Grieving feels incredibly vulnerable.
It might depend on how visible your situation is, but I felt like I was walking around, carrying a bleeding heart. I still do sometimes. This blog feels like I’m showing it to the whole world! I feel a little like the Joker sometimes.
For me, I’ve felt like I want to talk about my grief often. It’s gotten better as time goes on, but I still find myself trying to express it and process it verbally. My therapist said it feels like bleeding on people, and I think that’s a great way of putting it. He says one of the points of therapy when you are dealing with grief is to give you a place to express and process grief.
Generally, I have found that there are 3 types of reactions when you start bleeding on people. I’m not trying to assign blame or criticize, but I can tell you what is most helpful.
First category is the runners. These people don’t understand your pain and they don’t want to. They are afraid of experiencing something similar, so they don’t want to listen and they don’t want to feel with you. They don’t want to feel vulnerable to your pain.
Keep in mind that these people are not cruel or unkind, they just don’t know. I remember being in this place not too long ago. You’re afraid of causing more pain by saying the wrong thing, and you just want to keep pretending that something like that could never happen to you. That’s okay. There will always be people like this.
The next group is the fixers. They don’t want to believe that there is anything that can’t be made better with a few platitudes and great advice. They don’t understand a depth of pain that goes on and on, and they don’t want to. This is their way of escaping vulnerability. If things can be fixed, then it can’t really be that bad. They’re hoping that something they say or do will make you go, “Wow, you’re right! This really isn’t too bad!”
Once again, not cruel or unkind, just self-protective. You’re afraid of pain that can’t be fixed. I remember my sister getting dumped by her future husband and telling her, “it’s okay, you’ll find someone better.” Did she dry her tears and say, “Wow, you’re right! That makes everything better”?Nope! This has been my coping mechanism when faced with situations where I couldn’t run from others’ vulnerability. That’s okay. There will always be people like this.
The last group, and the one I consider the most helpful, is the listeners. These people not only let you bleed all over them, but they often thank you for telling them all about your pain. They probably didn’t experience exactly what you are enduring, but they have connected with their own pain and vulnerability enough to connect with yours. They might cry with you, or they might not. They might offer a few insights from their experiences that compliment your own, or they might just listen. They are willing to accept the fact that they can’t fix this, and they can’t pretend they aren’t vulnerable, too.
These people give you a chance to feel validated, like someone knows what you are feeling and you are not going crazy. My theory is that people cannot do this unless they have experienced and truly felt their own grief from whatever source. It takes putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and trying to understand where they are coming from. Thank goodness there will always be people like this.
I’m hoping to learn how to be a listener. I wish that I could have been one sooner, but I also know that I needed this experience in order to learn how to listen with the heart.
What have been your experiences with bleeding on other people?