Ever think about being the term “the strong one” What is that, what does it feel like, who is that to you? Maybe you totally feel that it’s you, maybe you see that in a sibling, a parent, a friend? We are repeatably told to be strong, told we are being strong, but what does that even mean?
I think there is such a huge association with being strong in grief, people telling you “come on you can be strong” or “you’re stronger than you know” or my favourite “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” (thanks for the reminder again that death kills us as if I wasn’t evidentially aware of that right now) but anyway, what does this association with strength and grief mean to us, why is it such a thing?
Strength feels so different to each of us, doesn’t it? To me, I see being strong as being a good mother whilst riding my grief waves, I see it as holding my family and considering their grief as well as my own, seeing my children’s needs within grief and guiding them to better understand. I see it as feeling my emotion and others, accepting myself and others for where we all are in our journeys, giving grief the full acknowledgement it deserves and so needs. Others I know see being strong in grief as being perhaps more closed, keeping their emotions more private, putting on a brave face, not crumbling, holding it all in. For some being strong could be a balance of these both, who knows what strength is to us, other than ourselves.
Strength in grief comes in many ways and shows itself in us in many forms but what many of us do is block what happened, how it felt and feels. We do our best to navigate through each day as if it never happened. Now, this I feel is totally normal behaviour when grieving, it’s a coping mechanism for those that can’t handle the full force of their emotion, it’s a natural way for your body to react to such pain, such sadness. My brothers both use this as their way of coping, as does my husband after the loss of his mother in his teens. It often saddens me as I wonder if they feel that’s the only way they can grieve. As men, there is such a stigma with being strong especially when the pillar of a family dies, it’s almost programmed into their being that they now must step up as the men of the family, they must look after all the women, protect, “be strong” This expectation of them leaves my heart heavy, it really does. This same expectation could also be a female too, this is just my experience. There’s such a responsibility to those people who feel it’s their duty to be strong when really isn’t it all our duty as a family to just stand together as one, loving and supporting one another, that to me is being strong in grief, united in grief.
When I sit and allow myself to travel into the thought of what strength really means in grief, I realise this…. When I see that strength doesn’t come from a singular place or person and in fact comes from a group and not one of us can do this journey alone, I see that to be strong, to survive, to carry on, to live, we must pull together with those we trust, those we love, holding branches of power, branches of pure unjudgmental love, respecting one another in our own muddled mazes of grief, that to me, is strength.
We shouldn’t travel this path alone; connection is the vital part needed to help us all in healing. Don’t ever feel alone, defeated, for if you look, you’ll see many ready to help you build your pyramid of strength.
Go gently x
“Why pressure yourself to feel such a burden, why hold those heavyweights of responsibility on your own. Just look further, see clearer, hear clearer, you’ll understand you are never alone. Those you have lost are not at all far, in fact, they are all around, guiding you, comforting you, supporting you. Don’t walk alone in the darkness, choose to walk in the light”