My parents were shot to death when I was 14 years old. I had no idea how to process their murders, so I locked their deaths—and their lives—away, deep within me, out of reach from my day-to-day existence. Once a year, like clockwork, I’d sob myself raw for hours and hours and then get back to acting like everything was fine. This was how I coped. How I survived. I disconnected from the reality of my parents’ deaths. I buried the pain.
In my early twenties, I began to understand that the shame I’d carried about being an orphan, and the wall I’d created around my parents’ deaths, was preventing me from realizing the most honest relationship with myself, as well as the truest and deepest possible connections with others. We can’t put up walls to darkness without also blocking out plenty of light. It was time to sit with the sadness and rage I’d kept buried for so long. It was time to dig some of it up.
We all have our reasons for burying our pain, but at the core it comes down to fear. Fear of facing the truth of what we’ve done or endured, the truth of just how dark our darkness is, and the fear that we can’t survive it. That it will destroy us. But it won’t. Whatever it is, we can survive it; we’ve already survived it.
When I started to allow for the pain of losing my parents, I didn’t just awaken to profound levels of grief that needed to be felt so that it could be released. I was also able to see how their deaths have helped me grow into a more independent, compassionate, and loving man than I might have been otherwise. I’m not at all thankful they died, but I am grateful to have grown stronger because of their deaths. I’ve seen, especially through my Facebook community, how my resilience has helped others to believe that growth and healing are possible, regardless of circumstance, and that there are gifts in even our greatest sorrows if we’re willing to acknowledge them.
When I launched my Facebook page six years ago, I decided to make it a place of positivity, a Pollyanna’s paradise. I began posting about the subjects that mattered most to me, such as kindness, compassion, forgiveness, authenticity, and, of course, love. I happy-memed the heck out of that page, and people seemed to love what I was sharing. At least I thought so, until a woman commented beneath one of my standard “life is so beautiful and we’re all blessed to be here” posts with: “Not everybody is as happy and positive as you are all the time, Scott. Some of us are really struggling.” That comment hurt—not just because I considered myself a particularly moody person who struggled plenty, but also because my happy words had provoked her to feel worse instead of better—“less than” instead of equal. I realized I had approached my Facebook page like I had approached much of my life after losing my parents: that is to say, inauthentically, and only sharing the comfortable parts of my reality.
So I started to share myself—for real.
I wrote about growing up with a brother addicted to heroin and grieving my murdered parents. I posted about the shame I carried for years for being gay, and my struggle to be authentic in a world that wants us to be anything but. I wrote about my fears and insecurities, my sadness and rage, and the ways in which I was working through the darker parts of my life in order to create more space for the light. I let myself be more honest and more vulnerable. The community that gathered around the page responded in kind, and suddenly many of us felt a lot less alone—in our idiosyncrasies and in our pain. Some version of “I feel better knowing I’m not the only one” became one of the most common comments I’d see. Honesty and vulnerability are nothing but love in action after all, and nothing stands to transform us, our lives, and our world more than love in action.
My Facebook page has taught me just how much we human beings are all essentially the same, no matter where we’ve come from or how we’ve chosen to live our lives. I may not know your grief, but I know grief. You may not know my shame, but you know your own. We’ve all got our versions of each other’s experiences. We’re human, and we know each other. The more honest we’re able to be with ourselves, and with one another—about our joys and our sorrows—the more likely we are to heal ourselves and our planet.
That’s one of the many beautiful benefits of facing your truth, and perhaps especially your pain: Whether or not you intend to, you’re likely to inspire others to look at their own truth and pain more openly and courageously. Along with digging yourself into a more fully realized life, you end up passing out shovels to others too.