Last week I wrote about the topic of loneliness and how difficult it can be. I was uncomfortable sending this out because it’s easier to keep things private. I felt the need to share it, not because I'm suicidal (I would never take my own life), but in case someone needed to hear that they're alone. I believe that women mask their emotions with being 'busy' and it's not helpful to our health. When I heard back from over 50 women sharing their current struggles within hours of sending out my email, I was blown away. I am grateful that so many of you felt safe enough to open up and share with me what you’re going through. People sent messages that deeply moved and connected me to so many thoughtful women. I was even sent this amazing quote “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Mahatma Gandhi- and that really fits with today's message.
So you know how I decided to push that original email back a week? And what I wrote last week, I was going to send you this week? Well, it’s being pushed back one more week. In the messages sent about women struggling with their loneliness and other things, there was a reoccurring theme, and clearly, we need to talk about this.
People say “BE STRONG! YOU’RE STRONG! YOU GOT THIS!” in the moments we don’t want to be nor should we have to be.
Days before my soul companion died, a friend stopped by my house to check on me. I had spent hours and days crying because I knew she was getting ready to leave this world and there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. I had lost the fight.
The words my friend gave me were “You got this!” That was the last time I spoke with her… ever again. That was probably the worst thing she could have said to me. The closest person in the world to me was dying. I don’t have human children, and she was also the closest I’ll ever be to playing the role of mother. She was dying. Why should I “have this?” why right now?
I realize that our society doesn’t know how to speak about death or hold space when someone is grieving and instead of giving room for people to fall apart, we try to fix them and their feelings.
I want to explain why this is an incredibly thoughtless and -and unintentionally mean- thing to say to someone who is dying, grieving someone who has died or is battling something incredibly difficult.
We are telling people to hold in their feelings. It places the burden of bucking up and pretending everything is ok on a person precisely at a time when nothing is ok.
We’re asking these people to lie, and we’re asking them to pretend they are living daisies and sunshine when all around them is gravestones and darkness. And by saying this to them, you are absolving yourself of any work.
Where did “You got this!” come from and how has it leeched its way into places where people are going through something awful? I’ve seen it used in Facebook threads where people are grieving the death of a family member, I’ve witnessed, and I've seen it said to people who are dealing with advanced cancer that has taken over their body and I’ve even seen it in the sympathy section of the hallmark isles.
My theory is that it came about in the united states during WW2 when bombs were falling, and people were dying. The government told everyone to be patriotic, and it was their duty to be happy! You know, to give those war heroes something worth fighting for any reason to come home. Even Hollywood was forced to abide. “Make happy movies! Everyone needs to be happy!”
And what has this done? It’s made us a society of people who don’t know how to talk to or be present with someone when shit ain’t right.
“You got this!” needs to go.
The only time it is appropriate is if you’re saying it to someone who is getting ready to take a test or is heading out to shoot some hoops. If that’s the scenario, say it until you’re blue in the face. Otherwise, save it, it’s not helpful.
If you don’t know what to say to someone who is dealing with death or something difficult, say “I’m sorry you’re going through this, I can’t imagine how hard it is.” or “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m a great listener. “ And if you can’t think of what to say, it’s better to say nothing at all. Sometimes our friends and family need us to sit with them - it’s ok to let silence fill the space and can be incredibly healing when you have a loving pair of arms around you in that silence. Isn’t this what our beloved animal companions do for us? They sit with us in silence and let us be, feel and cry making them powerful healers and why they are such great companions to us.
We have so much to learn from animals, and I think this is a great area where we can emulate their ability to hold space for others. Sit, listen, hug and hold space.