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Being Strong Has Many Faces & The Only Way Through It Is Through It

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mbbh   

I have a friend who tells me, "Be strong. Know we are with you." He is a good friend, but he hasn't lost the love of his life. Being strong, for me, has many faces. When John first died, I went into autopilot. I had to clear out our hotel room, find a funeral home for cremation services, book flights to get on a plane home for the following day- the day before Thanksgiving of all days. I had to tell everyone thank you and goodbye - so very many new "family away from family" who had held us up for that month in Houston. (We - the ICU family members and doctors and nurses and therapists and, and , and- we all held each other up for that hellacious month.) I had to call his family, my family, our church family. I had to talk to Social Workers, a chaplain. Our 19-year-old son was with me. We both went into "let's just get this done mode." We were in the face of "autopilot strong."

When we got on the plane the next morning, the "I don't want to leave without him syndrome" struck. This way of being strong, the "persevere no matter what" attitude kicked in. We got on the plane anyway.

In the coming days of shock and denial, the face of numbing strength reared her head. Shock is a gift. Going numb is a gift. Denial is a gift and they are strengths when one is under incredibly traumatic strain.

At his funeral, I thought I would die. I allowed myself the privilege of numbing out again just so I could make it through.

At the visitation afterwards, when several sets of our friends embraced me, embraced "us," (because they loved John deeply too) the strength of tender tears found their way to my heart. I would break down, then get into the role of hostess again, just to break down again. Yes- I used the word "hostess" because that is what it felt like. People making their way to me, past the refreshments, sharing a hug and a greeting and then moving on. 

2 days after John's service, I thought I was ready to return to work. Yeah.. I know... The face of strong-willed, stubborn strength. A week later, enter self-care strength. I told them I needed a leave of absence and I take a few weeks off even though I had been away in Houston for a month prior seeking medical care from a world renowned surgeon to help John. 

Since returning to work 7 months ago, I lean into the many faces of strength. Some days, autopilot is what I need. Some days it is stubbornness and a strong will. Other days I feel those gentle tears well up and I know the strength found in breaking down is valuable. Even 8 1/2 months later, I still go into denial and find strength in numbness. Then, the face of perseverance steps in. I never know what is around the corner of grief.

Yes, my friend tells me lovingly to, "Be strong and know that we are with you." It is his way of expressing care. I believe, however, that being strong means so many different things. In our most vulnerable states, we are strong, simply because we allow ourselves to breathe and lean fully into pain. For the only way through it.... Is through it. In shock, denial, with tears and stubbornness, the only way through it... Is through it.

Much Love to All!

Mary Beth

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kevin   

After 6 months I thought I was through the pain, and then out of no where I am slammed and feels like starting over.......Its triggers, circumstances, self pity, but our new partner Grief will be part of our lives  till the end .....Learning to cope with the "episodes" is now my Focus.....I've just passed 2 years on this roller coaster journey, and have no doubt things will improve but not on my timeline...best to all  

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2 hours ago, mbbh said:

I have a friend who tells me, "Be strong. Know we are with you."

...Yes, my friend tells me lovingly to, "Be strong and know that we are with you." It is his way of expressing care. I believe, however, that being strong means so many different things. In our most vulnerable states, we are strong, simply because we allow ourselves to breathe and lean fully into pain. For the only way through it.... Is through it. In shock, denial, with tears and stubbornness, the only way through it... Is through it.

Much Love to All!

Mary Beth

This phrase, "STAY STRONG" is one of the most baffling expressions I've heard early in my grief journey.  I still don't comprehend what it means.  I'm sure people mean well but I am definitely not strong. I draw strength from Jesus Christ because my flesh is weak and that is my way through this grief journey.  Each of us needs to find our own path.    

Mary Beth, what you write is very insightful.  I will ponder it for you may have answered a long nagging question I have had about this phrase.  Thank you for sharing. My thoughts and prayers continue for you as you travel this journey. - Shalom, George 

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kayc   

I don't think "strong" should be in our vocabulary for the griever.  I hope to God I haven't said that!  I think I remember reading in the Bible someplace about strength in our weakness, but it means drawing our strength from God, not that we should be expected to have any, we tend to turn to God for His strength when we are at our weakest.  "Being strong" as an admonition seems like an oxymoron when we are grieving the hardest loss of our life!  You've got to roll your eyes sometimes!

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mbbh   

Kayc,

Agreed. That is why I have to constantly redefine strong for me. It may simply being open to being totally defeated. Today was one of those days where I only found strength in remembering that I didn't feel strong and that that in and of itself is to be honored. 

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Eagle-96   

Reminds me of the quote:

"Through my grieving process I don't want to be admired for my strength nor pitied for my weakness. I just want to be understood. Some days I may be strong. Some days I may be weak. I chose neither".

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TomPB   

Yesterday for the first time in a while I heard one of my least favorite things.The widow of my professional mentor, who is a very well meaning friend, said  "You're doing much better than I did". To hear this or "You're doing so well" while I'm feeling waves of grief sounds to me like minimizing the pain I'm feeling by someone who has no idea. I'm having lunch with her Mon and will explain.

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mbbh   

Tom,

I am glad you are going to explain to her how this feels. It does feel like others minimize our pain, even when it may not be their intention. I believe it is their attempts to "make us feel better" OR to make themselves feel better about complimenting us. It does hurt that others simply do not understand, yet, if they did, they would have had to go through losing a partner and I would not wish this pain on anyone. Even though I have had people who have lost their spouse or significant other say similar things to me, I wonder if it is some self-protective attempt to "make everything okay," when no one can do that. 

My intention in writing about strength was to say that strength has many looks, "many faces." All of these faces, especially the ones that do not feel nor look strong, are strong. Living in our vulnerability, wading through our pain, surviving although we believe we are dying, feeling like we are failing (there's no such thing in grief), and moving or not moving - all of these things are a part of strengths that people do not always recognize as such. 

Much Peace to You...

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TomPB   

MBBH I get it and always get a lot from your beautiful and insightful writing

Best wishes Tom🐼

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I haven't had someone say I'm handling this better or I seem OK, but I do know most everyone I am around probably sees it that way because by my own doing, I keep the horrid pain out of conversations or greetings.  The how are you ones.  The few times I have said more I either get that pity/relief it is not therm look or worse yet...advice.  I briefly mentioned it to a friend of Steve's and a reply to an email (saying things were same old, problems breathing, pain walking, and missing Steve so very much)  he sent about how he is drowning in all his social obligations and choices.  His response was.....'sounds like you are staying miserable.  I do hope you find a  better way soon, the old paradigm just ain't doing it it for you'.   I just sat and sobbed after reading it.    

I don't know if I would find it 'complmentary' or invalidating.  My counselors say I am doing a great job considering what has been thrown at me lately, but I don't feel that way.  But they acknowledge the deepmpain as well.

i guess we just have to take a look at what we project to judge what people say.  Or in some cases like the above, realize as always the person has not one clue of the reality of this.  It definitely cuts deeper when the person knows us rather than those wishing you a good day at the store to which my mind is saying silently....yeah, right.  

 

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Cookie   
On ‎08‎/‎09‎/‎2017 at 4:25 PM, Gwenivere said:

I haven't had someone say I'm handling this better or I seem OK, but I do know most everyone I am around probably sees it that way because by my own doing, I keep the horrid pain out of conversations or greetings.  The how are you ones.  The few times I have said more I either get that pity/relief it is not therm look or worse yet...advice.  I briefly mentioned it to a friend of Steve's and a reply to an email (saying things were same old, problems breathing, pain walking, and missing Steve so very much)  he sent about how he is drowning in all his social obligations and choices.  His response was.....'sounds like you are staying miserable.  I do hope you find a  better way soon, the old paradigm just ain't doing it it for you'.   I just sat and sobbed after reading it.    

I don't know if I would find it 'complmentary' or invalidating.  My counselors say I am doing a great job considering what has been thrown at me lately, but I don't feel that way.  But they acknowledge the deepmpain as well.

i guess we just have to take a look at what we project to judge what people say.  Or in some cases like the above, realize as always the person has not one clue of the reality of this.  It definitely cuts deeper when the person knows us rather than those wishing you a good day at the store to which my mind is saying silently....yeah, right.  

 

Gwen:  My heart goes out to you.  I know very well what you are talking about.  Most people I know really think things have to be better after 2 years.  I get the "you look a lot better" comment all the time, and the funny thing is I'm dying inside all the time.  So, how do I do it I wonder.  I should get an academy award I think.  You really do shut down after a certain amount of time because the world out there cannot accept the truth of where you still are.  It is a sad, painful and lonely place....hugs, Cookie

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mbbh   

Gwen,

I am holding you in my spirit. The "compliment s" people give us DO hurt and sometimes I am unable and unwilling to be gracious. I have even been known to just stare off into space as a response to avoid saying things I really do not want to say... Or perhaps I do want to say them, but I avoid conflict or hurting someone's feelings at all costs. 

I have rolled my eyes to myself so many times the past almost 9 months. I don't know what the answer is. People just do not understand. They try, but they can't....

Much Love to you.

Mary Beth

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TomPB   

Friend returning from europe texted "I got the impression ur becoming more serene/accepting" HUH? All we have done in the past month is exchange a few texts. Did a mutal friend say something?

Since it's impossible to read another person's mind, I wish we could all just agree not to speculate about what someone is feeling.

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Marg M   

I somehow cannot remember what people say.  Sometimes it worries my family how separate from them all I can be.  "Mama, I just told you that yesterday and you have already forgotten?" They are bordering on alarm.  They don't understand, if I want to remember something, I can.  I choose not to hear.  They are gonna have to get used to it.  I was aggravated over a year ago when a friend/former widow said that now I can find myself.  I think I have done that.  I am "me, myself and I" and all three of us get along very good.  It is a shame that none of the three of us hear anything but what we want to remember.  We are actually doing okay for the shape we are in.  

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kevin   

I have a different take on this "strong connotation"...I think we all agree our Loss experiences have changed our lives as no  other.......I find I grown  "Harder" in regards to  my sensitivity side, and a bit stand offish....Its almost like I have an outer shell now.......and  I like it......  have a good week end

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kayc   

I had someone remark yesterday that they find it depressing that I'm still around after 12 years (another site).  I can't begin to tell you how that made me feel!  What?!  Do they think there's an expiration date?  My grief has evolved normally, I think I'm right where I can be expected to be after all this time, but we don't "get over it", and although I try to be there for others, I do still deal with it myself.  

13 hours ago, Marg M said:

I somehow cannot remember what people say.  

Count yourself fortunate, you're not missing anything! :)

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Marg M   

Kevin, maybe that "outer shell" is the "scar tissue" that Rose Kennedy wrote about.  I think it confounds my family.  I don't hurt myself and I don't bother them with any attempts to get their attention.  I was not old until Billy left, and that is one thing that made him angry, if anyone called him "old man." Honestly, I don't require their attention for money worries, and even my 18 year-old requires more medical attention than I do.  My daughter is ill, but her whole life she has required constant medical attention.  I think it comes from all the doctors who have all prescribed a different psychopharmaceutical at all the different ones she visited.  She definitely has diabetes from one of the medications.  My son has a partially functioning liver from all the drugs and alcohol that required hep-C treatments.  He does not complain, but my sister is also very sick from COPD,  but cannot give up the cigarettes.  I could pass away at any time, but I don't worry them with anything but my memory.  It really does not bother me unless I lose something. If something breaks in my apartment, I have someone to fix it, so that is not a worry mentally or financially.

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kayc   
On 8/12/2017 at 9:33 AM, Marg M said:

my sister is also very sick from COPD,  but cannot give up the cigarettes.

Mine too, Marg, although she's never attempted quitting.  I hear her wheezing through the phone. :(

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Being a smoker myself, I can only say that taking on quitting when you are trying to adapt to so many changes as it is for us in grief would be a losing endeavor.  Even my doc, before he quit, said don't even try.  It's one of the hardest things to do and only anothervsmoker would know that under the best conditions.

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kevin   

I smoked for 42 years and the best thing I ever did was quit......it took at least 4 determined quits before I was successful.....Now almost I'm  9 years weed free , what a difference living is.....Now , till this day,whenever I smell cigarette smoke, I do savour the moment.......I have an older sister with health issues, and is on day 20 of her latest quit, and I'm hopeful......kevin

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kayc   

My sister hasn't suffered a profound loss so that's not a factor in whether she smokes or quits.

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TomPB   

Then I saw the (now former) friend I mentioned above who said I was feeling more serene/accepting with no evidence and when I told her I was not feeling better after 4 ms she said I should read some material on self-pity! Aggressive! Long story short, we have agreed to end our relationship.

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Marg M   

You try to think the best of people and then you encounter ignoramuses (sp?) like the idiots that think "make America great again" means bringing back 1958 life.  You find out we are headed backwards.  Your former friend will remember how wrong they were when it happens to them.  Gives a whole new meaning to walking a mile in "my" shoes.

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DaveM   

Tom, I'm thinking first that folks like that never had a relationship like yours (and mine, and ours) in the first place, and in the second place, probably never could.

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