Be strong, oh you’re so strong, I could never be as strong as you…

If you’re like me, since you’re loved one died, you’ve been told numerous times how strong you are. Not that you can lift a car or climb Mt. Everest but because every waking moment you are enduring every parents worst nightmare… which, by the way, give me Mt Everest any day compared to this type of strength!

I’ve grown a certain disdain for being told how strong I am. It’s not that I’m not proud of what I’ve been through or that I don’t see my own strength, it’s that people aren’t really recognizing the true transformation that can occur after losing a loved one.

Their comments are based on seeing us in public or at work while we create the illusion of a highly functioning bereaved parent/sibling/friend/child. Most likely, in those cases, we do appear strong. They don’t see us crying in our car while running errands, or in the bathroom at work, or (for me) sucking back tears when I see a young man in uniform.

People who tell us we’re strong also don’t really want to see anything else from us… stop me when I lie! They want to believe that our strength is vicarious proof that, God forbid, if anything like that we’re to happen to them they would survive, just as we have. They need the reassurance of the resilience of human spirit.

And honestly, I’m happy to give that to them, because I would rather give them that proof than have them join me as a bereaved parent. Wouldn’t you?

To be honest, I’m tired of being strong. Being “strong”  got old early on and I am proud to have made the choice to work on other characteristics that deepen as a result of healing from loss.

These other characteristics are the ones that have gotten me through the worst grief has thrown at me. These are the ones that I cherish and melt into the cracks of my broken heart.

You too get to choose what characteristics you deepen in your life after loss.

Instead of telling me I’m strong, tell me…

How much courage I have.

Acknowledge that talking to parents who haven’t lost a child and being genuinely happy for their child’s milestone (that mine will never see) is an incredible act of courage on my part. I am happy to share joy with others.  But, don’t tell me I’m strong, acknowledge the courage it took to stand in that place.

That I have the bravery of an ancient warrior.

When I put up the Christmas decorations with tears burning my eyes and a deep ache in my heart, but I do it anyway because I want to create joy for  my remaining family and I want to continue to rebuild joy for myself. Don’t tell me I’m strong. Recognize the bravery it takes for me to show up 100% to events, holidays, anniversaries, and even regular ol’ days sometimes.

How much humility I’ve gained

I’ve had to accept that I am not in control of this journey we call life. Any illusion of control I thought I had was shattered the moment my heart was pierced with the knowledge my son had died. Don’t tell me I’m strong, find space in your heart for my humility.

You admire the gratitude I’ve learned

Along with humility I am grateful for the smallest acts in my everyday life. Cultivating a deep gratitude practice has created the most profound healing in my journey. No God or higher power ever promised me how long my son Brandon would be here on earth. No sacred promise was broken when he died, I just assumed he would be around longer than me.

Now I am very grateful for the memories of him and of the life I have, since I now know there are no promises.

I know we are given everything and promised nothing. I ask that you deepen your gratitude along side me, but don’t tell me I’m strong.

But don’t tell me I’m strong

I almost find it trite, bordering on an insult that people can’t see the larger growth opportunity I’ve had no choice but to embrace fully. I know I’m strong, but what truly amazing me is how much depth the human soul can be carved into when the forces of  the human experience are present.[click to tweet]

Would you look at the Grand Canyon and think of a trickling stream that created it? No.

I could have chosen bitterness, anger, and resentment (I tried these early on), but I didn’t. And, ironically, had I chosen these people wouldn’t see me as strong, they would most likely whisper behind my back how broken I’ve become. I am broken, but I am healing by choosing the best characteristics grief has to offer. [click to tweet]

In spite of how out of control grief feels at times, we are still able to make choices about how we engage life.  I never had a choice but to “be strong”, but I do have a choice to cultivate my courage, bravery & humility.  [click to tweet].

What about you?

What do you want people to see in you?

What characteristics have you embraced?

How have you grown and deepened your human experience as a result of your loss?

Share in the comments below.




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