Emotions. Emotions are a difficult thing. In fact, sometimes they are an overwhelming and scary thing. When we are shaking with rage, shivering with fear, gasping with sorrow, all we want is to be calm. We want the storm to be over. We want to be safely on the other side. In those moments of intensity, emotions are the enemy that we must squash as quickly as possible.
We say words like, it’s ok, it’s going to be alright, just calm down now, settle down… As the person who seeks to comfort, we seem to be allies with the notion that emotions are bad and must be disposed of as soon as possible.
And so, from a young age, we start pushing those emotions down. No, I need to stop crying. I need to calm down. I need to get over this. I need to distract myself. Just don’t think about it. I’ll be over this soon.
And right now, as I try to help one of the kids in my care process some real genuine pain and loss and confusion and anger, I find myself assuring him that these emotions are ok. It’s ok to be angry. You have permission to feel all these things. And I wonder, how do I teach myself this as well? How do I model this behavior when I still haven’t figured it out?
I run from intense emotions. Flee. Stuff it down. Take deep breaths, blow it away. How do I undo all these habits and patterns that have shaped my life? How do I just sit and mourn? How do I allow myself to feel the anger that I have every right to? How do I just permit the sadness to wash over me?
Emotions are scary.
I wonder why?
I think about this child in my care and wonder, what is best for him? His emotions are so overwhelming that he is struggling to function. And if I’m being completely honest, I would just like his emotions to go away. They are really messy. They are really hard to deal with. They make life complicated.
In the old days, when people died, people would gather, have a time of public mourning, weeping, remembering. They would change their clothes to reflect their grief.
If only we had such rituals in place to deal with other forms of grief.
When I miscarried the first time, I think I would have taken great comfort to put on black clothing for a period of time. To cover my face with a black veil. To have a monument that I could visit and cover with flowers.
We need these visual rituals. No. Some of the things we are mourning and grieving aren’t physical deaths. Maybe it’s a separation, maybe it is a dissolving of something that was good. Maybe it’s simply loss of innocence.
I think it would help to put on mourning clothes, pour ashes over my head, tear my clothing, hire a group of professional mourners. It would signal to the world, I am in pain. I need time to deal with this. I’m not ok. I need you to be sad with me. I need you to join me in this pain instead of trying to pull me out of it. I need you to be angry with me over an injustice served, over a wounding that was given.
What we need is to be able to sit and stay with our hardest emotions, and have people come and join us.
And all of this reflection tells me what I must do to help this child. I must be angry with him. I must be sad with him. I must join him. And maybe, maybe we will heal together.