Sometimes you do not realize the heaviness of your own life. Stress, sorrow and grief can be fully present yet not in your focus or awareness.
Last week, I experienced both joy and sorrow. On Sunday mornings, my family and I attend spiritual services at our church. Joy and grief were fully present for many on Father’s Day. Joy in celebrating the many fathers and father-figures in people’s lives, and shared sorrow as we acknowledged the tragedy that occurred in Charleston South Carolina.
Our church implements a weekly ritual, a space for congregants to share their personal “joys and concerns”. During this ritual, members are welcome to go to the front of the church, light a candle, and if comfortable, speak into the microphone and briefly share a joy or concern with the church community.
Whenever I chose to participate, I typically lit a candle and quietly sat back down. This time, I spoke.
I acknowledged my spouse and all the love he brings to our family. I also shared our struggles: my brother-in-law’s excruciating battle with bone cancer and his recent cardiac emergencies, my mother’s failing health due to complications from diabetes and the memory and loss of my father who died 5 years ago due to alcoholism.
As soon as I began to speak our concerns, my voice cracked and tears emerged. I attempted to breathe through the wave of sadness that swept over me. I spoke briefly and sat back down. I continued to cry on and off throughout the rest of the service. So did my spouse. It was the first time we released our sorrow together about these devastating issues.
Until I spoke the words out loud, I had no idea of the weight that I, that we’ve, carried since January of this year. My spouse and I manage sorrow, grief, and exhaustion on a daily basis. Sure, we talked about the practicalities and logistics of our family concerns. But somehow, in the busyness of our lives, we’ve managed to weave in and out of all of these experiences, with little time, space or energy to really process the impact of these experiences.
It seems that once I spoke the words out loud, something shifted. Our hearts were heavy that Sunday. We embraced a lot. We talked about how hard it’s been, what we are afraid of and how grateful we felt for our church community. No longer did I, did we, feel alone in it all. As the day went on, my heart felt lighter.
This is part of what makes therapy a powerful process. When clients come in, whether single or partnered, and speak their words out loud to me, the simple act of sharing shifts how they relate to their story. As therapy unfolds, partners share things with each other that they have never acknowledged or said before.
When you share your story, with your partner and/or with me, when you give yourself permission to speak, to have voice, to be transparent, to express yourself, to self-disclose, something shifts.
Release yourself. Take the necessary risk. Speak the words out loud.