I’ve had a number of conversations of late about feelings… particularly about negative emotions… and particularly about the fact we’re not allowed to have any…

I seem to be constantly telling friends – let yourself be sad! You’re grieving! But I seem to be the only one. They’re bombarded with well meaning voices telling them to get over it, be happy, move on…

But you have to grieve. You have to work through the process. If you don’t, those emotions control you.

When my marriage fell apart, I’m the one who finally said the words. And I’m the one who refused to change my mind. He went around the town sobbing to anyone who would listen. He rang my family and friends. I remember sitting in our lounge room and every device in the house just kept ringing. That was the day I learned you could make a phone call through FB… That was the day I first shut down almost all of my social media.

What everyone saw was a guy, broken, desperately trying to get his family back together… and i was the bitch who just wouldn’t listen to anyone. One friend kept saying to me – okay, you’ve made your point, he’s sorry… now take him back.

They didn’t care about any of the reasons I gave. Umm, he has a girlfriend! Surely that would work.. no. We all know men have needs, he doesn’t love her…. Hmm… Ah, he’s unbalanced and keeps threatening and harassing us… That will stop though if you take him back – he’s told you this!… Okay, so I’m meant to be bullied and threatened into taking him back, and I’m meant to want this person in my life, in my children’s life, and I’m not meant to be terrified of him?… You’re being silly, listen to me, he’s sorry, he wants you back, you’re doing this to yourself you know…

So… he was allowed to grieve… he was allowed to turn up to my workplace sobbing… he was allowed to physically pin me to my car in the main street and scream abuse at me… he was allowed to have his ‘needs’… he was allowed to do anything he wanted… because I’m the one who said the words. I said ‘I want a divorce’. And since then, he’s still constantly forgiven for everything he does, because I destroyed his world and broke him.

Firstly… no I didn’t. He was doing all these things and more long before we broke up. He was leaving. He had already taken a job in another state and only planned to visit the kids every 2-3 months for a couple of days. He’d already made that choice, but he didn’t want to be the bad person, so I said the words…

And as a result, I wasn’t allowed to grieve. The second I showed any unhappiness, the wolves pounced. I was obviously doubting. I was obviously regretting.

Because we’re not allowed to have negative emotions… But I WAS grieving. I was grieving the loss of the ideal. The plans you make for a future. The ideas you have and the choice you’ve made. I still had to grieve for all those things. The loss of the life and the lifestyle. The hurt in my children’s eyes because mummy and daddy just can’t get along and they’re always in the middle of it. All those things…

And I see friends going through crap and they are told the same thing. Move on. Get going. You need to get over this. Smile. Why are you sad? You must be depressed… you need to see someone.. get medication.

And this takes away from the reality and seriousness of true mental health issues – but that is another story…

So why are we so terrified of feeling anymore? Why can’t we simply allow ourselves to grieve?

I was talking to a friend this morning who is going through a divorce. Only a few weeks. He’s doubting, he’s unsure, he’s feeling isolated and he’s constantly told to be happy… after all, he wanted this… There’s no mention of the psychological abuse everyone knew his wife has inflicted for years… He said the words.

Or the friend whose husband recently walked out the front door to go to work and never arrived… They found him 3 days later, miles from home on a drinking binge. Hospitalised for a week. Now going through the very long process of medication and therapy for suicidal thoughts and depression. His company is bust… she’s left to sort out the finance, clean up the warehouse, and close the business down… They have three young children…but he’s not coping with life himself, so that’s hers to focus on as well. The house. She was on maternity leave… but now they need an income, because his company is bust and he’s currently unable to work, for who knows how long…. She walking on eggshells wondering what’s inside his head. He’s trying to function at all. Her entire world has turned upside down. Her entire future has changed. But he’s back now, and he’s fine so move on… There’s no time to grieve for the life they had planned. There’s no time to be selfishly sad and angry and to shake your fist at the universe…

There are so many stories… big and small… but the theme is consistent. Move on. Be happy. Smile.

The media took a spin with the smile thing earlier this year. Telling a woman to smile is sexist… and I get that. You’re beautiful when you smile – I like you better when you smile – I tried an experiment when this was actually in the headlines. I posted a series of selfies (I don’t often have me in my profile pic) to gauge the reaction, and every single time, there was a comment on my appearance – smile, being the most prolific. But ‘smile’ also exhausts you when you just don’t want to. Because today is crap. This week is crap. Right now, it feels like this whole damned life is crap and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and I just don’t want to smile… Oh, then you must need medication!

No. Sometimes, you just need to be sad. To work your way through the grieving process. To rant and to roar and to cry. Because when you finish that, then your smile will be genuine.

** And obviously, clinical depression is a very different thing to grieving and feeling sad.

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