As I have begun sharing more about our grief journey online, I frequently get comments that I am "too sensitive." Typically these comments arise when I'm sharing about triggers or ways for people to rephrase certain things they say to be more considerate of those of us who have experienced immense grief or trauma. It used to offend me. It used to make me defensive. And then I realized...
You know what? I am sensitive. After all we have been through doesn't it make sense that I'd be a bit sensitive? Is there really such thing as being too sensitive? Or is it possible that my valid, differing perspectives have convicted people and made them uncomfortable?
In situations of grief, I personally do not believe there is such a thing as being overly sensitive. Until someone has walked in your shoes, they have no right to say how you should or should respond to situations or what triggers you should or should not have. Even if they have walked a similar path, it should be acknowledged that everyone grieves differently. The stages of grief are not a linear or uniform experience. It is nobody's place to say "you're too sensitive...you should grieve this way."
It should be acknowledged that the responsibility to manage triggers lies with the person walking the grief journey. We are responsible for recognizing our triggers and choosing whether we handle them reactively or give ourselves space to process our emotions and protect our peace. We have the responsibility to choose how we manage emotions in response to triggers and the responsibility of working through those triggers on our healing journey. However, we do not choose our triggers - wouldn't that be nice if we could? Wouldn't all of us choose to wave a magic wand and eliminate them if that were possible? We don't get to choose what phrases, places, or situations bring up traumatic memories and the initial feelings we experience with those memories. Implying that a person "shouldn't be so triggered" by something is dismissive of the very real work it requires to manage these experiences as we continue on a path of healing.
As the mom of a medically complex child who experienced quite a bit of pregnancy and birth trauma and who navigates anticipatory grief on a daily basis, I do not expect people to tiptoe, to walk on eggshells, or even to fully understand our experiences, because unless you have lived this grief, how could you understand? I would never wish for anyone to live through what we have lived through and will continue to live through for years to come. I do not need people to "get it." I don't expect people to anticipate all of my triggers. I just ask that when I take the time to communicate my thoughts, experiences, or feelings, that you give me the space to be heard.
Isn't this how we learn? Don't we broaden our perspectives and gain most valuable insight when we are willing to learn from people who have walked different paths? Shouldn't we desire to do better each day and speak in such a way that is considerate of other people? We cannot learn if we are disinterested in someone's views because we believe they are "too sensitive." When you label people this way, all you have said and demonstrated is that you feel our experiences are not worthy of being heard or considered.
And if my experiences are not worthy of being heard or considered, I have to ask...
At what point does my sensitivity become socially acceptable to you?
In my grief have I not earned the right to be sensitive to certain things and to share those perspectives? Can you honestly blame me for being a bit sensitive? When those of us who have walked these journeys share things that hurt us, it is in hopes of providing respectful education and creating a more empathetic and inclusive world where the needs of others are heard. It is quite literally not about you and your intentions. It is about the impact of your actions and your words and it extends far beyond us as individuals. Small sparks ignite flames. If one person hears a perspective that empowers them to become a more empathetic person, then our time was not wasted in sharing our stories.
In a world where we are so often told how we should grieve, what we should or should not find helpful, how we should and should not receive words or actions, or that we are "too sensitive" and "need to get over it..."
...in a world like that, can you blame us for being tired of having to mask the discomfort of our grief in order to appease those who didn't think our experiences mattered? Is the problem truly that we are too sensitive? Or did our valid, differing perspectives convict you and make you uncomfortable?