Before telling our unique, individual truths about grief, we have to first find out what they are.  The unending process of discovery and self-inquiry can continue for years and even decades beyond the date of our loss.  

As we learn to live without the ones we love, we are bombarded with opportunities to reflect, make choices, have regrets and resentments.  Little by little, we may notice emerging patterns of what is true for us.  And little by little we may find it harder to keep these truths to ourselves.

That is certainly my story.  It wasn’t until 13 years after my Daughter died, and 8 years after my Son died, that I could stand up in a room full of strangers and say out loud that this happened.  I was newly 40 and my ability to keep stuffing the grief down was wearing thin.

I was scared to death when I stood up in that group of people to tell my truth that March afternoon in 2010.  I was shaking, dizzy and outside of my body.  But my words were met with support, love and compassion.  It has gotten easier since then, and I have a lot of practice at sharing my experiences of loss in my every day life.  Writing, speaking and coaching gives me the chance to do just that.

But speaking honestly and openly about grief takes practice.  I have mentioned the importance of knowing who in our lives is worthy of our truth and who can provide adequate stewardship of our feelings, so we don’t expose ourselves to environments or people who cannot hold our experiences with the delicate care they deserve.

But once we move into a space where we can speak the truth about grief, another unexpected dynamic can unfold.  As we get skilled at releasing the fear of being honest about our losses, we may notice an inability to bull shit in other areas of our lives.  In other words, truth telling can be contagious.

Even if we don’t realize all the ways in which we abandon ourselves with little and big “untruths” we all have a way in the world of omitting information, saying we are fine when we are not, making plans we don’t want to participate in, eating things we don’t want so we don’t hurt the feelings of others, and sugar coating information (also known as lying) to make it more palatable for others.

We may come to find that telling the truth just makes sense, and is less work than misrepresenting our reactions and opinions.  We may even begin to find it impossible to spend time in certain settings, and with certain people.  As we wake up to our own truth about grief, we may stumble on the freedom that comes with giving ourselves permission to actually be who we are in all areas of our lives.

I consider this to be a dose of “collateral beauty” like an unexpected Blessing from an undesirable outcome.  None of us wants to volunteer for tragedy.  Yet I have lived through mine long enough to to say with confidence, that there truly are unexpected gifts that can arise from grief work.  Telling the truth of who we are is one of them.

Whether or not we are grieving some loss, we are all invited to be the unique, miraculous individuals we were created to be.  If we were telling the truth about everything (uncommon) before a major loss in our life occurred, great.  Then bringing honesty to a grief conversation won’t be that much of a stretch (and good for you!)

But for those of us who may have been more used to “people pleasing” or “keeping our mouths shut” before our loved one died, I have exciting news!  By exploring our grief and getting honest with ourselves in that arena, we may also find a freedom in truth telling that not only helps heal our broken hearts, but increases ability to relinquish the habit of being anyone but who we actually are.

And in this way, the truth can literally set us free.

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