No one wants to hear my story anymore. The story about my mother dying when I was only four years old. No one wants to admit that I still have pain and grief over losing her because I am sixty-seven years old now, and should be way past the acceptable time for mourning.
For so long I have felt societal rules about grief and the invisible timeline for sadness. ‘Hurry up,’ it says. ‘Get over it, so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable around you.’ My pain hurts others and touches them in a place so deep that they want to deny it is even there. No one says these things of course, but they side-step around me and cleave to the edge of the room or conversation as if I might poison them, or worse.
I’ve gotten very selective about who I share my story with. Most people are visibly shaken to hear that I grew up without a mother’s touch, but then they really don’t want to know more. It’s just too much, especially women I know who still have their mothers and who complain a little about having to take them places or call too often.
They are uneasy admitting that they have a different story. That their mothers were vividly alive, engaging, and understanding. Some are embarrassed to tell me good things about their mama’s and to some, I want to say, “Be grateful! Be glad you can still tell her you love her and breathe in her scent.” But, no one wants to be told, “Be grateful.” It’s like coaxing a child with, “Tell the nice lady thank you.” And the child says, “Thank you.” with very little feeling.
“I am grateful,” they say and maybe they are, but it is really to silence me more than anything else, and then the subject changes. I am never ready to change the subject, but I hear the whisper, “No one wants to hear your story.”
“Am I too much?” I ask myself. “Am I just supposed to stay quiet and not tell my truth?”
It stifles me and mashes my spirit like a corset that labors my breath. Sometimes I even become ashamed or worse…silent. The grief turns in on me and feels sticky and complicated, like an expiration date that tells me it is too late to talk about this, the pain should have run out by now, but it hasn’t. It has lessened, of course, but it’s there right under the surface….waiting.
Please don’t shy away from those who have a different story. Pray for enough peace to hold space for those who grieve. It will bless them and you, beyond measure. How else do we learn from each other? How else do we really know another soul? Don’t be afraid to witness someone else’s pain. Feel it together, talk about it, breathe through it, and embrace each other. Hold the ache in a sacred place and dare to learn something new about yourself, dare to hear the story. We all have one to tell.