Our family has faced some significant challenges in the past year. I won’t go into the details, and what we’ve been going through is certainly not much compared to what others deal with. But for us, for our family in the middle of it, it has been tough.
Sometimes I like to voice my frustrations (imagine that!). Sometimes I just like to get them off my chest, let them fall onto an ear that will listen, get my fears and sadness and anger out in the open so they don’t fester in my mind and in my heart.
And sometimes, I feel like if I hear, “Oh, it will all work out in the end,” one more time, I might scream.
Why do so many people say this? Or variations of this, like, “God has a plan,” or, “When it’s all over, it will seem like nothing.” And if I can make a confession, I’ve even said these things to myself. We’re in the middle of it right now, and I guarantee you, it’s not nothing. Why do we choose to invalidate others’, and even our own, fears and frustrations?
I think it’s because we are largely a grief-illiterate culture.
This phrase is not mine, but I can’t remember where I once read it. But think about it. As children, we’re told to, “Stop crying,” or to, “Shake it off.” And then as adults, we’re told to go with the flow, trust God’s plan, don’t worry about it because it will all work out in the end. These are all meant to shut down the emotions we’re feeling NOW and force us to look to the FUTURE when, ostensibly, all will be better. (And news flash, there’s no guarantee of that, either.) We aren’t allowed to express and explore our negative emotions, or given a chance to process them, either in public or in private.
We are asked to bottle everything up and put on a happy face and live our lives like nothing is the matter.
Do I think it’s good to dwell on these negative emotions, to let them define us or guide our decisions? No. I think it’s good to be as positive as possible as often as possible. But I also don’t think we should shut our feelings away. How we feel is important, whether it’s feeling good or bad or sad or joyful.
It’s like a book I recently read to the kids about a grumpy monkey. His friends couldn’t understand why he was grumpy and continued to offer solutions for how he could shake the feeling. But it only made the monkey grumpier. In the end, a single friend came alongside him and told him it was okay to feel grumpy sometimes, and just those few simple, kind, understanding words immediately made the monkey feel better.
I hope that when we see others facing difficult times, we can put an arm around their shoulder, give them a squeeze, just be beside them, and ultimately, choose not to say, “It will all be okay.”