What is the elephant in the room?
Have you heard the analogy about the elephant in the room? The elephant in the room is a huge problem that everyone is aware of and the elephant will cause havoc the room because there is nowhere it can hide. Often people walk around with an invisible sign that can not be missed of a big problem that nobody wants to talk about but everyone knows the problem is there and they just try to avoid it. So in life we are taught to stuff our feelings or to not make waves for other people so we just walk around and pretend that everything is normal when there is an obvious problem in the room.
Let’s talk about a few examples where maybe a situation is just that the elephant in the room. Have you ever been to a gathering where you have friends that were once married and everyone at the gathering are friends with both people. The divorce is not amicable and the mutual friends try to avoid talking to either party because they do not want to take sides. An awkwardness is created whenever there is a social gathering for everyone at the event. One person from the couple arrives early and things are going great. Then the x-spouse comes in and everyone in the room gets quiet and uncomfortable because the couple has so many unresolved issues and friends do not want to take sides. So silence about the entire situation is how it is dealt with.
Another example is when someone gets fired from their job and when the person goes to the local lounge where the coworkers go there is a discomfort in the air. Nobody wants to ask about the firing so they all avoid the topic but it is pretty obvious the problem is right there in the room.
The last example that I will mention is one that is very personal to me and it happens so often with people because they are not sure how to act around a person going through this situation. Death, when a person has lost someone that they love the elephant in the room wants to avoid the subject and they want to get things back to normal. Think about a person that you knew that was in grief, what did you feel? Did you want to avoid the person because you didn’t know what to say? When the friend started to talk about their loved one did you try to find a way to escape the conversation? This is often a huge elephant for people especially if they have never gone through the death of a loved one.
For a person healing the best way to get the elephant out of the room is to be allowed to heal and with grief there is not one size fits all for this kind of healing. For me, music helped me through my pain. Many of the songs that I listened to helped me to understand death, helped me to remember my son, and helped me to have faith to get through this turmoil. That helped me and honestly, I loved songs that helped me feel good, bad, and all that comes with the pain of death. Another person my want to talk about the person they lost and it is always good to allow them to talk about the feelings and tell stories about their loved one.
Many people are afraid that is they do not talk about their love than they will forget them or they will be disloyal to them. Their is not one set of emotions that go with grief and there are not stages come one after the other. Their feelings that mostly all people in grief experience but there may be some that do not have all the emotions but a few that are excruciating. I use a scale often to identify the degree of emotions that an individual may be experiencing and this can be helpful. Then there are the different ways that people grieve and the different relationships that are involved in loss.
A mom losing a child will be very different from the woman losing her husband. A child losing a parent is different from a miscarriage or death from a terminal illness. Sudden death may have a much stronger shock affect than someone that knew for months their loved one was going to die. So with all the different kinds of death and all the different relationships it can be pretty overwhelming to know what to do for someone in grief. Often the elephant in the room is an easier way than to maybe handle this in the wrong way. It’s not because we don’t care that the elephant sits there knocking over the lives of everyone that loves this person, it’s because we love this person that we don’t want to hurt them by asking, we don’t want to open the wound, or we don’t want to do the wrong thing.
The worst thing you can do for a person healing from a death is to let the elephant stay in that room because the person in pain will feel isolated and misunderstood. People don’t talk about death to make others feel uncomfortable they talk about that person because they are broken inside without them and they are hoping you can help them mend the broken parts so that is doesn’t hurt so much. Another thing a person needs is the rest of their life to grieve the life that they no longer have with them. The idea that loss is better in a year or so is totally incorrect and grief lasts a lifetime. It is said that, “people grieve because they love and Love Never Dies”. When we look at things differently than we respond differently and a person that wants to die to be with their loved one is not going to just get over it.
To sum all this up about this elephant in the room, I would like to ask each one of you to ask about the loved one, share a time that you had with the loved one (good or bad), allow the person to speak freely and do not feel discomfort because letting them grieve is the best way to help a person you know deal with death. I know being the supportive person can be tough but it is the best way to love another person. We all face death sooner or later and I know that I want to be there for someone else like others were there for me.