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Mask Or Manners?


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Hi all,

I was re-reading one of the posts about how we put on a front, or mask, while grieving. It suddently occured to me that in the beginning we are all too numb, shocked, sad, etc. to care, but as we move along, we can at least get some control of our emotions. At this point I think our "mask" is maybe just having good manners, in the sense that it is not always appropriate to show all your emotions. Like in certain social situations, it would be rude to show up and expect everyone to want to listen to you talk about your pain. So, to be polite, when asked how we are, we say pretty good or something like that and move on. But I don't personally view this as a bad thing. I've come to realize that I can't use my grief as an excuse to act any way I want to. In the beginning, it is very different because you are so raw, but down the road (a long road it is!) your grief becomes more of a solitary, private thing. Does this make sense to anyone else?

Hugs to all,

Shell

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Shell,

Yes, this totally makes sense to me. It will be 8 months for me this week since my Mom died. Whenever people at the office ask how I am my response is usually "fine"....which it is. However, I have about 3 really close friends that when they ask and I am having a bad day I let them know.

I would say now that most of my grief is private. I still cry (it's different thought, I can feel it) but there is nothing anyone can do for my loss. I definitely don't "bottle it up"....once in a while I cry to my husband and share with a few very close friends that I am having a bad day.

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Hi shell and LoriW:

This was brought up at a grief support group I went to a few weeks ago, that we do put on a mask to protect other people from what we are going through. They may be uncomfortable in hearing about the loss of our loved ones (or impending loss of a loved one if we are in anticipatory grief, like I was for over a year before my Mom died). It may be outside their experience (so far) or just brings up their own old wounds they'd just prefer stay bandaged.

In part, we also do it to protect ourselves from their "insensitive" responses. So we bury it during inappropriate situations like a family gathering where it may open up divisions, or social ocassions where people usually go to have lighthearted fun.

Like LoriW said, you bring it up with the few people who'll understand.

paul

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Hi everyone, It's funny that Shell brought this topic up again today because (before I read this topic) at work someone asked me "How are you?" I actually replied "good." I almost shocked myself because my typical response over the past almost five months has been "hanging in there" "okay" "fine" etc. This made me realize that I must have made some progress over the last months of pain and suffering. But it also made me realize that they are definately people in my life that don't really need/want to know how I'm really doing. And that when some people ask "How are you?," all they really mean is "hi" and aren't really asking how you are feeling. So it's important to distinguish between the "How are you?" ("hi") and "How are you?" (how's the grieving going?) before you answer the question.

And I definately agree that as time goes on, grief does become more of a private thing. This weekend I was around a group of new people (friends of my dad's), and I never mentioned what hell my life has been over the past 5 months. It just didn't seem appropriate, it was just a social situation where everyone wanted to have fun and the conversation was generally lighthearted. So I do think this was more a matter of manners and not a mask, because I was able to talk to one person in the group who had known Josh. When we where away from the group, we talked about Josh and my whole grieving process. (And the only reason she could talk to me about Josh is because she was widowed 12 years ago. My dad and sister never asked "How are you? (how's the grieving going?) and it's the first time they have seen me in person since Josh died. I digress. :unsure: )

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I think that in a way the idea of masking and manners is the same thing. We try to shield people from our feelings because we don't want them to feel uncomfortable and also don't want to reveal how much we hurt because most probably don't understand. Or don't know what to do - most of my friends have told me that they have no idea what to say to me or how to act. I tell them to just be there for me and not feel as though they have say this or that but they in turn have told me it's hard since they feel helpless. So I suppose we do put on a front in order to keep people from feeling that way, and in doing so it is a mannerism. The "how are you" questions arise but to admit that you're having a bad day is tough (on top of having the bad day!) because responding to a person who has suffered through a loss is hard in itself. I do hate thinking that I have to act differently than how I feel, but I also try to put myself in the shoes of those who haven't been through this sort of experience.

In the end I think that we have to bear the grief alone because even those who have gone through it deal with it differently and the relationships between the ones who are lost are not the same. People assume certain things that are true but no one has identical mindsets; my brother believes that I have it "easier" than my Mom but none of us are in each others' boats. I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to say but I guess that once we accept that our journey through grief is something we need to alone (on some levels) we also put on our masks and begin using mannerisms that are more acceptable for others who aren't on this path.

Kathy :blink:

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I think we use a mask to protect ourselves, also. When I called my mother to tell her my former husband had died, she said, and I quote, "Well, that's too bad, dear, but with that lifestyle he led, what can you expect?" Cold hearted hardly begins to describe it! So I do not discuss my feelings with her. She has never been comfortable with emotions anyway. My family of origin considers it to be the ultimate put-down to say, "Oh, so-and-so is SO emotional."

In less than two months' time in 2004, I was rear-ended, my former husband died, and I had two surgeries, one that found cancer, and one that removed it. My parents drove to stay with me for a few days, during which they argued with me about whether I should drink wine while taking narcotics (they thought I SHOULD!), and my father criticized my housekeeping. They then went home and for six weeks did not call at all. They never, never, asked how I was doing, either with grief or cancer. They just can't handle it. It kind of burns me, because I am extending myself to support them through my father's cancer now, but when he does eventually die, I can't quite see myself being my mother's support. Harsh, perhaps, and maybe I'll feel differently when it happens, but it's hard to forgive the total lack of support I got from them.

So I have my mask when I visit them.

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Shell,

I agree with what everyone else has said about the mask. Work is definately a place you want to have it on. It has been my experience however to start to use that mask with the people that truly do care and want to help you. Shortly after Karen died, after the initial shock of it all and things had settled down a bit my sister would ask how I was doing and I would usually say ok even tho I was dying inside. I put that mask on to be strong, I am not supposed to show feelings...so on and so forth. I know today she truly wanted to help and was there to listen to me and to try and help. I called her the other night when I was totaly going nuts and she basically said I am surprized I had gone this long. She knew I was going through rough times, and I spent a lot of time and energy hideing, when help was right there. All in all, just know who the ones are that truly want to be there for you, and don't use the mask as an excuse to hide like I have done before because I didn't want to face my feelings. I was afraid of hurting, but now I relize I have to hurt some in order to get better.

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dpodesta,

It is important that you don't use the mask with the people who want to help you, just to be strong. That's a good point. I'm glad you finally dropped dropped yours with your sister.

I also agree with Paul and Ann, that we use it to protect ourselves too. There are people who I know would just say something stupid or hurtful, so I don't give them the chance. Why set yourself up for that, ya know? And Ann, I don't blame you at all for your feelings about being your moms support. Actually, the way they view being "emotional", she may not need any! So sorry you had to go through all that without any support from them...that's rough!

Kathy, you made me think a lot about how maybe I've been too rough on people, as far as being critical about how they responded to the news my dad had died. There are a few people I will never forgive for giving me absolutely NO support (like a longtime good friend, or so I thought). But maybe we all expect too much understanding, I don't know. YOUR understanding of their not knowing what to say or do made me realize I should be more tolerant. You are a very kind person.

Like Lori and Paul said, you drop your mask only for those that you know will understand. Otherwise, I think it's best to realize the whole world does not want to hear about your grief! It helps them AND you.

Thanks for all the replies.

Hugs to all of you,

Shell

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MASK MANNER & WALL

I have all I put on the mask so nobody could see me cry or frown and I manner my conversations and the wall is a mile thick. I agree that there is certain people that you can talk to but others just using manners to me. I have come across some people that have said that it is life to pass away and not think about how rude that sounds to some maily me cause I just lost my MOM. I hate even talking about death let alone now I am having to deal with it. Like for instance my boss is a great guy but he just deals with death like it was ok. I wonder if it would even affect him?? I have also met a guy who has a great heart when it comes to people that he loved and lost and get teary eyed evertime they are brought up in conversation. Me I just don't talk I only talk to you guy really I have claimed up totally and shut that part of my life out. My heart aches for everybody who hurts when they lose someone they loved and cared about but when it comes to me I seal shut its new to me I don't want to bother anybody.

Thanks

Haley

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Haley:

I think its a learning process, unfortunately during a time of great stress and anxiety, to learn when we can turn the mask on and use good manners at work, with family and friends, and in social ocassions, and when we can take off the mask and be ourselves and let it all hang out and share how we actually feel when someone asks us "How are you?" or "Where've you been?" and so on. Some people actually care, others not so much.

Each of the above have their own minefields we have to navigate through. We make our mistakes and offend people, but figure it out better as time goes on in our grieving process.

You do what you gotta do.

Paul

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Hi All,

Everyone seems to have hit it on the head when listing their posts.

I am emailing because when my mom first died I was told to put on a brave face and do not let my dad see me sad. This was hard because when I got upset which I was often I hid away in the bath tub and did my crying. But infront of my dad I was his brave little girl. But when my dad died I did the same thing because I heard him in my memory to be brave. I did as I remembered eventhough he was not there. And now after one year of my mom's death I still hide my sadness and same for my dad. I am seeking help with a counsellor now but find it hard to change from before.

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Starkiss,

While I think it is very important to talk to the people you KNOW you can talk to about your grief, I'm also thinking that putting on a mask in the general public is not such a bad idea. Like your father raised you to be brave, I was raised to have good manners. So, not burdening others (either those who don't care or when in a social situation where it would be inappropriate) is, to me, just plain good manners. And, as several suggested, it is also a good protection device for yourself. I find grieving more or less alone (except for a couple of family members and a very few friends) is better for me. I can let go completely without any worries about how it is affecting others.

I think it is very courageous of you to try to carry out your dads wishes. But, of course, be sure to get your feelings out, as it seems you are doing, in a way and place that makes it comfortable for you.

Hugs,

Shell

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Hi Shell,

I am presently taking part in a support group at our local hospice office and find the group very helpful. I think when you have a group of people that are supporting each other through grief it is very helpful. I too are not emotional infront of people because I feel that people will just feel sorry for me and I do that enough for myself.

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I read somewhere that the main predictor for whether a person will successfully get through the grief process is if they have at least one person they can talk to who understands how they feel. That was the one factor that made a huge difference. So you don't have to talk to everybody about it, just hopefully one friend or family member who understands.

Also, some people work through grief by talking (that would be me!) and others by doing something. My counselor said her husband chopped enormous amounts of firewood after their son died, and that worked out his grief just as well as talking did for her. In general, men tend towards "instrumental" grief, doing active things to work through the emotions, and women towards "intuitive grief", talking it out. Obviously there are many exceptions, and no one is completely one way or the other. It's just that it's a good thing to keep in mind, that where some people might seem like they're not dealing with the grief because they're not talking about it, it doesn't necessarily mean they are stuck or in denial, because they might be doing something active that works through it for them.

When my ex-husband died, I talked to everybody at first -- I couldn't stop talking. I finally wound down a little and could be more selective in who I talked to! But his significant other took on projects to completely remodel his yard and house. That was his way to deal with his emotions.

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Thank you all for your posts,

When reading them I understand about grief and how I am normal to feel the way I do. I had no one I could talk to for the longest time but I am going to a nearby hospice office and sitting in a group of people who have lost some special loved ones. It helps alot to hear that you are not alone and that there are people just like me out in this world. Take Care and Thanks so much one and all for the kind words of encouragement and understanding Shelley

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AnnC

I liked what you had to say, I go love to talk to people and get my thoughts out there, not to mention finding others to help with things I have gone through. Most of the time when I am working on things around the house it is to get things off of my mind. Which is also a help with so much going on right now. Like it has been said each of us deals with it in our own ways. This has been an interesting topic.

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Hi All,

I do not know if it is a mask or manners but when people have said not to bother strangers with your troubles that might be easier for some but for me that is all I have. My family do not see eye to eye about talking about my parent's death but for me I really still need too, and since I have no real friends it is strangers I do talk to. My parents brought me up with good manners but when I have no other way of talking about this I have to do what I have to do. Take care and thank you for letting me vent Shelley

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You're not venting, shelley. And we're not really strangers. (Well.. <_< ) We're people who know what each of the other is going thru in the loss of our people.

"Vent" all you want. This is the place for it. :)

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Hi Paul S,

Thank you for your post, I do feel like eventhough we are not family it seems like we are because we have bonded over the grief we share in.. We have grief differently but with a website like this atleast we have people who really understand. Thanks again Paul S and take care Shelley

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