Updated: Mar 10, 2020
I often hear people dismiss their pain for any number of reasons.
“It really isn’t as bad as what you are going through. I didn’t want to say anything to you because my problem isn’t nearly as heartbreaking.”
“I shouldn’t be this upset. When I think about it, this breakup isn’t something I should be so sad about.”
“I just need to get over this loss. We weren’t that close.”
After my mom died, I was understandably broken. I had a string of months where I was pummeled by sadness, and heartbreak had a stranglehold on any momentum forward. Of course, I was sad. Of course, I had a void in my life. Of course, I was grieving.
What I found, however, was that I felt like I was the only one going through a tough time. My friends’ lives were carrying on without a hitch. They were happy and motivated. Smiles and sunshine all the way around. They didn’t have pain.
I came to discover this was not an accurate reflection. The truth was that my friends didn’t want to share their struggles with me because they assumed it would be a burden on an already saddled heart and thought their problems were meaningless in comparison to mine.
I came to this realization when I found out one of my closest friends, Ashley, was going through the fear and stress of finding out that her mom had been diagnosed with cancer. We spent nearly every day together. We walked to and from classes on campus as the leaves turned autumn colors, joined one another to play pool and dance on the weekends as a release from our stressors. During all this time together, she hadn’t uttered a word of this to me. I can hardly explain how badly I felt when I heard what she was silently going through.
“Honey, why didn’t you tell me your mom had cancer? How could you think that I wouldn’t want to be here to support you through this? I am so sorry! So Sorry!” I wept with empathy, reached out to her in an enveloping embrace, and we sat quietly together in this knowledge.
She spoke matter-of-factly when she answered, “I didn’t want to add any more stress to your life, Katie. You are going through so much. My mom is probably going to be fine. Yours won’t… ever again. How could I come to you with my struggle when it is nothing in comparison to yours?”
“Nope! Absolutely not! That is not how this works!
Here I am in my sadness thinking that I am the only one who can’t handle life. Here I am thinking that I am failing because everyone else can work through things and they seem just fine.
I am a devoted friend that cares deeply about you and there is no amount of my own heartbreak that would keep me from supporting you.
Don’t make me feel like I am alone in dealing with pain in my life. You are not allowed to do that again. Help me feel normal. Help me feel like I can repay the support you have wrapped around me in my time of need.
I don’t care how ‘small’ you may think your problem is. It still hurts the same. It still hurts. End of conversation!”
Friends - don’t dismiss your pain because you think it doesn’t fit in the “important” box. Don’t keep it to yourself for fear others won’t understand the “why” behind it. If it hurts, that is all that matters.
So, your old dog died. You found her lifeless at the back door on Wednesday morning and had to tell your kids she was gone. Yep, she was old. Yep, it was inevitable and a timely death. Sure, all of those things are true. But, does your heart feel any less pain because of these truths.
No. Hearts don’t work that way.
Share your sadness, your heartbreak, your pain with your friends. Those that care about you don’t need to know the why’s behind the emotion. They will be able to see your need for support and can offer you a soft landing and a renewing hug, offer you empathy. They will want to be there for you, no matter the reason your heart is broken.
If it hurts, it doesn’t matter why! It still hurts! If it impacts you, it is important to me.
… And if you enjoyed this post, if you feel a friend might need to hear these words, please consider sharing it. The greatest compliment you can offer is to share with your friends and family.