My dad passed away recently. In the month since he passed, I’ve been extremely open with people about the ups and downs of the grieving process. Grieving openly is nothing new for me. I’ve always leaned more toward openness than secrecy.
While no one has criticized this approach to my face, many ministry books and teachers recommend that ministers have a level of secrecy about their own struggles. This isn’t to hide, necessarily, but to project a level of stability and trustworthiness.
No offense to the people who feel that way, but I’ve never felt called to that kind of detachment. The following are three reasons why I choose to grieve openly.
1. I grieve openly so no one is surprised if they catch me on an off day.
Grief has so many ups and downs. There are days when I feel relatively unphased by my grief, almost forgetting entirely how much it can hurt. Then, only days later, I might find myself back where I started.
When people hide their grief, there is no expectation that some days will be good and others will be bad. People come to expect that they’ve moved on. As I’ve shared my grief openly, people have been understanding about declined invitations on the days I haven’t felt fit for human interaction.
2. I grieve openly so others can celebrate with me when healing occurs.
Many times in my life, I’ve seen how my openness about things has allowed people to celebrate the magnitude of the healing that occurs. People who have known me for years have seen a transformation, largely because I have never tried to hide the starting point.
I’m currently reading a memoir about a man who lost his son in a tragic accident. After that loss, he and his wife eventually get pregnant again. Because he had been so open about the depths of grief they carried, people celebrated that much more when they had another child. It’s hard to celebrate healing if you don’t know about the hurt.
3. I grieve openly so others don’t feel ashamed of their own grief.
One of the things that was so comforting about reading C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed was the validation I felt for some of the most complicated things I’ve thought during my grief. It’s incredibly isolating to feel like your grief makes you “defective” or “too broken.”
When I read stories of others who have been where I’ve been and felt what I felt, I feel safe to feel those things. Instead of fighting against the grief, I accept that the place I’m in is all part of the grieving process.
Will there be people who think I’ve shared too much? Probably. But have there been people who have been helped by my openness? Yes. And those experiences are worth far more than any second-hand embarrassment someone might feel on my behalf.