The Silver Lining is Often Bullsh*t

Illustrated by Suzii Chan

When someone responds to tragedy or bad news by pointing out the “silver lining,” it reflects their own discomfort and even fears about the situation. It reflects their inability to truly empathize and hold space for pain — yours as well as their own. You don’t always have to jump to naming the silver lining. Be okay not being okay. Be okay not trying to make things okay because some things won’t be okay, or will require much more time before they will be okay.

When you’re hurting and you reach out to someone to talk about it, it’s jarring to be told, “Well, the silver lining is…” It feels callous, even offensive. It makes you push down your feelings. It makes you feel unsafe and unwelcome to speak openly.

But don’t give up. Find a new set of ears. There does need to be some skill and wisdom in finding your audience. Not everyone has the capacity to hear and to support. This is okay. Because there are many of us that do. Those that cannot — forgive them. It’s not their fault. No one taught them. Their life circumstances haven’t given them the opportunity to learn — yet, if ever. This isn’t your concern or your lesson to teach.

Choose who gets to be a part of your soul’s precious journey. A wise and conscientious loved one honors the good and the bad and allows you to fully express and feel it all. Without judging, minimizing, discounting, or lecturing. When you hear any of that, stop. Take that proverbial step back. Breathe in big and breathe out completely. Know that that person knows not how to be there for you right now. Do not take this personally. Let the conversation end and either change the subject or excuse yourself, with respect and kindness if you can. Know that you have the right to feel whatever emotion you feel. In time, you’ll learn to make a better judgment in how and with whom you seek solidarity.

I’ve realized it’s often those closest to me that I’ve known the longest that say the wrong things and seem to miss the point in what I’m saying. Their comments leave me feeling perplexed, hurt, and worse than before I spoke to them.

I’ve also realized it’s not their fault.

We can only speak from our own experiences and from what we already know. Most of us are doing the best that we can most of the time. Some of us don’t know better.

For years, I was convinced it was my husband’s lack of understanding that kept me so firmly stuck in postpartum darkness. “It’s a real disease!” I would interject in our many recycled fights that began over the most trivial of things. “I’ve been diagnosed!” “It’s in my genes!” “I didn’t give birth and just suddenly turn into a b*tch!”

I was stuck trying to get him to hear me and say exactly the right thing in response. But how could he? For starters, he has never experienced giving birth and the associated hormonal changes. But most importantly — he isn’t me.

What I really needed was to hear myself. To accept it all myself. Because another person’s opinion means nothing. Another person’s approval doesn’t matter. We have to accept ourselves first.

Of course, we all need support through this process. We all need to be heard, especially when we’re going through a dark time. Find the right people who are able to listen. Don’t waste your precious energy on anyone else. Say thank you and think no thank you to those that try to write off your pain with that silver lining bullsh*t.

Some people and places to consider:

  • Licensed therapists
  • Support groups (I wish I knew about the many postpartum support groups out there)
  • Your most non-judgmental friend
  • Someone else who has also gone through trauma and has been open about it
I am a mama, writer, yoga teacher, and mental health advocate.
More posts by Leah Kim.

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