‘These days, my face couldn’t be more fake.’: Young widow shares pain of hiding grief, forcing fake smile

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“I’ve never been one for makeup day to day, mostly because I’m lazy and would rather sleep the extra few minutes… and my students don’t care what I look like. My face was as real as it gets. Except for lately. These days, my face couldn’t be more fake. Or at least, that’s how it feels. The smile, the silly expressions with the kids, the need to be patient, when all I want to do is be in my own world, my grief-filled bubble. It’s exhausting. It’s hard. And it’s fake.

Yes, there are moments when the smile or laugh is genuine, especially in the moments when my little firsties seem to know just what to say. I love them for that. But if I’m being completely honest, those moments can feel few and far between. So many times, I catch myself staring off, thinking about Joe, our life, what is and what will never be, only to be snapped back by the call of my name or a knock on the door. And immediately, my smile goes on and my eyes brighten. 

It’s fake. Sometimes, the fakest of them all. On many days, a smile is a last resort because the raging tears, whole body sobs, string of curses, and soft manic laughter that starts because you can’t possibly be this crazy, are not exactly socially appropriate. Or maybe, it’s less about being appropriate and more about being accepted… but that’s another story.

And this, in turn, makes me angry. Angry to have to pretend to put on this fake face. Angry to have to go on each day as though my life were normal. Angry to have to put on an act, when all I want to do is talk about Joe. Angry when someone tells me they’re ‘surviving’ and I’m over here truly trying to do just that most days.

Couple stands together, husband has hand around wife
Courtesy of Meghan Abate

Let’s talk about that last statement. It sounds a little jaded, bitter. It is, I suppose. Hear me out. I’ve always believed everyone’s problems are hugely important to them. You’re allowed to have a bad day, week, month, and you are absolutely allowed to vent and complain about it. While it’s true, in the grand scheme of things, if we made a worldwide scale, some problems would be a 10 and others a 2. Everyone’s entitled to their own feelings and frustrations, no matter what. However, the reality is there are moments when your issues will be closer to the 2 while someone else’s are making their way to the 10. In those moments, we need to be aware, conscious, and considerate. Everyone has a battle, some we know of and some we don’t. As a wise woman told me, ‘You need to know your audience.’ But I digress. 

Back to the fake face. Maybe those who know our stories can look at our smiles and see the pain underneath, know the smile is there because it feels like the only choice we have. But to be honest, it’s hard to feel like that. I’m in no way saying those close to someone who is grieving isn’t fully aware of the pain behind the smile. I’m saying, as I go throughout each day, on the surface, appearing as though nothing has changed, it’s hard to feel that way. In so many ways, during parts of my days, I feel like a fraud. It is true, some may call it living, breathing, simply having to function, but for me, it feels fake.

I hate the fake face. I hate second guessing. I hate self-consciousness, self-doubt. I hate navigating the land mines of grief. But we’re here and we’re doing it with, many times a fake, but also occasionally and thankfully genuine, smiling face.”

husband and wife take a selfie together
Courtesy of Meghan Abate

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Meghan Abate. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read Meghan’s backstory:

‘We have your husband.’ A pit formed in my stomach. Looking back, my heart hadn’t really begun to break yet.’: Widow shares ‘the pits and peaks of grief’ after losing husband

Read more from Meghan here:

‘We won’t wake him up with morning snuggles and coffee in bed. But we will celebrate him.’: Widow shares grief, celebration on Father’s Day

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