Grief/pain is like a horrible ex; a bitter one at it. Just when you thought you finally moved on, and replaced it with something much more peaceful… it irrationally keys your car and slashes your tires. There you are stranded, trying to detach yourself from this endless pull and tug with an ex that just won’t leave you alone. An ex that wants to be front and center. It pops up at work unannounced demanding your attention. It shows up at dinner with friends, while you try your best to pretend it’s not there. Any reminder of your ex puts you on edge, because you are reminded of its power to make a scene. Worst of all, for whatever reason it refuses to loosen its grip. So let’s talk about it… (not the Kübler-Ross stages)
I was told by many that, “grief gets better with time”, “Time heals all wounds”, “You are so strong, you’ll get through this”, “Life goes on”, “Your (insert deceased person) wouldn’t want you to be sad”, “God never gives you more than you can handle”, “I know EXACTLY what you are going through”, and best of all “ If you need anything, call me”. I think these cliches and platitudes are well intentioned, because ultimately (the alternative) saying nothing is worse. Saying nothing (not to be confused with actively listening) almost immediately screams you don’t care about this unfathomable loss. However, these aforementioned statements fall short because they are centered on the person and not the griever. I believe the term used to describe what I’m trying to relay here is “conversational narcissism”.
I’m not a trained sociologist/psychiatrist/psychologist but here is what I gathered from my very informal literature search. Ted Baeur put it beautifully in his article published in Medium: “ Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency as “conversational narcissism.” Often subtle and unconscious, it’s the desire to take over a conversation to do most of the talking, and to turn the focus … to yourself.”
I get it…Listening to someone’s pain can be unbearable especially when we live in a culture seeking only “GOOD VIBES”. It makes it easy for the phenomenon of conversational narcissism to creep in; “insert a trite statement” meant to cheer you up. The person embodying it may not be a narcissist, but the inability to relate subtly leaves them reaching in their repertoire of overused statements to become a “helpful sincere” friend. I wholeheartedly believe that sincerity is in fact there, however more often than not it is not helpful. What typically occurs is a gulf between the griever because ultimately they may not want to be cheered up. Most importantly, the space the griever is in is entirely valid and human! Here are examples of what would be more appropriate …“you must feel like your pain will never end” instead of “time will heal ”…or…“Tell me what’s the hardest part for you?” instead of “Be strong”/“You’re so resilient”…
… SO for those of you are currently experiencing (or experienced) pain/loss; here’s what I’m telling you: “I know life has dealt you a terrible blow, and living with this new reality is incredibly hard… seemingly endless even. Trying to keep yourself balanced in a space that doesn’t recognize/validate your grief is not ok. I may not know exactly what you are going through, but I can imagine the devastation you feel. You do not have to act like you are ok, or pretend you don’t miss what you’ve lost…Listen to me… I see you…. I see the pain you carry in your eyes, a look of … desolation. A look I recognize behind the many masks you carry…A look that few recognize… I’m right there with you too… trying to reconcile love and loss…”
That sneaky b*tch called grief/pain… she/he/it sure doesn’t discriminate, that MF…