Chrissy Teigen lost her son. Meghan Markle had a miscarriage. Elliot Page is transgender. Jen Hatmaker got divorced. Each of these stories matters.
I have heard a lot of commentary from people, most likely ones that have never been in a situation like the aforementioned folks, saying that people don’t need to tell everyone these parts of their lives. I wholeheartedly disagree. We absolutely need to talk about hard things. Often.
Before I go on I want to make it clear, if you have never gone through what someone else has you have no right to pass judgment on them for how they handle grief or any struggle or obstacle in their life. It’s not your place.
Even if you have a similar experience as someone else, you don’t have their experience. It’s not the same and it never will be. Comparative suffering does not help anyone.
It seems we still hold on to the idea that there are some topics and experiences that are too personal to be shared with others. Experiences that we need to hold deep down inside and hope that eventually, everything will be okay. Someday, we won’t think about it anymore.
We’re not solitary creatures and were never meant to be. I refuse to believe people are just unkind. I firmly believe that we’re all born empathetic people. It’s the world around us and the fear of our own pain that shut down our ability to empathize.
It’s completely natural when we go through something hard to be terrified of it. Showing our fear is excruciating. It leaves us exposed. We’re open to judgment. That fear often turns into projection which leads to that nasty comparative suffering I mentioned early.
It’s really easy for someone else who has buried their pain to see others outwardly discussing theirs and dismiss that person’s voice. It’s the old sentiment of “I got through the same thing just fine and I don’t understand why they can’t just get past it and move on.”
The answer is that these people didn’t actually get through it just fine. Shoving our feelings, pain, hurt, confusion, loss, anger, sadness, or even relief way down inside isn’t getting through anything. Sure it’s coping, but it’s not healthy.
I’m done my fair share of burying of pain. When I read Chrissy Teigen’s essay about the loss of her son, it brought me to tears. The baby I lost at 12 weeks, who I never got to know the gender of but swear was going to be a boy, would turn be turning 18 years old in a few months.
I never processed the loss of that baby. I didn't let myself. I didn’t talk about it. I even delegated the harsh task of telling everyone I lost my baby to my friend, Fran. If Fran told everyone, I would never have to talk about it. Ever.
We aren’t meant to suffer in silence on our own.
There is a beauty in telling our stories so that others can feel less alone in a dark moment. There is also a beauty in the recognition of the human strength to overcome. Being a witness to that help us tap into our innate ability to connect. We can’t lose that.
I saw awful internet comments from ignorant social media warriors when Elliot Page put out an incredibly beautiful statement letting us know about his pronouns.
“Why the hell do we care? Why is this even necessary?”
I’ll tell you why. Because somewhere in the world, in some small bedroom, there is some teenage girl that knows exactly why she’s not comfortable in her own skin. It’s because it’s not her skin. It’s his skin.
Seeing someone else be open and honest about being transgender is going to make that teenager feel less alone. It not only opens a door, but it offers up a seat. Sit by me. We’ll get through this. It’ll hurt but it’ll be okay.
The more we talk about hard things, the easier they are to endure. This is what we need. Thirty years ago, a teenager coming out to their parents was nearly unheard of. My daughter told me she’s gay casually in the car in the driveway after a team practice in December.
Find your voice if you need to. Say what you need to. It’s your story and you have every right to tell it.
When someone speaks, listen. I mean, really listen. Hear them. Empathize. Reserve judgments. Stop comparing. Simply, exist in your space as you are and let others do the same.
We owe it to each other to do everything we can to make living this life just a little bit easier.
*Big conversations lead to big discoveries and big healing:
Why Are There No Men in My Group Therapy?
Your absence is conspicuous and I’m losing faith in you.