One of my absolute favorite things to do is laugh. So much so, when I was a member of an acting group in college, they nicknamed me “Te-He” because I laughed so much. I laughed so hard at a funeral, people thought I was grieving (not my proudest moment). My younger sister and I bond over finding humor in situations that no one else seems to notice. It’s a gift, really. But after my dad died, it was difficult to use this gift without it hurting. It was painful to even smile. Earlier last week I could feel this familiar feeling settling in. I did everything I knew to do to make it go away. I read, I wrote, I talked, I slept, I prayed, I listened to music, I did it all. After a couple of days of this, I had enough and scheduled an appointment with my therapist. The appointment wasn’t for another three days but I figured I’d just suffer through. Then something happened.
I had the opportunity to do something for someone I love. Not because they asked me to and not because they needed me to (in fact, they refused… I did it anyway though), but simply because I wanted to. Being able to show one act of kindness put the biggest, pain-free smile on my face. I felt better that night than I had all week, probably all month. I was able to just be who I was without the pressure of trying to force myself to not be sad. As much as I want there to be, there is no time limit on grief. You don’t get to decide how long you feel how you feel, but you do get to decide what you do while you’re feeling it.
It’s important to have coping mechanisms (I read and write and talk and pray and sleep and listen to music). They help us deal with our feelings, not get rid of them. I’m an advocate for faking it until you make it. Sometimes you do have to smile to keep from crying and sometimes you should hang out with a friend even if you don’t feel like it. But I’m also an advocate for allowing yourself to be where you are as long as you need to be there. I struggle to practice the latter consistently because I’m terrified that I’ll get stuck there. I don’t want to be sad forever! But time has shown me, I won’t. After I decide to be okay with not being okay, it frees me up to just be. I can be sad. I can be unhappy. I can be lazy. I can be helpful. I can be thoughtful. I can be kind. I can be generous. I can be loving. I can even be happy. I can be everything I am when I choose to allow myself to be.
I could have cancelled my session with my therapist but I’m glad I didn’t because she helped me connect the dots. She reminded me I could still laugh through pain. She gave me that word “allow,” and I plan on applying it more frequently. Being sad doesn’t have to stop you from being who you are. You’re allowed to be it all.
Psalms 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (NLT)
If your inability to function (be all the things) starts to negatively impact your health (physical – not eating, losing/gaining weight, or mental – suicidal thought, etc.), job (not showing up, getting fired, etc.), or family (physically or verbally abusive, neglecting children, etc.), I would strongly recommend seeking out professional help immediately. https://openpathcollective.org/