These days it’s common to see people walking around wearing masks. Masks are useful. We use them to protect ourselves in certain situations. I can’t help but think about the unseen masks we wear while grieving. Our masks keep us emotionally safe; they show others the ways we want to be perceived. We may look braver than we feel inside or imply that we’re “fine” when we’re not. Wearing these masks isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s helpful to think about what it is we might be hiding from others or ourselves. Fear, anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and even in some situations happiness, maybe some of the emotions we might be trying to cover up. We might be trying to protect others by wearing these masks, not wanting to trigger their grief or “bring them down”. Or we may fear that others won’t understand our grief and may criticize that “we’re still going through this”. We may also be afraid that if we set down our masks, we may not have the tools to cope with our overwhelming feelings of grief. That we might start crying and not be able to stop.
Just like the physical masks we wear, we don’t want to wear our emotional masks all the time. Where are you able to put down your mask? In what situations, or with whom, are you able to show those hidden emotions? Masks are powerful. When we set them down, we are able to begin unmasking our deepest weaknesses, fears, and pain, as well as our strengths and joys. I encourage you to think about what makes these situations and people feel safe. Utilize them and seek them out places that feel safe to unmask. If you’re interested in making a ‘feelings mask’, like the ones we do in our grief groups, follow the instructions below. Or if you want to get more creative, decorate the masks you are wearing into stores right now. Draw an animal face, or word that gives you strength and courage during this time. Maybe you want to write how you are feeling on the inside, inside your mask.
Feelings (Grief) Mask
- Paper or plastic masks (paper plates work great)
- Decorative items
- Discuss, or think about, how what we feel inside is often very different from what we let others see on the outside.
- Paint, draw, color, or write words on the inside of the mask that represents how you feel on the inside. Paint, draw, color, or write words on the outside of the mask that represent what you show others.
- Be creative, embellish them however you like
- Share your mask creation with someone with whom you feel safe.
Author – Lindsy Diener-Locke, Program Specialist