Anyone who has lost a loved one knows just how uncomfortable it is sharing your loss with someone new. I don’t have to paint the picture of how you sit and wait, how you wonder if now is the moment, how you perfect your wording and make sure you’re cushioning it in the right way for them.
Throughout the whole “getting to know you” phase the question is always silently present — is now the right time?
Lately, I’ve been asking an entirely different question — is this the right person?
I had two separate conversations last week that really drove this question home. With both people I was talking about how you try really hard to string together the perfect words — the ones that will convey how strong and resilient you are without undermining how significant a loss it was — but there’s always the underlying fear that the bundle of thoughts and words and experiences will be perceived as baggage. Hell, Bethany wrote about how one person was drunk enough/honest enough to tell her that she was happy she led a more normal life than Bethany.
This brings me back to my point — it really has to do with the other person creating a safe space for you to share.
It’s honestly not your responsibility to do this. You can only control what you say, how you say it and how you react to their reaction. Their reaction though, that’s all on them.
And it can honestly go either way. There was a guy I started getting to know and we led with my loss and his loss. It didn’t go much further than that.
Finding out what Too Damn Young was made it safe for him to feel like he could tell me about his loss, and in turn that made it feel comfortable for me. For all the ways he aced making me comfortable to talk about the heavy, he made it increasingly harder to talk about anything else. A story for another time.
Hypothetically speaking though he was a perfect combination of empathetic and respectful. He’d gone through some stuff, but he never made it seem like we lived through the same exact experiences in the same exact way.
That made all the difference.
I think the reason why I tended to prioritize good timing over everything else when sharing about my loss is because it’s scary. It’s overwhelming to put your cards on the table and to have those things, that you’re in some ways the proudest of, be the things that scare some people away.
It still scares me a lot, but I’ve started using it as a litmus test. It helps me determine who I want in my life and who I don’t want in it. Lately, I’ve chosen to surround myself with those who hold me up when I need it and see my losses as the hard moments they were/are, but are still able to see that they resulted in the person I am today.
The human being they love and laugh with. The one who loves with all she is because anything less is a waste of time. I’m their friend and each and every time they don’t cringe, or pity me, or strip me of my self-worth, they write me a love letter that makes it easier to tell the next person.