Have you ever posted an image on social media and then felt extremely uneasy afterward? Or just had that icky feeling?
We all know what I’m talking about.
That perfectly staged photo in front of our amazingly decorated fireplace capturing the significance of holiday bliss.
Or how about the one bursting with candied grins after frustratingly scrambling our little ones to capture that perfectly family-synched portrait?
We may have good intentions, but our well-prepared snapshots aren’t always telling the whole truth.
Back in 2017, I attempted that same gleefully feel by posting my family’s yearly Christmas photo. My children and husband were lovingly, cradled around me, dressed in their finest merry colors, while I stood there in conflicting attire, wearing all black, my darkest red lipstick, and carrying my bright and precious baby on my hip.
When I reluctantly hit “post,” an outpour of positive emojis surfaced from 200 of my closest friends and family.
I felt like a fraud.
No one noticed the conflicting emotions or anxiety dripping from my pores.
Or the exhaustion I felt from overthinking dinner plans and dressing my kids for church service.
No one probably even noticed my awkward, crooked smile.
But I surely did. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and hide. Earlier in March of that same year, my sister passed away unexpectedly. She was only 39 years old.
It would have been the first Christmas together after she moved back home after 10 years.
No one can prepare for the unimaginable shockwaves of grief—the emotional highs and lows, the contemplation of what ifs, the unsettling unresolved issues, the questions that go unanswered, the amount of time spent praying, or the incredible need for solitude.
Grief throws intense emotional curve balls.
Without forewarning, anxiety, anger, blame, confusion, denial, depression, and fear can come out from nowhere and hit you f*cking hard.
No one really talks about those parts.
Instead, we focus on acting like we have it all together, trying to stay busy, and distracting ourselves to somehow magically bypass the pain.
When I look at that holiday picture today, I see someone who desperately yearned for relief. Maybe someone who wanted to move on too quickly. Someone who was stuck but also was trying so hard to capture any ounce of joy, even though she wasn’t feeling it.
Being kind and giving ourselves time starts the process of healing from the inside.
One of the worst things we can do is not be true to our emotions. When we hide or run from our true feelings, we run the risk of carrying the heavy energy that weighs our spirits down.
Acknowledging the full range of emotions and sitting with them helps us move through that storm.
We should never be afraid to seek a professional support either. Sometimes we just don’t have the answers. Even as a trained counselor and knowing all the stages of grief, I turned a blind eye to logic and back to reason.
Breaking free from my small cocoon of darkness and seeking alternative perceptions and support was necessary.
When I look at this year’s holiday picture, I see someone who still doesn’t have it all together but feels comfortable in her own skin. Someone who can accept “what is” and go with the flow. Someone who sees her blessings and is incredibly thankful.
Someone who finally gave herself time to feel and go through it.