Have you ever been told to be strong for your spouse, kids, parents, students or anyone else in the face of tragedy?
It sure sounds like a useful piece of advice, but is it?
We sure don’t think so. In fact, it’s one of the six major myths about grief and recovering from heartache.
So, what’s wrong with being strong?
Being strong means that you must hide your feelings.
• Hiding your feelings stops you from taking actions that lead to recovery.
• Hiding your feelings implies that there’s something wrong with your feelings.
• Hiding your feelings means lying to yourself about your heartache.
• Hiding your feelings means you’re not being truthful with other people either.
But hey, if you’ve heard that you’re supposed to be strong you’re not the only one. Society has taught us to believe that sadness isn’t an appropriate response to loss.
Do any of these phrases sound familiar?
• “Keep it together.”
• “Don’t lose your composure.”
• “Big girls don’t cry’”
• “Cowboy up.”
Conversely, grievers are praised for appearing to be stoic or unswayed by tragedy. Sure, a surviving spouse may have the tremendously difficult task of staying focused to make funeral arrangements, but being focused and being strong are not one in the same.
If you pay attention you’ll see an example of people “being strong” in your normal, everyday life too.
How do most people reply when they’re asked how they are doing?
They answer, “I’m fine.”
How often has someone told you that they are fine, but you knew it wasn’t true?
Have you ever done that?
I sure have! Sometimes I don’t feel like talking and other times I’ve been afraid of what someone’s response would be if I told them that I wasn’t fine. The Grief Recovery Method taught me that it’s okay to say something like,
• “I’m feeling sad today, but don’t feel like talking about it. Thank you so much for asking.”
• “I’m feeling sad today, but am afraid if I start talking about it I won’t stop crying.”
• “I’m feeling a little down today. Can you talk?”
Telling the truth about how you feel sends a powerful message to the people around us, including our kids. It tells others that it’s okay to express normal human emotions, the happy and the sad. You can’t recover from loss unless you’re honest. It’s as simple as that.
So what do you say? What if we start telling the truth about ourselves when our hearts are broken. There’s actually a lot of strength in that.
Like we always say, “You can be strong, or you can be human. Pick one.”