Be Weak and Strong

Grief and Loss | 0 comments


Our strength will continue if we allow ourselves the courage to feel scared, weak, and vulnerable.Melody Beattie
In loss and grief, emotions get reordered from the inside out. Despite the endless stream of thoughts activating emotional loops of vulnerability, you soldier on, sometimes feeling broken and weak. 
Those who love us advise us to be strong, unknowingly reinforcing our dread that we aren’t handling anything. In the past, I’ve offered that misguided support to others because I didn’t know how to show up for their pain or mine. 
In truth, I didn’t know what to say or do to comfort others. I learned from being on the other side of grief I needed only to share a hug and tell you, “I may not know what you need right now, but I love you, and I’m here for you.” A little vulnerability goes a long way. 
Confessions of a grief-naïve human
During my early grief, after my husband’s death, I was convinced I needed to show up in the world holding back tears, looking anywhere but in your eyes, hiding my humanity, my vulnerability. It didn’t take me long to avoid sharing true feelings because it was a rare person who wouldn’t run for the nearest exit if I did. So, to avoid appearing weak, my best response was, “I’m fine. How are you?” And eventually, when that became an unbearable crushing weight from within, it was easier to withdraw. The isolation was safe. Not healthy, but safe.
Demonstrating vulnerability was not part of my experience growing up. I wouldn’t come to use that term for another half-century. As a kid, “You’ll be fine” was the refrain unless someone was bleeding or unconscious. After all, in a family of nine, triaging was critical. God bless you, Mom. As a nurse, there were positive uses for that approach, but it didn’t serve me well with the emotional stuff, like death and grief, for starters. 
Denial is a great coping tool until it’s not. 
My grief caused me to crack from the inside out. I feared if I ceased pushing myself, avoiding, denying, or hiding, I would topple and burst wide open, like Humpty Dumpty, beyond repair. 
Honestly, nothing was the same after my husband’s death, and cracking wide open to expose the hidden emotions was precisely what I needed. I eventually learned to sift through many bits, piece by piece, slowly build some resilience, create a connection with my vulnerable self, and begin healing.  
Here’s the thing… as a society, our dualistic nature has us viewing the world in black-or-white terms, which makes perfect sense. We need to know if we are safe or should run like hell. That doesn’t serve us well when it comes to emotions. Dualistic thinking closes doors to the depth of who we are. Being strong and being weak aren’t mutually exclusive. We can hold space for opposing emotions as we grieve. Positive and negative emotions, the joy and the sorrow, are intertwined, and the more we learn to recognize this, the more room we create for healing. 
Emotions are dynamic, and honing our awareness of what’s happening in and around us allows space for discerning thoughts, feelings, and responses. When we can gift that to ourselves, imagine how present we can be for others in pain to be a source of mutual comfort and love. Countless opportunities to share human tenderness and compassion are revealed.
My weakness, fear, and vulnerability became my strengths in a space of subtle knowing as I healed. I continue to learn how to hold space for that vulnerability in myself and others. 
Be that person who awakens to your vulnerability, weakness, and fear moments. It is then that you can be present for others. Not to fix but to witness, walk alongside, and listen from a space of love. Hearts to hearts. 
Sending love and peace,

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