It is impossible to express how important permission is to healing from the pain of grief.
I would go as far as to say that until you have found a way to express yourself and to do what you must in terms of finding ways to deal with your hurt, you will never heal fully or in a healthy way.
This is a problem because there is often an enormous gap between what you need to “ say and do” and what others are prepared to “allow.”
You want to speak of your hurt or of the person who has died and others don’t feel comfortable with that.
You need to cry or moan and again others don’t really want to be near you in your misery.
You feel like giving up or not participating. You just want to roll up in a ball and cease to be, but again others push you to continue, to” get better” and to “ move on”.
The problem between what you need and what others, even what society itself is willing to offer you or grant you, are often miles apart.
I have learned over the years that it can take great courage to go against the grain and to do what you need to regardless of what others tell you is right, acceptable or appropriate.
If in the midst of your grief and all the hurt that goes along with it you can somehow muster the strength to express yourself and to respond to your feelings you will certainly be better for it in the long term.
When I was a boy, I learned that what I needed most after I had had any kind of troubling experience was to talk about it. I am sure that I drove those around me to distraction as I retold the same story or went over the same events again and again.
I had to “ get it out”. I had to find a way to express myself and tell the story of whatever it was that was troubling me.
I can remember that in time I grew to use this as a coping strategy whenever things were troubling for me.
Scary movies were spoken of over and over again. Nightmares had to be told and retold and things that I worried about became much smaller once I spoke of them, and got them “out in the open”.
It was as if the telling of the troubling thing put it in perspective for me and by retelling it several times it seemed to lose it’s power.
In I Can’t Stop Crying, Grief and Recovery a Compassionate Guide I use the analogy of food poisoning to demonstrate this point.
If you have eaten contaminated food that causes you to feel ill the best thing that you can do is vomit and get rid of the toxic material.
Anyone who has ever had food poisoning will surely agree that as unpleasant as the purging is, it is a sure way to have the problem dealt with and in time, with a lot of uncomfortable effort you will feel better.
I apologize for the crude analogy but it really works here. Imagine feeling like you needed to throw up and having someone close to you say “please don’t, that makes me uncomfortable.” Or, “don’t throw up; hold on, things will pass in time. Try not to think about your sick stomach.”
That approach would be ridiculous to the point of absurd. “By all means get rid of it and begin to feel better”, would be the only reasonable response to your food poisoning mess.
So you see the problem. When you are grieving, you have a soul full of toxic, difficult feelings, and what you need isn’t a distraction or a lecture or a group of people who aren’t comfortable with your hurt and your needs. No, what you need is a way to express yourself and if at all possible, permission to say and do what you need to so that you can start to make yourself well.
I had a friend sometime ago who was having some difficulty in her life. We would meet for coffee once a week or so and she would talk. In fact she would talk and talk and talk some more. And each time at the end of our time together she would say, “I’m sorry, all I do is spew. It feels so good to get rid of it all.”
It doesn’t matter if you can’t find someone to sit quietly while you tell your story or express your hurt; there are other places and other ways.
If you don’t have a friend or a family member who will let you let lose, then try and find someone who will. Maybe a professional like your family physician or some one who is trained in being with those who are grieving. Your local hospital or funeral home may have a suggestion.
If you’re not a talker then you may need to get creative and find a method that better suits you.
I have known those who write their feelings down and those who produce poetry.
I have known some who paint or draw. I even knew a man once who took up sculpting. He gave his feelings three-dimensional shape.
It doesn’t make any difference at all how you get it out, it only maters that you find a way.
While all around you are keeping their heads, by all means take sometime regularly to lose yours.
Take my permission.
JUST GET IT OUT.