I had a different blog post planned for today; however, I felt this topic more strongly today. So, let’s talk about the word fine, particularly in the context of I’m fine.
For most of my life, when someone would ask me, “how are you?” My response (like it is for a lot of us) would be, “I’m fine.”
There’s a question we need to interject, however. In the space between that question and our knee-jerk response, ask: “Do I like to be lied to?”
We often pause, to tell the truth about ourselves in this instance, because it’s just easier. Getting deep with, what is often a casual, small-talk question, would be uncomfortable, right? I mean, if we ask someone (anyone) how they’re doing, we’re likely to be caught off guard if we got the truth – if it’s anything but “I’m fine.”
Let’s look at this typical scenario more closely, shall we?
Had I told the truth about myself when someone asked me how I was doing back in 2014, I would have said:
Life itself overwhelms me, and I am feeling miserable inside. I feel like there’s more to me than where I’m at and what I’m doing right now. Everything from my past is creaping up on me. I feel like a hot mess. I haven’t showered for three days (no lie) and only get out of my pj’s and make my bed right before my kids come home, so they don’t see what a hot mess I am. I take personality tests, am going through various personal development programs trying to figure out why I’m so f*cked up. That’s how I feel – f*cked up. I ache all over. I can’t eat because I feel bloated all the time. My hair is falling out in clumps in the shower. I am quick to anger and slow to love. Also, I got a dog because my youngest went to kindergarten and, I needed a distraction, because, just like that, I feel like I’ve lost a part of my identity – in so many ways.
How do you think someone would respond to that on the street, on the phone, or at lunch? They likely would’ve regretted even asking. And, for some reading that, you may be realizing, for the first time (if you haven’t read my book), how I really felt and what my days really looked like back then.
Grief causes us to behave in ways that are out of character for who we are at our core. But, here’s the caveat to that statement: I don’t think we truly know ourselves until we dissect ourselves. We may have an understanding of our likes, dislikes, passions, etc.. But, I’m talking really deep examining and knowing. The knowing you finally feel when you look in the mirror, and your reflection meets your soul. When have you seen yourself this way? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror so profoundly that you began to weep? If I were Kenny Rogers singing “Gamgling Man,” I’d bet my left kidney that you haven’t. It’s been a long time since I’ve done so myself.
I can tell you, what’s happened for me when I have in the past, is a whole lot of tears start flowing. Those tears would come from a whole lot of hurt at that time. I would bet my right kidney, but considering I already bet my left and probably lost, I’ll say I’d bet my next paycheck that if I did so today, it would be a different story. Today, I feel a whole lot of appreciation for being where I am in my life and all the sh*t I worked through to get to this place. I know this because it happens so easily now when I am in meditation or journaling.
So, perhaps when people ask me now, “how are you?” I should say: “Fantastic. How can I help you feel fantastic today, too?” I’m sure that’s not something most people would expect to hear, right?
So, friend – how can I help YOU feel fantastic today? Or, perhaps, tomorrow, or nine weeks from now? More specifically, I can, after the last session of my upcoming eight-week grief group program (March 11th). Shameless plug, I know. But truthfully, this program was the catalyst for changing the trajectory of the rest of my life. I feel this in my bones because I became certified, and I’ve found my calling in this work. However, even if you’re not certifying and are a participant, you’re going through it and doing the work. You complete deep inner-work, in a supported and guided environment. You don’t know it yet, but the feeling after the eight weeks will have you choosing another response than “I’m fine.” I guarantee it.
Let’s remove “I’m fine” from our vocabulary and, instead, begin to tell the truth about ourselves. Grief isn’t a dirty word. And yet, it certainly feels like it is. I’m on a mission to make grief common-talk, just like the weather. Not one person is immune to it, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, etc.. We can look at anyone on the street and know there’s something within them that causes an ache inside because we all grieve something or someone. “I’m fine” is merely a distraction from the pain and loneliness that persists inside. And by saying “I’m fine,” we’re placing a bandaid over an infection. All the while, we’re rejecting and denying where our “hut (heart + gut)” is telling us we need to heal.
We start changing the conversation when we start getting honest with ourselves and with each other. And, this conversation starts in our homes with our children. We need to stop accepting, “I’m fine.” We have to help our children find the words to help them express how they’re truly feeling. Because behind every “I’m fine” is a lie if we take the time to dissect it.
One last thought: How can we expect our children to tell the truth about themselves when we hide the truth about ourselves?
P.S. Tickets/info for my upcoming group in Bismarck, ND can be found HERE, if you’re interested in moving beyond your grief.
Recently, I was listening to a life coach podcaster going on about how children don’t have the mental capacity to deal with emotional pain. She went on to say that it’s “a good thing,” as it’s a coping mechanism she referred to as “disassociation.” She went on to add how “it’s brilliant” how, as children, we’re able to do this and “avoid and numb out.” However, once an adult, this no longer serves us. She went on and on a few more minutes, and, I was so frustrated listening that I turned it off and unsubscribed when she began to share how she coped with her feelings (as an adult) with food. Well, what she was experiencing was grief – she didn’t call it for what it was. And this is part of the problem. It’s almost as if “grief” is some taboo word.
It became apparent to me that this woman, although educated in life coaching and all the things adults struggle with, had little understanding of grieving children — and truly, what children are capable of.
She did get one thing right; children’s brains aren’t as mentally and emotionally developed as adults. However, children grieve just as adults do. They may grieve a bit differently. Still, all the same – anger, sadness, guilt, shame, etc. are emotions grieving children also experience.
So what got me all fired up?
Why should these feelings not be addressed by those who love and care for children? Whose responsibility is it when a child does not know how to process their emotions?
Caregivers either allow the child to grieve, fully expressing all their emotions, or, later in adulthood, default to what we’ve been taught. Often, that is behavior modeled after our parents. And, we all know grief isn’t something that’s commonplace education in the home or at school, and also isn’t near as common-talk as the weather.
There is no judgment or criticism from me if you default to what you know – I get it.
It did me zero favors to “brilliantly disassociate” while I was experiencing bed-wetting, excessive tardiness, and struggled, overall, for years to find my way.
My loved ones were grieving their own way. They, too, didn’t have the education on what to do with their feelings – much less mine. If you’re a parent, read about the ACE study. You’ll see why this fires me up. And, the ACE study doesn’t even address losses such as moving.
The negative impact of not addressing childhood grief is why I am so very passionate about grief recovery – for adults and children alike. It is in grief education where we can raise future generations to be emotionally resilient. Adults can lead and teach from example, empowering themselves, in their own lives, in the process. Educating ourselves is the greatest gift we can give each other when it comes to grief. And, I believe, children are more than capable of learning ways to grieve in a healthy way.
I am very much looking forward to facilitating a Helping Children with Loss group in whichever community wishes to host this program.
Once a week, for four weeks, I teach you how to help the child or children in your care to navigate and complete their grief — what a beautiful gift to give your child or children. As the person entrusted to their care, it is your duty to tend to all needs – including emotional. And, you can do so by receiving education and new tools. It is possible to empower yourself with knowledge, knowing how to help the children in your care deal with painful feelings. Let me help you – help them.
P.S. Are you interested in bringing the Helping Children with Loss Program to your community? Please email me at victoria [at] theunleashedheart [dot] com.
Grief often feels like you’re stuck on a round-about.
There are many choices that you’re faced with daily and decisions to be made. But, you find yourself going round and round most days, almost in a daze. You mindlessly circle ’round, watching people pass you by, making moves and decisions that move them forward. However, there you are, caught up in an endless mind-fog of indecision. You find yourself stuck – like a hamster on a wheel.
If grief were a photograph, this is what I imagine it would’ve looked like – for me, that is.
Opportunity can be found everywhere if you look hard enough. When your heart is grieving, though, and you haven’t healed the darkest corners of your heart that reach far into the depths of your childhood, life can feel hopeless – not opportunistic.
So, what are you to do when you’re feeling lost on the round-about? You decide to take a look – deep within the darkest corners, to discover what’s there for you to heal. What is aching to be released? What tragedy has consumed your spirit and dimmed your light?
It is in asking better questions where we discover more profound answers. And, you won’t find them mindlessly going ’round and ’round.
Get off the round-about and step into the leading role of your life again. It’s been waiting for you.
I want to share a passage today that I recently read that resonated with me so very much. As of late, I’ve been thinking about this very thing; looking back at my life as I recently shared my loss history graph during a One-on-One grief recovery session.
In case you don’t know, when you go through the program I facilitate, I always, always go first – meaning, I share my losses, grief, and heartache – first. It’s been twice now, sharing my loss history graph, and each time, I have been made aware of what I need to work on healing currently. Such was the case this very week. The process of healing is ongoing. The more you utilize this program, the more whole your heart becomes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it (and again and again): this program is the gift you give yourself that keeps on giving.
Read this message, I share with you today and know I believe this to be true with every fiber of my being.
Every challenge, every gief, every heartache brings a deep hunger and a well of tears. The emptiness inside us reminds us that our ultimate hunger, and our ultimate source of nourishment, is God alone.
If you are in a time of struggle or pain, know that this is not random; it isn’t heartless or without purpose. No matter what it is, no matter how big the chasm of your broken heart, God is with you. He has a plan for you. He will redeem and repurpose every bit of your ache for something greater than you could ever imagine. If that sounds unfathomable or impossible right now, all the better. Because when you get to the other side of this, you will be amazed at what He was doing for you behind the scenes.
Watch, wait, and wonder. – Kristen Armstrong
There was a time when I had lost all hope. I had rejected God and faith altogether for many years. In fact, I blamed God (and others, but God was a biggie). How angry and sad I was. It wasn’t depression. It was grief; a profound weight I had been carrying for many, many years that continually got heavier and heavier with every subsequent emotional loss I experienced. I had experienced a loss of self-worth, loss of trust, loss of faiths…loss of hope. Until one day, I decided to say a prayer. I had no idea the work He would do behind the scenes. And even still, looking back on my life this week during the One-on-One session, I know everything changed when I decided I was ready. My life turned around when I started to sweep my side of the street and allowed God in to do His work within me. And, it’s been a relationship-in-progress ever since. Do I falter? Yes, I’m only human. Do I feel conflicted at times? Of course.
However, this week I was reminded there have been greater powers at work in my life. I would be an alcoholic, likely a single mother, and I can confidently say, I wouldn’t be doing this meaningful work either or have the family I have – had I not deeply desired and asked for more. I never imagined I’d have a blog about grief for a business that helps others navigate their emotional pain. No – I am where I am because I became open to receiving and had the willingness to do my part.
Watch, wait, and wonder.I wouldn’t have believed you if you had had a crystal ball and told me in 2002 where I would be and what I would be doing on September 13th, 2019. It would have been unfathomable and felt impossible to me then.
We don’t know what we don’t know. And life has a funny way of proving it to us time and time again. So, wake up to your potential in this one lifeyou’ve been given – it’s waiting for you to do your part. Begin a quest, for your heart, to discover who you are, why you do what you do, what got you to where you are and demand more for yourself so you can give and receive – fully and wholeheartedly.
What feels unfathomable and impossible today – give it to God and then decide you’re going to do your part; making the commitment to show up for yourself every single day. He’s been patiently waiting for you to be ready.
And when the time is right, and healing is calling your name, I am here for you, too.
P.S. Liked this post? Share it with a hurting heart that could use this message today. And, did you know I share more personal stuff in my newsletter? I do! My favorite peeps get the inside deets. 😉 Sign up below or here and each Wednesday, starting next week, you’ll receive The Unleashed Letters – written with love from me to you.
P.P.S. Have a question about grief, in general? Email me at victoria [at] theunleashedheart [dot] com, and I’ll answer it here on the blog next week. I will not use personal identifying information – that’s a promise.
The following scenarios are fictional. They were written to deliver the message of how grief can show up in our lives – how it does show up in society. These examples are not meant to strike up a controversial conversation on hot-button issues. Rather, by means of making a point, that grief is all around us. We’ve just been so conditioned to see it one way and to respond in all the wrong ways.
On a warm, summer evening, a hurting heart is sitting on the steps to her home, noticeably sobbing, when her neighbor takes notice and asks: “Are you okay?” To which, the hurting heart replies, “We had to put our 15-year-old dog down this morning. Duke used to always sit next to me on the steps, and now he’s gone.” The neighbor, not knowing what to say, says what many well-intentioned people would say: “Oh, I’m so sorry; at least you can get another one!”
To the hurting heart, Duke is irreplaceable. But, because the loss of a pet is one of the most minimized losses (along with miscarriage) in society, the response is to replace the loss because dogs are a dime a dozen, right? This hurting heart has learned, from society’s response, that grieving the loss of a pet is nonsense and not comparable to the loss of human life. But, for many, their pet is their only companion. For many, their pet was their lifeline to the outside world, their comfort, and security. And, to the elderly or children, they provide unconditional love and joy. Pets disappoint humans far less than humans disappoint other humans. By the way, I can offer a 7-week Pet Loss Program. <3
Unbeknownst to Clara (a single mom of four), a registered sex offender moves in next door. One day, her 10-year-old daughter asks to go in the backyard to play with their dog in the fenced yard. Not too long after, she comes into the house. Surprised, her mother asks her why she’s done playing outside so soon. Her daughter replied that the man next door was out, too, and was staring at her and asking her a bunch of questions that made her uncomfortable. The mother asks, “What kind of questions?” The daughter replied, “He asked me the color of my panties.” The mother is immediately reminded of her negative experience as a child and begins to feel all kinds of conflicting feelings.
There are moments in life that can be reminders of grief we’ve long locked away hidden in our hearts. There are reasons why we exhibit certain behaviors or have specific thoughts and feelings around certain situations in our lives. In this scenario, the mom is reminded of her grief. She’s enraged by the feelings of fear and confusion her daughter must have felt. And, she feels a sense of guilt because this person with a criminal past moved in next door and she had no idea. She is supposed to protect her children, that’s what mothers do. Even locked away grief can slap us in the face when we least expect it.
A son marries his high school sweetheart, and together they have three children. They live only a couple of minutes away from grandparents, Joy, and Phil. To Joy and Phil, their grandchildren are their pride and joy; in retirement, they enjoy spending as much time as possible with the little loves in their lives. However, after only eight years of marriage, the couple calls it quits, the mother gains full custody and moves the children to the other side of the state. Suddenly, their entire world is shattered because their son has been unsuccessful in gaining parental rights due to false accusations and a court battle ensues. In the meantime, the grandparents (and their son), are not allowed visitation.
Grief can appear as hopelessness. We can grieve the living, just as we can grieve the dead. Let’s not forget that we all have a story and often, grief is woven into the stories of our lives. In this scenario, the father, along with his parents, all experience a loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations. They have unresolved communications with both the mother and the children about what they wish could be different, better, or more.
Jennifer is a 19-year-old enjoying life. She’s living a few hours from her hometown attending a university and makes it home often to see her parents the first semester. However, only a couple weeks into the second semester, she quits going back. Her parents grow concerned; their daughter seems to have pulled away, not even calling home as often. They decide to get in the car, drive to the university to surprise their daughter and see what’s going on once and for all. They arrive to see their daughter looking ill; she’s lost weight and doesn’t appear to be like her old, bubbly self. Their daughter confesses that an acquaintance had raped her, which resulted in a pregnancy, and she chose to have an abortion.
This is a multi-faceted grief situation. In one-fell-swoop, there’s a loss of trust, loss of hopes, dreams, expectations, and all that could be different, better, or more. A child conceived that wasn’t her choice. A child lost that was and the guilt and shame that one may feel along with this scenario. The parents grieve the child they once had because this experience surely changes a young woman. They feel a sense of guilt for not doing more to protect their daughter, which, this situation was out of their hands but as a parent, you want to protect your child(ren). The parents also grieve a grandchild they will never know – a child that was, genetically, a part of their daughter, too. One event with many ripples and a deep sea of grief to go along with it.
Amy and her mother have always been very close; they shared everything. As life went on, and her mother aged, Amy noticed her mother starting to forget appointments they had made. One time, while at her mother’s, she opened the cupboard, and to her surprise, there was a carton of spoiled milk. Amy thought all the things her mother had been forgetting were due to age; however, she now realized, it was more than that. And, within a few short months of finding that spoiled milk, her mother no longer remembered who Amy was.
Grief can find us longing for the ones we once knew and grieving for who they’ve become. Is it harder to bury someone we love after a long illness or to still be able to see our loved one where they’re not the same person they once were? It doesn’t matter. This is where comparison of loss is dangerous, in terms of how grief may impact those experiencing the deterioration of someone they love in this way. Caregivers especially, in this situation, can feel isolated in their grief. Comparison is cruel to those grieving. Simply – don’t do it; every relationship is different, including relationships within the same family.
Gabe and Alexis were high-school sweethearts; so in love, they planned to attend the same university and later marry. They both excelled in school, were achieving great things on athletic scholarships, and had big ambitions in life. Both of their parents held education in high regard and insisted their children get their degrees before they marry, to which the young couple agreed. However, no one could have planned that, in their junior year, Alexis would become pregnant. Feeling torn, Alexis didn’t know what to do. She loved Gabe and had all of the hopes, dreams, and expectations for their careers and future; they weren’t ready for a baby! Inside her mind and heart, she played out all of the scenarios. In her heart, she felt the child needed the best chance he or she could have. Alexis also knew, financially, she and Gabe couldn’t meet all the of the needs a child has. They also didn’t want to burden their parents with raising their child either. Gabe, however, wanted to try to make it work. Alexis, however, had made her decision. She was going to give the baby up for adoption. And so she did.
So many scenarios that a parent could sit up all night worrying about. Parenting is the greatest teacher but also can bring with it, a lot of grief experiences. How do you think this loss will impact Gabe? Their relationship? Do you think they would stay together? How about the impact of this loss to the grandparents? Yes, we all need to make our decisions on what is best for ourselves, however, I don’t know that we always think about how our decisions impact others. For this situation, perhaps Alexis felt adoption was the best solution. Or, perhaps, all the ways she was taught to deal with grief since childhood impacted her decision, too. What you don’t know about this scenario is if Alexis actually gave her parents the choice if they wanted to raise the child or not. Either way – grief will be the outcome because there will likely be unresolved communication between all involved parties as a whole.
Jack and Elizabeth met online. They dated for well over a year when Jack proposed marriage. Both Jack and Elizabeth came from large families; Jack is one of 6 kids, and Elizabeth, the youngest of 5. So, from the beginning, they both wanted also to have a large family. However, after three years of marriage, and still no pregnancy, they go to an infertility doctor. Elizabeth found out she has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The chances of her ever becoming pregnant, naturally, are greatly diminished. And so, their infertility journey began.
This is one of those silent, behind-closed-doors, grief-causing scenarios. It’s taboo to talk about what’s happening between the sheets and that is also true when it comes to grief, I think. People want to avoid it like the plague; both make people uncomfortable – and yet, curious so, as a society, we can’t help ourselves. Combine the two and curiosity kills the cat when you’re a young, married couple who have yet to bring children into your marriage. Suddenly, you find yourself being reminded on the regular of your grief in the difficulty (or inability) to conceive when you’re constantly being asked why you’re not having children. On the flip-side, you have one, then it’s almost expected you’ll have two because society says a child needs a sibling. Have one girl and one boy, and society says “Well, I guess that about does it, you have one of each!” Children are not possessions and children are not a given in your life either. We all know this but yet we are so conditioned to think one way. We can’t see it any other way until we find ourselves in that position. Grief can also be experienced by those who make the conscious choice to not bring children into their lives, too; let’s not forget that.
Life isn’t Fiction
I could go on and on and on – flexing my fiction-writing muscles. However, in truth, these scenarios (and many, many others) play out in lives every, single day, and they play out everywhere. Perhaps one of these is relatable to you? If so, my heart goes out to you. Grief is grief, no matter how you dice it, so no matter the circumstances in which you’re experiencing it today, I send you love and encouragement today. Recovery is possible.
Since becoming certified, I’ve heard countless stories, have received numerous messages, and have had conversations while out and about, with people who grieve. I hear time and time again things like “…but, I’m doing better,” “I give it all to God,” or “things could be worse.” All the while, however, their eyes are welling up with tears as they minimize their feelings. Having and relying on one’s faith is a wonderful part of the healing process. I would argue, however, if you rely on your faith alone for recovery, you’ll never experience what recovery truly is. I have a post brewing about faith and grief, but in the meantime, I’ll say that faith and recovery are not the same.
Causes of Grief Not Linked to a Death
Grief is not only about the death of someone close to us. Grief is the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations and the conflicting feelings that come from what we hoped would be or would have been different, better or more.It does not take the death of a loved one for grief to exist.
Abandonment in childhood
Loss of trust
Loss of relationship to someone living
Finding out you were adopted
Finding out your mother/father wasn’t your biological parent, that your parent had an affair and kept it hidden
Loss of Career
Loss of Faith
…All of the above (and then some) cause conflicting feelings, which may result in unresolved communication, which, in turn, causes grief.
Grief is often the root of what is going wrong in our lives (addiction, gambling, shopping, workaholism, promiscuity, health issues, approval-seeking behaviors, etc.) because we carry our past grief with us and greatly influences every aspect of our lives. And, because grief is cumulative and cumulatively negative (you’ll hear me say this many times), it’s imperative to your happiness and well-being that it is addressed. Grief stacked upon grief, on top of more grief – takes a toll. Everyone has a breaking point. There is only so much loss the heart can endure.
We minimize our losses to convince ourselves “we’re fine” and we apologize for our tears or pretend “we’re okay” as to not burden others with our problems. However, in all this effort to mask, conceal, and hide our pain, we’re also keeping the truth locked up like Fort Knox. And, when we’re not telling the truth about ourselves, we’re even lying to ourselves and others. What do you think that does to the psyche and heart over time?
Can You Imagine?
What if sharing our grief was no longer a burden? What if everyone was on the same page of understanding of what grief is and had the knowledge and understanding of it that enabled people to be a heart with ears? We have to start asking ourselves what it means to show ourselves (and others) compassion. As children, we naturally know how to do this – it’s we adults that pass on our influenced learning to the younger generation that is all wrong.
This world would be an entirely different place if we understood one thing: grief. What it is, what to do about it, and how to help others through it. I don’t believe we would have the suicide rates we do. I don’t think we would have the addiction problems we do. I don’t think we would have the number of broken homes we do. I don’t believe we would have the homelessness rate we do. I don’t think we would have the credit card debt we do. I don’t think we would have rates of eating disorders, abortions, and STD’s that we do – and then some. I could go on and on here, too, but you get the idea.
Having read up to this point (thank you, by the way – I know it’s a doozy of a post), take stock of the losses you’ve experienced in your life; listing them down on paper as you go. It is eye-opening when you sit down and see your life of loss, staring back at you in black and white. And then you have a choice, my friend, to either remain a victim of your grief, or to take 1% responsibility in how you will react to it, and finally take action for recovery. Support groups where everyone shares about their grief can feel helpful, and they are, in terms of creating a supportive environment and community, where otherwise, grievers tend to isolate (side note: check out the Netflix series “Dead to Me;” I’m hooked!). Therapy/Coaching is terrific, too, in its way, given you have a therapist/coach that can connect with you, creates a safe environment, and offers a means to cope. However, you’re likely not to experience recovery from grief in these situations.
How do you know if you’re not recovered?
When you think about your loss or losses, and positive thoughts and memories turn negative.
It becomes challenging to do things you used to because they serve as painful reminders.
When you find yourself repeating the same negative behaviors, there’s inner-work to be done.
If the thought of moving on feels like you’re forgetting or disregarding the person/relationship.
If you find yourself going from job to job to job or relationship to relationship to relationship – there’s inner-work to be done.
You have secrets you have never shared with another soul.
There is no longer joy in the things that once brought you great pleasure.
If you ever find yourself in the situation of someone else emotionally suffering, it’s compassionate to ask: “What happened?” Allow that person to cry and share without judgment, criticism, or analyzing; be a heart with ears and do not share about your losses, if you genuinely care about theirs. But, don’t be surprised if you receive an “I’m fine” in response. Chances are if the tables were turned, you’d respond the same way. Let’s start changing the way we respond to grief; future generations depend on it. Let’s take something that is normal and natural and actually make it feel normal and natural.
P.S. Interested in joining the next group or a future program? There are various program options from the 4-week Helping Children with Loss Program, 7-week Pet Loss Program, the 8-week Grief Recovery Group or 1:1 Program that’s non-specific to any one kind of grief. Message me about the specific program you’re interested in and I can get you on a waiting list.