Strength Isn’t Always As Strong As It Appears

Originally posted in Still Standing Magazine

Strength is often talked about when discussing the grieving.

When someone has experienced a significant loss, onlookers or people lining the sidelines often say things about the person’s strength with admiration.

What if this perceived strength comes at a cost?

What if that person you are admiring for their strength isn’t strong?

What if they have the strength to hold it together for appearances and once they are alone they crumble?

Not everyone is comfortable or wanting to be viewed as broken, so they put a brave face on to greet the outside world, yet below the thin shield of armour they are drowning in grief.

This perceived strength often gives those on the sidelines the ability to feel okay with not helping as much as needed.

They see a strong spirited person carrying on as they once did and it appears they are ”doing okay” so the lifelines of community help become shorter and shorter.

The grieving becomes more and more exhausted and feeling more and more alone in their grief.

It is common to feel alone in grief.

Those around you can carry on with life as they always have, yet time has stalled for the grieving.

Routine tasks take considerable effort, and they are often left feeling like the village of help that is needed has disappeared.

People say it takes a village to raise a child, which I agree –

But it also takes the same village to move through life and grief when a child dies.

Regular life is so hard to live when you have been swallowed up in grief.

Don’t always believe that brave face is perceived strength; below it is most likely a person who can use your help.

When my son died, I had no choice but to continue regular life; I had two other boys that needed to live their life and couldn’t do so without their Mom.

From the outside I was so strong, I had it all together, but the truth was I was broken.

My brain wasn’t fully functioning, my body was exhausted, and my heart was so heavy it felt impossible to carry at times.

I did all that needed to be done and appeared strong, and I gave everyone the impression I was okay, but usually it was a farce.

For example, often I would cry my way to the grocery store, I would sit in the parking lot pulling myself together before suiting up in my armour of strength and even slapping a smile on my face.

Living in a small community, it is impossible to go out and not see people you know. A smiling face would often make people less awkward around me.

I could muster the strength to buy groceries, but I didn’t have the strength for other’s awkward behaviour or conversations.

A smile usually avoided those moments and put others at ease.

Strength is a gift and a thief. It helps the grieving move through a day; life doesn’t halt because you are hurting.

It prevents giving the grieving more to cope with such as awkward conversations, making others uncomfortable or seeing the look in someone’s eye when they get uncomfortable knowing you are not okay.

Strength helps the grieving, but it also hinders them stealing support they desperately need.

It gives those who should be fully supporting the grieving a reason not to do as much as is needed. It gives them a reason not to show up.

If you are on the sidelines of a person in grief, show up.

Don’t take anything at face value. If you love them, like them, or know them, then it is your place to show up.

You can’t fix the broken heart, but you can lessen the burden.

Meet people where they are and find your way to be comfortable with the idea that they aren’t okay.

It is okay for the grieving not to be okay, don’t make it uncomfortable for them, love them, and acknowledge their pain.

After all what choice do the grieving have?

Most can’t allow grief to swallow them up and not fight their way through it.

Most of us have jobs, responsibilities, families to support, and regular life that needs to be lived.

Strength isn’t often a choice; we have to dig deep and find some to get through our day. Life doesn’t stop for us.

Do yourself and your loved one a favour, don’t mistakenly see strength as a free pass to forgo offering your help.

They need you to step up, be there, show up and love fiercely.

Find ways to help with simple everyday tasks; it can make a world of difference.

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