, what’s causing each part, whether it existed before. Maybe you have 3 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a sprained ankle, and a slipped disk (because it was already injured but this accident has aggravated it) but nobody bothers looking in to it.  You call it ‘body pain’ and so do the doctors.  Treating physical pain this way would be about as helpful as treating grief this way – at best you might numb it with pain killers but, if you aren’t prepared to examine it and to find it’s separate causes, you’ll have no chance of getting to the root of it and healing it.

And one of the many parts of grief that I see lumped in with the rest is the keeping of secrets.  Or more specifically the pain, stress and fear that comes from keeping secrets…and worrying they’ll get out.

People have always shared secrets with me. I don’t know why.  Maybe I have a face that inspires it (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.)  Maybe I just ask questions other people don’t and expect answers.  I’m pretty nosey.

And I’ve always liked that. Having people share their secrets with me.  I like being trusted in that way.  And I like knowing what’s really going on behind the scenes.  It’s interesting.  It’s intriguing. Maybe thats it – I’m less likely to make a judgement either way because I’m too busy just finding it interesting and intriguing.

In my work, helping people heal from grief after a death, I get to hear a lot of secrets. Deep, dark, very secret, secrets.

Family secrets.

Relationship secrets.

Personal secrets.

Financial secrets.

Secret fears.

Secret thoughts.

Secret feelings.

Very often these secrets cause a lot of pain and stress for people on top of the pain and stress they are already in. They are afraid someone will find out. They are afraid what people will think. They afraid of being judged negatively.  They are afraid of getting into some kind of trouble.  They are afraid of being rejected. And it’s a really big thing for people to share these secrets.

And so often I am struck, not just by the pain these secrets cause, but also by how, more often than not, these secrets are such small things. Common. Normal. Too small to have the power and weight they are given.  Too common to cause as much stress as they do.

But they are given power and weight. And they do cause stress.

I’m yet to hear anything truly surprising both because it’s very rare to find a truly unique secret, and also because most people’s secrets so often really aren’t that bad.  It’s in the keeping of the secret that everything gets messed up.  The fear of being found out. The stress and shame of people knowing and what they might think.

Our secrets feel huge to us. Scary. Humiliating. Exposing.  Life-ruining.

With grief this can be family secrets of all shapes and sizes that nobody at all knew, or a few people in the family knew, or that only the family knew but no-one outside the family.

It can be emotions: the things you think you ought not to be feeling.  The relief. The moments of numbness or forgetting.  Too much pain. Not enough pain. The glimpses of good that you aren’t meant to see.

It can be events: things that have happened, circumstances of the death.

It can be financial: money problems that were hidden, secrets around a will.

Whatever it is, more often than not, it’s causing far more trouble being kept in the dark than it would if it were brought out into the light.

It’s worth looking at what secrets around death and grief you might be keeping. What is it you are frightened to share? What is it you feel you can’t say out loud? And find a way to share that….so it isn’t one more thing causing ‘grief’ for you.

Talk to someone you trust.  Tell a stranger.  Put it in your journal.  Write it down on a card and then burn it.  Whatever feels right for you and whatever allows you to release yourself from the secrets you are keeping.