It’s a simple admonition meant to inspire and to give me a kick in the pants. I get it. I can always use a good kick in the pants. And believe me, I’m all about finding strength and rising from the ashes. It comes from the kindest places, but it generally comes when I am at my most vulnerable. When I open my heart, and show the world the beauty that’s in it, even when it just looks like darkness, like ache, like sadness.
I probably would have said the same things, so don’t worry. Don’t spend time troubling your mind or rethinking your words, regretting the times it’s slipped from your lips and onto the ears of a broken heart. It’s okay if you said it, but please hear this, and please hear my heart as I say it with love.
Sadness does not negate strength. Grief does not negate strength. Talking about the one we miss, and opening up about the ache in our hearts does not negate strength. In fact, due to the prior culture of stigma and shame surrounding grief, it takes bravery and courage to be honest, simply because when we are, we’re often seen as weak or as a mess or as ‘not healed.’
Vulnerability does not negate strength. It’s a sign of it.
It’s easy to plaster on smiles. It’s easy to tell little white lies and spit out ‘I’m fine’s.’ It’s easy to even fool ourselves, numbing our consciences to the pain that is beneath the surface. It’s easy to do all of those things.
What’s difficult is to use our voices. What’s difficult is to open our hearts, and put them in front of others, exposing more of our true selves, our innermost feelings, and sharing them with authenticity.
When we speak out on topics of suffering with honesty and authenticity and courage, we’re speaking from a part our hearts. We’re speaking from the vulnerable places, and we’re speaking with truth.
When we share our grief and our sadness, we aren’t showing our weakness. We’re showing a part of our true selves. It’s not all of us— grief is a part of us, and if we show our joyful pieces, why should we have to hide the pieces that miss the ones we love?
Because we are all human. I am human. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am an employee. I am a friend. I laugh, a lot. I slip sarcasm and humor into every conversation with the ones I’m closest to. I’m crazy. I’m silly. I’m happy, truly happy. I’m content, finally content. I am free, and my heart bursts with love. But also within me is the part that misses my son who died. And that part while sad, is very permanent and very beautiful and true, too.
This is what it means to be human. We are many things at once. I am weak, but I am also strong. I am small, but my heart is big. I doubt myself, but I also trust my intuition. I sometimes question the choices that I make, but I am also confident in my path. I have days when I want to take on the world, and I also have days when I want to sit and spoon-feed myself out of a gallon of ice cream. I have days when missing him is raw, and I also have days when I move through life, carefree, with joy, and with the inspiration of his memory stamped on my heart. Sometimes, I have days that look like all of the above. Because being human is sometimes complex.
I am human. I am a beating heart, blood coursing through my veins, oxygen filling my lungs, and I exhale. Life. I am living. And I am grieving, yes, but the truth is that I will always be grieving. Those of us who know grief know that it’s not a scary thing. It’s the way love manifests in a heart for the one you miss. So grief will stay with me as long as love stays with me. It won’t always be heavy, and I won’t always be sad, but sometimes I will, but that, my friends, is the gorgeous mess of life. We grieve, and we live, and we grieve some more, and then grief fades into the background as a melody of love that follows us through our days, with sadness and joy intermingled, memories and undying love forever stamped on our hearts.
When I share my true self, I’m not compromising my strength. I’m showing my humanity. I’m showing my heart, with authenticity, with courage, and with truth. I’m showing my weakness, but in doing so, I’m showing strength.
Grief does not negate strength. Neither does talking about it.
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