Have you ever had one of those nights where you awaken and have to use the bathroom, but can’t quite get your eyes to adjust to the darkness? What do you end up doing in those situations? I guess I can’t speak for all of us, but in my case, I feel my way through the dark, looking for familiar surroundings with my fingers and toes. I’m always hoping in those situations that I find the kettlebells on my bedroom floor with a gentle sweep of my feet and not with a full stride. From time to time, I walk into the door frame because I couldn’t quite feel it ahead of me.
For the past few months, I’ve been dealing with a different kind of darkness. The literal darkness is easy enough to negotiate, and when it comes down to it, you can turn on the lights if you have to. Figurative darkness is not so easily dealt with. When you lose someone close to you, as I did, you can’t just turn the lights back on and go about your business. What many choose to do is freeze, to stop trying to move forward. I’m not judging and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a period of mourning where we choose to pause the status quo. But some of us choose to shut off our feelings and we think this will make the pain go away. It doesn’t.
The truth is, just like my metaphorical story of feeling my way through the darkness of the night, we have to choose to feel our way through the darkness of life. When we embrace our emotions, identify them, allow ourselves to feel them, even talk about them, we begin to heal.
I started out really well when my dad died. I was aware of my emotions, I allowed myself to mourn, and I talked about things in a healthy way to trustworthy people in my life. There came a point, though, where I wasn’t handling things in such a healthy way. I don’t know if I had the conscious thought or not, but it seems I had reached a time of thinking it was no longer okay to cry when I thought about my dad, which only made me all the more emotional as I suppressed things. When my wife asked if I wanted to talk about what was bothering me, I no longer talked because, to be quite honest, I didn’t even know what to talk about. I couldn’t identify what it even was that was bothering me. My physical health started to be affected by this unwillingness to deal with my sadness. Instead of feeling my way through the dark, I chose to just try to push forward, walking through the darkness with no awareness of my surroundings or what I might slam into.
Then came the night when it all came pouring out. My wife once again asked if I would talk to her. She knew I was being affected emotionally and physically, and she just wanted to help me. I still didn’t know what to talk about, but I started telling her that and before I knew it, things were coming out that I didn’t know I was feeling. I had been feeling like the loss of my father left me without certain things that I needed as a man. I couldn’t have identified that until I started talking about it, but by the time I was done, I felt such an emotional release I can’t even begin to tell you about it. It also changed me physically. By the next day, some of the things I was dealing with were no longer present. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me that releasing my emotional baggage I was carrying relieved me physically as well.
I’m still dealing with the death of my father, and I will for a long time to come. There’s no quick way to heal from this kind of loss. But now I realize that feeling should not only be allowed, it should be openly embraced. When I know there’s something burdening me, I now know how important it is that I talk about it and allow myself to feel it.