I just got back from a trip to Oregon. I had the privilege of spending ten days with my 34-year-old daughter. It was wonderful. Spending time with an adult child is a rewarding and meaningful experience. We shared many long conversations when we discussed some real hard life topics. Us dads all know how precious those times are.
Everywhere I went, I saw people wearing masks. No question, it’s a necessary sign of the times. It’s something we must do until we figure this corona-virus out. I don’t know about you, but I miss seeing the face behind the mask, I miss enjoying the smile of the person I’m talking to. I miss the expression on a person’s face. I want to know who’s behind that mask. I want to know what they’re feeling. I want to see them, not just a piece of them.
I believe we tend to wear different masks as we journey through the grief process. I know in my early stages of grief, for the first few months after Joyce’s passing, I tended to try to take on a lot by myself. I admit that I tried to mask a lot of how I was feeling. I’m very fortunate that I have friends and family who kept reaching out to me during that time. It’s easy to shut ourselves off and try to tough it out. That won’t work. We want to “man up” and not let others see our real emotions or situation. I think this is particularly true in the first several months after a loss. That’s when we’re most confused and tend to internalize everything. That won’t work either.
Masks can offer protection from the unwanted. Masks can serve as a filter, literally and figuratively. Masks can also hide what we don’t want to share with others.
I see all kinds of ads on Facebook for masks. Who would have ever thought they’d be the must-have fashion accessory for 2020? But then again, 2020 hasn’t exactly gone the way anyone expected.
When it comes to the physical masks, I’d recommend that you follow whatever protocol keeps you compliant and makes you confident, comfortable, and keeps you and those around you safe.
When it comes to emotional masks, I’d like to suggest that we are much better off not wearing them. When someone you trust and care about asks how you are, tell them. Be honest. They’re asking because they care. Share the good, and share the bad. Not even your closest and trusted family member, friend, or ally can help or support you if they don’t know what you need. And if your phone doesn’t ring, don’t feel bad if you’re the one reaching out. Trust me; your closest friends want to help. They want to be there for you. They don’t know what you need unless you tell them. For many of them, this may be their first grief experience as well. Help them be better at what they so desperately want to do, to help you.
So, wear that mask when you need to, but know when it’s time to take it off.
Jim Winner’s thoughts can be found here every other Thursday. You can write him c/o WSN.