‘I’d been holding back tears all morning. In public, they fell out. A sweet friend saw me go down. She was behind me in seconds.’: Widow urges people to talk about mental health and be ok showing grief in public

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“Sunday I got up and went to church. This weekend was emotionally draining for a lot of reasons. The weight of everything felt crushing, and nothing I tried gave any kind of relief. I wish I could just sleep away the pain, sadness, and anxiety of everything. I can’t. Sleep has never come easy to me and it definitely doesn’t now. I do my best thinking and overthinking overnight.

Sunday morning during the church service, the worship team started singing Matt’s favorite song, the one from his funeral. I felt my knees buckle underneath me and I immediately sat down. I had been holding back tears all morning and they just fell out. A sweet friend was right behind me in seconds when she saw me go down. She comforted me while I fell apart.

And then, it happened. What always happens when I let anyone see any emotion other than ‘ok.’

I got mad.

I get irrationally mad at myself for crying in public. It doesn’t happen often at all. I know part of grief involves tears, but I prefer not to fall apart in front of people. Ever. My inner dialogue was saying, ‘Great! This is exactly what everyone wants, a front row seat to the grief show.’

Grief sneaks up on you. The silly things that have triggered meltdowns since Matt died make no sense. Songs, commercials, seeing something he loved, getting mail addressed to him… all things that have made me sob.

I have always felt as though I can mentally push myself through any trauma in my life. Falling apart, especially in public, has always felt like a failure of strength. This was no exception. Instead of feeling relieved I could let it out, I felt embarrassed I allowed myself to.

Grief is complicated.

As adults we are expected to be strong. We have to hold it together at work, home, kid’s functions, church, and out with the general public. What we don’t understand is everyone around us is falling apart at one time or another throughout the day.

Maybe I was incredibly naive before Matt’s illness. I lived such a charmed life I was blind to the struggles of others. It never occurred to me anyone around me was hurting this bad, until I was hurting this bad. Now I see it. And I feel the pain of others because I understand it more.

It’s easier to be emotionally numb than it is to pull the band-aid off and deal with what is happening. Numbing the pain with different things helps, and I dare someone to judge me for it. My drug of choice is red wine. My second drug of choice is Starbucks.

Carrying around the weight of grief is all-consuming. I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. Losing my husband and becoming the soul provider for our daughter, has sent me deeper into the panic feeling I fought so hard for years to overcome.

Talking about mental health is a conversation we need to have.

It’s ok to feel alone in a crowded room.

It’s ok to talk to your friends about the meds you’re on.

It’s ok to admit to people you haven’t slept in days.

It’s ok to call in after being awake all night.

What’s not ok is facing depression alone. Everyone needs someone to remind them everything is temporary.

Life.

Illness.

Love.

Jobs.

Stress.

Anxiety.

Depression.

Fear.

Panic.

A song that took you out at the knees.

Everything.

I think the true tragedy here is mental health has such a stigma attached to it, that oftentimes people would rather just die than see anyone watch them fall apart.

The Wizard of Oz has been my favorite movie since childhood. I have a deep love for Judy Garland.

In her own words:

‘I tried my damnedest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over, and I couldn’t. So what. Lots of people can’t.’

I feel this so deeply right now. Getting through the day is hard. Getting through the night is harder, which is why I’ve been up since 2:30 a.m.

What can you do to help the person on the verge of falling apart at any given second?

Love them. Be the person who sees them at the end of their rope and offer them yours.

Understand people struggling can function on very high levels, and still fall apart.

Understand we will laugh. Smile. Make jokes. It’s a way to cope.

I’m teaching myself that overcoming something which feels so insurmountable will require me to, at times, show my grief in public. I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I’m trying hard to talk it out with the people I trust the most.

I’ll get over that rainbow. I hear the skies are blue, and the dreams you dare to dream really do come true.”

Courtesy Cyndi Smith

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