It’s OK That You’re Not OK

Some books are worth acquiring simply for the title; It’s OK That You’re Not OK, by Megan Devine, is one: being released from the pressure to be OK is a great gift.

Devine’s central thesis regarding grief boils down to “you’re fucked up, get used to it” or, more gently, “grief isn’t something you recover from, get over, or move through, it’s something you learn to carry.” Despite how depressing that seems on first reading, it’s liberating metaphysics for someone in my position.

Our culture sees grief as a kind of malady: a terrifying, messy emotion that needs to be cleaned up and put behind us as soon as possible. As a result, we have outdated beliefs around how long grief should last and what it should look like. We see it as something to overcome, something to fix, rather than something to tend or support. Even our clinicians are trained to see grief as a disorder rather than a natural response to deep loss. When the professionals don’t know how to handle grief, the rest of us can hardly be expected to respond with skill and grace.

Reading the book unlocked a realization of just how much I’ve been trying to shape an “I’m OK” narrative, with deep hope that it would be true (or might become true on repeated telling).

On a personal level, repressing pain and hardship creates an internally unsustainable condition, wherein we must medicate and manage our true sadness and grief in order to maintain an outer semblance of “happiness.” We don’t lie to ourselves well. Unaddressed and unacknowledged pain doesn’t go away. It attempts to be heard in any way it can, often manifesting in substance addiction, anxiety and depression, and social isolation. Unheard pain helps perpetuate cycles of abuse by trapping victims in a pattern of living out or displacing their trauma onto others.

Writing I am not OK makes me feel like such a failure.

But it’s also such a relief.


Neil Strickland's picture
Neil Strickland on November 15, 2021 - 10:30 Permalink

Thank you so much for posting this. It's been more than a year since my mother died. In public, I present myself as being "OK" and am reintegrating myself into society. In private, I feel regret at things I should/should not have done when my mother was still alive - there are trips that I would liked to take (overseas trips, car trips to see relatives in southern Ontario, etc.) that I will probably not take. I'm working from home and everywhere I look there is something that reminds me of my mother. Grief is definitely not something you "recover" from but is something that you learn to live with. I will always be grieving.