Stop Calling Me “Strong” :: Experiences in the Trenches with Loss & Heartache

2
READING TIME: 3 min.

 

At some point in our lives, we all have to be what’s considered strong. Not the physical type of strength, but that preternatural strength that holds back the tears and the pain to survive some of life’s most difficult moments.

There was a time in my life where I was constantly being told how strong I was. It was the worst time of my life, truthfully. I felt my lowest. Cards, phone calls, text messages…no matter the sender, they all had something in common. They spoke of the strength I was showing.

Unfortunately, people experience unexpected tragedy daily: illness, disasters, loss, and death. In the midst of grief and bereavement, when I felt my weakest, I was being called strong. Imagine the confusion and frustration of being considered one thing and feeling the complete opposite. These were feelings that I felt often. When I wanted to hit the ground, not get out of bed, or cry out in anger, I didn’t. Instead, I remembered that I was considered strong. Instead of feeling my true feelings, I stood tall, got out of bed, and extinguished my anger.

But what happens when a person doesn’t want to be strong? Or when they feel like there isn’t an ounce of strength left in their body? It’s isolating. It’s lonely. It’s the opposite of strength.

sad woman sitting on the sofa in the dark: what to say to someone who is grievingI know that I have done some difficult things, and I’ve shown strength in my actions. When my daughter unexpectedly passed away, I was told, ¨Be strong.¨ But given the circumstances, it’s almost insulting to expect a grieving parent to be strong. On the worst day of my life and the following ones, I wasn’t being strong, I was merely surviving—and if that is was what strength meant, I didn’t want any part of it.

Over the years I’ve dreaded hearing “You’re so strong,¨ as it’s honestly a bit cringe-worthy to me. It makes me feel like I’m not allowed to be anything else, as if I need permission to simply sit in my emotions. I was masking my real feelings to save face. Others were counting on me to be strong…They believed it, so it must be true. So when I heard it, I politely smiled and said thank you. But what I really wanted to say was:

I’m only doing what ANY OF US would do in a situation where you’re vulnerable and fragile.

I wanted to tell them that I’m not strong, or for just a moment, I didn’t want to be strong in any way. I wanted to unapologetically release my emotions. I wanted to know that the same people who were calling me strong, would be there to catch me when I wasn’t.

Years later, especially on the anniversary of my daughter’s passing, being called strong stifles my real emotions. I’d unfortunately grown accustomed to believing that because enough people thought so, I must be strong.

I’ve stopped myself on the verge of tears and break downs because, well, “I’m strong.” In time, I’ve learned to prepare myself for certain times of year when the infamous sentiment is given. In my grief I’ve learned that sometimes the most well-intentioned people say the most unintentionally hurtful things. I know that when people call me strong, they consider it complimentary. However, I would encourage people to reconsider using that term and others that are similar.

I know that you think I’m strong. I’m not.

Next time you get the urge to tell someone they’re strong, maybe instead let them know that it’s okay to break down, let it out, or cry it out when they are feeling weak. It’s ok to not be strong in our weakest moments, and to know that those around us will lift us up when we need it.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for the awesome words you wrote! You are spot on. I lost a son, even though I am the Mom, I had others to worry about. My Mom, who lost a grandson, my son and daughter-in-law lost a brother, and even worse, they are the ones who found my son passed away. I had to be strong for my other family members. He also had so many friends. We were all in pain-I was called strong, but I was in a fog just going through the motions. I also know what you mean about holidays, they are still tough after so many years. The one awesome thing that happened was my son and DIL- had the most beautiful baby girl who has the kindest heart. She is a lot like her uncle who she never got to meet. He had a kind heart as well. Reading your post has helped me. Thank you so much for sharing your insight. God Bless.

  2. Thank you so much for the kind words. I am so sorry for your loss and that you understand. Through my pain, I´ve found my passion in writing. It´s my hope that sharing my heart and story will help others. Bless you!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here