This was one of the first pieces I created for my 5 Stages of Grief journal. I actually did it for a friend who was struggling with a death in her own life. Her husband was distant after hearing about his best friend dying instantly from a heart attack. Sometimes we need other people’s words to help us understand. Here is what the tiny text says:
Every man has a secret sorrow which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – 1882
When dealing with people and emotions – two very messy parts of life – we often approach both of these things from a personal perspective. We think about how we feel, about what we would want, about what we expect forgetting to realize that something VERY different may actually be happening to the other person involved. We find someone closed off or cold when in reality, as this quote reminds us, they are only sad.
Sadness, anger, any of our emotions are like clothing we put on each day to be our selves, not remembering that other people may not see what is happening underneath our emotional outfit. They only see the outer layer, never thinking about the socks in our shoes that don’t show and make our shoes tight, the undergarments holding things in place, or the waistband digging into our middle area because our pants have grown too tight. We walk and talk like everything is great, when in reality our outfit looks fine and is slowly driving us to madness. We put on this outfit because it is what is expected, it is the norm, it is how we want to present ourselves. We cover up what is really going on because that is indeed too intimate to share in our everyday, causal situations. If we showed up in our company emotional PJs with disheveled hair and grimy teeth no one would want to be near us…so we dress the part and play the game.
There are people in our lives – and I hope this is true for you as well – that see us in our comfy emotional PJs, with grimy teeth, looking tired and a bit scary…and they love us anyway. They know, they understand, and they care about us enough to give us grace and space to deal with all the emotions elements of our day. They know that we will get stronger, we will deal with our anger and pain, and they will see us brush our emotional teeth again soon. Until then, they hand us a blanket and hug us and let us work it out.
Everyone is dealing with something. Everyone has an emotional outfit they slip on each day, only revealing their flubs and flaws to those rare people who are part of their very personal inner circle. So the rest of us need to think before acting, pause before speaking, and listen before responding to better understand that the person we call cold may only be having an emotional bad outfit day. This is not the time to be the fashion police, it is the time to shut up and listen. It is time to give grace and let them know you care. One day your own emotional bad outfit day will arrive and you too will need that blanket and a hug and the freedom to go deal with your stuff in your own way.