Since I was a kid I’ve always given more weight and power to the voices and opinions of others over my own. I desperately wanted to be liked and to be part of the crowd. So when grief entered my life in adulthood I was taken back to that same chase.
To be ‘normal’. To be “ok”. To be welcomed with grace. To be loved and to be understood.
Suddenly the world felt foreign. I no longer knew the rules or the proper terms and conditions. I wasn’t sure how to act or what to say. I wasn’t sure when to tell the truth about my pain and when to tuck it away and hide it with a smile.
I still wanted to be part of the communities and friendships I’d grown to love, but I wasn’t sure how I fit into those unchanged places. I was different yet trying to sit in the same seat as before. It didn’t work. A square peg in a round hole. Things no longer fit like they used to. I had been shattered by loss and rebuilt by grief and pain. I was unrecognizable in invisible ways.
In the chase to feel normal, I conformed to society’s views and timelines for grief. I pretended to go through the “stages”, the ones everyone fails to understand correctly. I pretended to be actively healing, while still running from my new reality, refusing to accept it. I smiled when strangers and friends threw platitudes my way. I showed up how the world thought I should, rather than how I was, which was hurting and fragile.
Until one day I couldn’t hide anymore. I had run out of masks and used up all of my acting skills. I broke, wide open, letting the pain pour from me and allowing my authentic grief to show. I fell to my knees unable to stand on the fake and faulty foundation of my loss.
I knew things had to change. I knew I had to stop hiding the pain in my heart and the grief that was now my silhouette, following me everywhere I go. I found courage that had been tucked away and I refused to let the voices and rules of society continue to shame my grief journey. This loss is mine, not theirs. I get to map it out and walk it. Instead of strapping on a pair of shoes that aren’t my size, I laced up my own. I took charge of my steps and for once they felt like they were leading in the right direction.
Leading towards grace. Towards vulnerability. Towards truth. Towards comprehending the incomprehensible. Towards healing. Towards acknowledging the new future even when I had yet to accept it.
I learned that grief is my new shadow, it can’t be outrun and can only be hidden if I stay in the dark. And I don’t want to stay in the dark. I want to live, even though it hurts and it means moving forward without someone I love. I want to step into the light, even though at first it will be blinding. I want to feel hopeful and live with purpose, not in spite of my grief, but in honor of it.
I will no longer worry what is normal. I will no longer worry what is acceptable or understood by a world who works fiercely to cover and conceal pain and loss. I will do things my way. I will grieve my way, not asking permission. And you should do the same, friend.
Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s the only authority and endorsement you need.
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.