Have you ever had dark grief thoughts that made you feel ashamed? Do you hide feelings because you think they’re ugly?
Do you have a secret about the death of your child that you fear others will find out?
Rest assured, you are not alone: we all have Grief Secrets.
I Have A Secret
The trouble with secrets is that they weigh on our souls. Carrying a secret takes energy. Keeping a secret brings up a myriad of disturbing emotions.
Secrets haunt us and make us feel lonely. It makes no difference if it’s a secret about our feelings and thoughts, or our relationship or past.
That’s because a true connection to others is impossible if we aren’t being our authentic selves. Having to lie about who we are and what we’re feeling is extremely isolating.
This is especially true when we’re grieving.
When a secret is directly linked to our grief, it will, without a doubt, increase our levels of stress. We’ll add to that cortisol ocean that we’re already navigating by bringing guilt, fear or shame to the mix.
Secrets make our grief even more complex. They can push us further into despair at a time when we’re already at our most vulnerable.
So why keep a secret when we so desperately seek understanding and connection?
One of the problems about being honest in grief is that we realize we’ll be confronted by truths that we would rather not acknowledge. These can be about how we see ourselves.
Or how we’ll be perceived by others.
Secrets challenge our best version of ourselves. We fear rejection and that we’ll be judged. And the reality is, disclosing a secret may well trigger a chain of events that we have no control over.
That’s why we would rather keep our secrets safe than face the unknown consequences of sharing our truth. In writing this article, I contacted several of my ‘grief buddies’ and asked them to share their grief secrets.
People were surprisingly open. Many wanted to offload secrets, to share them anonymously as if they’d gone to confession. It brought them relief.
In many cases, what struck me most was that the secret wasn’t ‘dark’ but surprisingly ordinary or understandable in the circumstances. Rage, hurt, sorrow, shame — the emotions of loss laid bare.
It was the stress of keeping the feelings secret that had morphed them into a shameful monster. In telling me, the secret was normalized and denied its power.
The fear around it evaporated.
But there were others where it was more complicated. Some situations couldn’t improve by sharing a grief secret anonymously.
In these cases, for honesty to prevail, there would need to be an openness towards those affected that as yet did not exist. Disclosing a secret would definitely impact people’s lives and potentially alter their personal relationships forever.
Below, I share with kind permission some of the secrets gifted to me. My hope is that they will encourage loss parents, as well as anyone who is grieving, to face their secrets and so lessen their grief stress.
GRIEF SECRETS THAT LOSS PARENTS SHARED
Some of these have been edited for clarity/grammar but all remain completely anonymous – even to our team.
“I’m to blame for my son’s death. He died in a car accident, not because of the crash but because he wasn’t strapped in properly. I never tell people that.”
“I felt huge relief when she died. It makes me feel bad, like I didn’t love her enough.”
“I bought a voodoo doll and pins but haven’t used them yet. I don’t want to do it wrong. I want to read up on it before I try.”
“I’m jealous of [a woman at work who had a stillbirth]. She gets lots of attention. No one cared when I miscarried.”
“My son struggled for so many years with addiction, it was awful seeing him suffer. Am I a bad mother for thinking that he’s better off dead?”
“I want the killer of my daughter to suffer. I want to torture him. I hope the other inmates beat him until he’s brain damaged and confined to a wheelchair.”
“Our baby died shortly after she was born. My husband is grieving so hard, it breaks me up. I don’t know what to do. He doesn’t know that our little girl wasn’t his. We have two other children.”
“I mixed my son’s ashes with those of our dog, so they could be buried together. No one knows”.
“My husband doesn’t understand why I’m still grieving. It’s six years since [our boy] died. I want a divorce.”
“I’ve lost my communication skills with ‘normal’ parents. My patience for their senseless rambling is zero. I’d rather be around my dogs and rescue pets than be around people.”
“I received a copy of what would have been my son’s High School graduation program. I asked a printer to include his name in it.”
“My mother-in-law inserted herself into our [stillbirth] trauma against our requests. Now, whenever I see her with my newborn nephew, it makes me physically sick, and SO angry. I’m ashamed of the rage I feel.”
Published on Still Standing Magazine 31.05.2019