Hidden Grief

To those of you who are carrying silent grief know that I see you. You are not alone.

People who have lost a loved one often ask me, "How do you understand so much about grief?" I suppose, before I lost my dad, it looked to the world like I really didn't know much about grief. The truth is, that's because as a society we often only judge a person's grief or ability to understand grief by the losses that fit into our prescribed "big" and "normal" categories. Everything else gets brushed under the rug. There is an overall general understanding and compassion for these big catastrophic losses, like the death of a parent or child, but even these losses are often categorized or minimized.

What about all of the hidden, silent grief that can be just as impactful, just as big, just as life-changing, but gets glossed over in our society? The grief in these instances can be just as crushing and devastating, yet many times we bear this grief alone with little to no understanding from the world around us. There is often no funeral, no closure, and no public tribute or acknowledgment of these types of grief. Broken hearts, losing someone we love, broken relationships, divorce, infidelity, miscarriages, chronic illnesses, traumas, or injuries that change how you function in everyday life, separation, rejection, death of a beloved pet - and this is only a small sample of the various hidden grief happening all around us.

Even when it's one of those "normal" losses, we tend to lose patience quickly for the person's grief. If it's been a couple of months, aren't they over it by now? When will they return to their old "normal" self? The answers to these questions are, "No, they will never 'get over it.' No, they will never return to their old 'normal' self." They will move forward in life and they will find a new normal, but they will never be the same. If it is a loved one lost, they will never stop loving and grieving that person. This doesn't mean they won't be happy again; it simply means that a loved one is irreplaceable. It's impossible for them to return to their old self because they have become something completely new, born out of life-changing grief.

A photo taken with my kids at the zoo shortly after our D-day prompted me to reflect on the complexities of hidden grief. On the outside, I probably look like a mom just enjoying the zoo with her kids. On the inside, I was carrying a heart shattered into a thousand pieces. To those of you who are carrying silent grief or who have had your grief minimized, know that I see you. You are not alone. I know how gut-wrenchingly hard it can be to carry on each day. You try so hard and then people come along and say something ignorant and it feels like your grief is invalid. I'm here to tell you that your grief is valid. Not only is it valid, but it is an important part of your story that no one can take away.

There is no shame in feeling every part of your pain. Let that pain become a tool that enables you to help others in ways that you never could have without that pain. It is a path to becoming your best self. Through my journey of grieving, I have come to appreciate the familiar quote,

"Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

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People who aren’t grieving or have never grieved think this should be an easier process. My spouse had a very lengthy affair (10+ years) and it doesn’t just go away in a few months. Even with support, counseling, AR, etc it has been a rough road. Unfortunately he walked out a few months ago so the grieving continues. If it wasn’t for my faith in God and his promise to never leave or forsake me, this journey may have been unbearable.

Thank you so much for taking

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your heart and comment. As you navigate the brutal rollercoaster of grief, my heart goes out to you. I completely agree that many people minimize grief especially when it involves complex processes that they do not understand. When I saw how people reacted to the loss of my dad who passed away from cancer a couple of years ago vs. how I felt in the grief surrounding the hurricane that swept through my marriage and the complexities surrounding that, it prompted me to write this piece. Writing became such an important outlet for me when I often felt and sometimes continue to feel alone in my grief. I pray for God's love and peace with you during this difficult time. You are not alone.

How much grief can my heart handle

A month and a half ago, I discovered that my husband had been having an affair for at least 6 months. My heart broke so completely that I thought I would actually die. I took our young children on a short trip so I could process without him around me. I confronted him when I came back. Long story short after many lies, he ended up admitting it and asked for forgiveness. I felt like our covenant had been shattered so I gave him back my rings. These past few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions from anger to longing for reconciliation. My dad got sick a week ago and deteriorated quickly. He died a couple of days ago. My husband has been by my side the whole time. While caring for my dad, watching him die, planning his funeral, my husband was 100% there for me. Grieving with me. I didn't even think about his betrayal while going through it all. Now the funeral is over and something very small happened which triggered me to spiral into this tunnel of suspicion. Turns out to really be nothing. I think my husband is sincere but my heart is hurting so much over his infidelity and my father's death. It's all happening at once. I think he really wants us to work out but he still feels so closed off to me in many ways and he still hasn't reached out for counseling like I've asked him to. I don't know how I'll survive all this grief. I could not imagine going through the loss of my father without him by my side. How do I reconcile the kind, gentle man who can love me so completely through the worst times with the man who betrayed and lied to me?

Hi Hopeandpeace, I am so

Hi Hopeandpeace, I am so sorry that you're going through this. It sounds absolutely heart-wrenching to have discovered your husband's infidelity and then losing your dad within a matter of weeks. I don't have all the answers... I do still have my parents, but I will say that discovering my husband's 10+ years of lies and sexual addiction 5 years ago almost broke me. Like you, I had so many emotions after D-Day, back and forth because he truly seemed remorseful, but reconciling that behavior with the man I thought I knew was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. We found Affair Recovery within a few months and I signed up for Harboring Hope (I just couldn't bear doing a couples class with him at the time). It's the course just for betrayed women, and that is how I began to process what had happened, including learning how to grieve the loss of so many things. At the end of the 13 weeks I wasn't completely healed, but I grew so much and had a community of women who understood what I was going through. I am so sorry you're in such unimaginable grief right now. I'm going to pray for you and hope you and your husband find healing. Much love to you.

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