You Don’t Have To Be Strong
A common piece of advice we are given when someone we love dies, is “Be Strong.” Whilst the people giving us this advice have all the best intentions in the world, the idea of being strong can have a negative impact on our grief journey.
Thinking we have to be strong puts us into a state of thinking we need to deflect our emotions and beat them at a game of strength and will. Strength has a part to play in our grief journey, but in the initial stages of grief, I prefer the idea of “Being Brave”.
What Happened To My Normal?
When we lose someone, our life changes in an instant. It doesn’t matter if we’ve have had time to prepare for the loss, or if it was a sudden loss, the impact is the same. Loss, especially loss caused by the death of a loved one, leaves us with a deep chasm in our lives on so many levels; emotionally, physically, spiritually.
We develop feelings of comfort in our ‘normal’ lives, and all of a sudden our ‘normal’ no longer exists. Grief sets in and for a time, it seems to take over what our ‘normal’ looks and feels like.
Being Brave is something that we all know how to do. It isn’t easy, it isn’t comfortable, but it is something we can all do. I’m sure all of us can recall a time where our bravery took over, times where we felt immense fear, yet we took a deep breath and leapt anyway. Looking back at those times, we usually have feelings of pride and accomplishment that remind us we are capable of anything, times that remind us we can be brave again.
What Is The Difference Between Brave And Strong?
Being strong usually makes us think of muscling our way through something, standing in the face of danger and fear and feeling like we are shielded by our strength. In the context of grief, people have this idea that being strong means holding things together, not breaking down, not being emotional and not allowing ourselves to feel our pain, but reaching a place of feeling ok within a short time frame.
A way to look at it is when someone says “You will get over this” and we instantly start looking for the destination and we rush through the journey to reach that place of being ok. What we then realise, is that we have all of these unattended feelings and emotions that we have rushed past and have reached our destination with a whole swag of overwhelming emotion, usually at the most inopportune times.
Being Brave is different. When we are brave, we acknowledge that what we are feeling hurts, it’s painful and heartbreaking. We understand that we have a range of emotions to address, to feel and process. Bravery in the context of grief is knowing that for now, we are not ok, and it is understanding that those feelings of not being ok are normal. It’s ok not to be ok.
How Do I Be Brave?
Being brave through emotional distress is having faith in yourself to know that you can face the challenges that lay ahead for you. Most importantly to be brave through grief, is to allow yourself to feel and to acknowledge how those feelings affect you.
Give yourself permission to cry, to release emotion, to thank those feelings of sadness for reminding us of just how special our loved ones are, and to be thankful for being so impacted by someone who has shared so much with us.
Being brave is being willing to ask for support, and to welcome that support into our lives. Being brave is being ok with sharing our grief with others and allowing them to help us to experience what that grief means to us.
Being brave is being authentic, honest with ourselves and others about how we feel, and understanding what we need to safely experience our grief. Sometimes we can feel like we are burdening others with our grief, but this is never the case, those who love us will always be willing to share our grief journey and offer the support that we need most.
Being brave is knowing that what we feel today, will be different tomorrow, and whilst we will never be completely free of grief, our normal will evolve and change into something new and we will learn to live our new normal through being brave.
We will eventually arrive at the same destination, with the main difference of having experienced and acknowledged all of those emotions and feelings along the way, giving us the freedom and permission to be ok with our new normal and living a full and happy life.
So for now, you don’t have to be strong, you just have to be brave.
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