“If They Only Knew…” Putting on a Brave Face


As time passes, grief becomes less apparent to those around us. People forget about our loss because it is not in the forefront of their lives. We do more of our grieving out of the public eye. We grow and we try to make the best of what life has to offer. We realize that we have to find a way to live again even though we still feel broken. In solitude feelings of loss continue to privately plague us.  

Inspired by our courageous attempts to move forward, people watch us and voice appreciation for our example. Their comments are intended to encourage, but knowing our personal weaknesses, we struggle to accept them. We feel hypocritical. There is a pressure to not let the people down who are watching us, and we fall into the trap of living with two faces.

I recently read this post by another young widow. She shares her attempts to go on.


“This coming Monday will be 2 years since my husband was shot and killed by a young man trying to flee from the police. I’ve spent the last 2 years pretty much in denial of my hurt, pain and loss. Doing everything I could to avoid the awful truth, that he’s not coming home. I’ve sunk myself deep into my family, work and whatever social life I could find. I’m even ashamed to say (through an odd chain of events) I started dating. It worked for a while…. Although this month has been a difficult one to escape and it feels like its all come crashing down as if he just died yesterday.

I have so much to be grateful for and have been blessed immensely the past 2 years but I would give it all back for just another day with my sweetheart.

When I talk to my friends or family they act as if I should be over it already. When does it go away? Or does it ever? I read a post a few days ago about having 2 faces the one for public and the one that still has the pain to bear. I feel like that so, so much. Everyone tells me how strong and amazing I am what a great example of faith and endurance I have to been, but if they only knew….”


In the comments of her post other widows echoed her feelings and voiced encouragement,


”’If they only knew…’ I feel like that so much. Oh, I feel for you. Don’t be ashamed of dating. Though I did feel that way too. I had days where it all came crashing down. I also still remember waiting for him to just walk in the door. I promise with time it will feel better. I promise. But, take your time and don’t beat yourself up. These are all normal feelings for what you have been through.”


”I am so sorry and so many here know well these private hurts. The gospel helps, being busy helps, being brave and faithful and enduring well is all good, but the missing how it was doesn’t go away for me either. Hugs to you. Thanks for sharing. Yes, I agree, ‘If they only knew..’”


These are common threads that plague those of us who are grieving.  It is normal to have setbacks.  It is normal to have times when triggers bring back the pain.  It even appears to be normal that we beat ourselves up for those times, even though in actuality we should not.  Part of being here in this mortal experience is that we are mortal.  We are going to have periods when we struggle.  

Struggling always precedes growth.

I love the comment made by one of the widower to this young widow, he said,

“You ARE strong, stronger than you realize. Everyone here is, even if it is not recognized as such. Yes, there are many days when we “put on a good show,” and there are many powerful feelings of inadequacy and incompleteness, but the fact that you are trying and moving forward is something to be applauded!”

Sometimes I think we need to look at what we are doing right, and not what we are doing wrong.  When we focus on the bad, we seem to ignore all of the personal triumph we have made.

I find it extremely helpful to blog/ journal about some of those positive experiences, when I feel strong, and when I genuinely am lead and guided by the spirit.  There are times that I feel enabled with words to say or experiences to share that offer hope and comfort to someone else who is suffering.  Remembering those times helps me know that I am trying and moving forward. Remembering also gives me strength to pull out of the hard times, to learn from the sorrow, and emerge a better person for it.

Ever step back I take in grief, lets me step forward in empathy. Being vulnerable allows me to touch others with charity and love.  When I use my experiences to reach out and not just to garner pity for myself, I find a healing light comes to strengthen me. 

The more I understand what suffering does to me… how it can refine and change me for the better, the less ashamed I am to suffer or to admit that I suffer, and the easier time I have in taking those experiences and turning them around to testify of how God can be a strength in my life.  

So the next time you are tempted to put on a mask, think about how you can use your experience to help someone or to testify of truth.  Then perhaps, they will know and they will come to understand.  Then perhaps our suffering will not just be for our benefit, but for the benefit of every life that touches ours.

Questions to Ponder:

How can you better use your experiences to positively help others?



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