By Evelyn Pechter, Psy.D.
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Grief has a way of sapping confidence. With sapped confidence, you may not feel willing to speak what’s on your mind and in your heart. It’s too painful to speak.
Perhaps you are thinking you don’t want to burden anyone? Or that they won’t understand anyway so what’s the use. Then, without even realizing, little by little you give your voice to someone else. You let them speak for you and the way you feel. The confidence you once had seems so distant now.
That voice you’ve lost now creates the story you tell yourself in a very vulnerable state of mind. The inside story starts out, “I don’t have a life anymore without the love of my life. I have no interest in doing anything.” Those kinds of messages or stories make it easier for other people to become your voice. During this challenging time, that may even feel comforting.
Your inner conversations and others creating your new “story” are often explored in the grief groups. Group members often speak about their adult children, other relatives and friends who begin treating them as though they’re unable to handle certain tasks. Adult children often feel a responsibility to keep you safe. You’re the only parent they have left. When that happens, you may begin to notice that your confidence and your voice seem even more distant.
That confident and comfortable voice that you used to have was a voice you shared with your loved one. Your voice now and how you choose to use it on this unprecedented journey is the way you write the new story of your life going forward. That word “unprecedented” is used a lot and rightly so. Very few know how to grieve the death of a loved one… and certainly not during a pandemic. This time is indeed unprecedented. There is no script. How will your inner and outer voice bring focus to the new story you are writing?
If you’d be willing, pause right now and take a breath. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10, how much do you trust yourself and your voice? (10 being the highest and 1 being no trust at all.)
What is your number?
What if you said the number is 4? What would it take for you to trust your voice, trust yourself, feel more confident and use your voice more? What does it mean to trust yourself? That might be a new concept. Perhaps you’ve never thought about how you use your voice before. Yet, who knows you better than you?
You have the opportunity every day to use your inner and outer voice to create and frame the story of your life, one page at a time.
How will you use and share your voice to create and tell your story?
When you are ready, that story may begin with a changed inner dialogue that says something like:
“I am finding new strength in my solitude. I can do this.”
“I am finding strength in my community connections with others.”
“I realize that I’m at a turning point and a new path can unfold.”
What is your voice wanting to say to help you to find yourself, your confidence and the unfolding story of your changed life. Having a narrative about yourself, being able to stand back away from the story and reflecting on it may provide for a wider lens and the possibility of expanding the story going forward.
Through the grief journey, confidence is built on the stories of what you tell yourself about yourself.
That’s the trust factor — Beginning to believe you know yourself enough, to trust your voice, to say what you believe.