Does grief have a time limit?
When I was a young, young woman of 18, my parents pulled all of us (six children) together in a family meeting and told us that mother was leaving and they would be getting a divorce. I don’t remember much from the days that followed. It is like looking back at a broken jigsaw puzzle and only being able to see some of the pieces.
I can remember lots of crying—from me and my sisters, anger from both parents and probably more than one of the children. I remember days and days of crying, thinking that I would be sad about this forever and being afraid I would cry forever. Knowing that I had important stuff to do—-like apply for college, graduate from high school, leave for college—-I believed that if I was too sad for too long, I would miss opportunities.
It was the first time in my life that I remember choosing not to feel so I could choose to function instead. I just closed the door on feelings so I could manage my life and the tasks that needed to be accomplished.
The mind is a powerful tool and I love learning about it. I had no idea at the time, that choosing not to feel sadness was only possible for me by choosing not to have any feelings. I couldn’t seem to pick and choose which feelings I had, but I could choose to have them or not to have them.
Neither did I know that my reaction was not unique. All people learn that life is sometimes painful and many choose to just stop feeling. I think it is interesting that each of us can react differently to the same situation. Some go into depression. Some exhibit anger. Some cry and mourn. Some spend money. Some turn to substances, alcohol, tobacco, drugs. Some are promiscuous. The range of behavior and emotion for sadness and loss covers an entire spectrum.
So my question has been—when is enough, enough? When is a sad heart healed? To be honest, I think the answer is probably different for each person and probably for each instance. I like things stream-lined and efficient, which is why I think I chose not to feel. Making a conscious choice has a time-limit, an end. Allowing it to continue on its own course would interfere in my efficiency. That I could not have. I didn’t have the time. So I made a conscious decision—I am done being sad, now. Of course, I wasn’t…………but if I chose not to feel, then I did not have to acknowledge my deep, deep sadness and hurt.
The truth, however, is that the pain is still in there. I walled off my heart so no one could get in there and hurt me again. Those issues came out in my marriage where my husband kept saying, “You treat me like everyone else.” How absurd, I thought. I am not having physical intimacy with everyone else! But that wasn’t what he meant. The truth was I did treat him like everyone else. There was a wall there and no one got through, husband or not. In that regard I did treat him like everyone else.
I finally had to admit that I trusted no one—-even my husband. The divorce had taught me, although unconsciously, that I could not rely on people, especially those close to me who knew me best. They have the greatest ability to hurt me and they are the most likely to do it. Therefore, I could not trust them with those things which were so uniquely personal and sacred in my heart—–those ideas, philosophies, beliefs that make me who I am.
THAT was a lovely conversation to have with my dear husband! I know I married you and committed my love and loyalty to you for eternity, but I’m sorry—there are just some parts of me I will not share. Have my body, but not my heart. Thankfully for me, the Lord gave me a very special husband who would never knowingly do something to hurt me or react out of spite. That is very significant in my ability to learn and recognize my emotions and behaviors and learn to trust another in my sharing of them. But it doesn’t change the fact that I have to work really hard to do it and open myself up emotionally when I am scared to do so.
Thankfully, I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, which teaches me how to heal my heart and how to look into my emotions and behavior and how to change my natural woman desires to become a better and more noble person. It is a lot of work. But it is so worth it! The Savior can heal your heart too! The process begins by simply learning about Him and what He did for you.
Start here by watching this short video. Notice the way the Savior treats those little children and know that regardless of your sins, He feels that way about you. He loves you and desires you to come to Him. Trust Him. He will not hurt you. He will heal you. Then read this from the mouth of His current prophet.
If you still need more, go here to read about the doctrine of His Atonement.