When I was a kid, my mother used to call me "Hard Hearted Hannah." She didn't mean it as any type of a compliment. She always said that I was independent from the crib and never cried. Ever. By the age of nine I had lost my father to heart disease and my only living grandparent, my grandmother, to complications from type II diabetes. I lived through a childhood filled with a multitude of tragedies, and they seemed to follow me into adulthood. People have always said, "Kristyn is so STRONG!" And all of my life I have hated being called "STRONG" because it reminds me of my mother's comments and the fact that I never asked for the tragedy resume that I have amassed.
Over 26 months from August 2015 until October 2017, I lost seven family members. The first was my mother and the last was my husband. At the age of 48 (the age I feared my entire life because my father died when he was 48) I was all alone. I had no parents, both of my in-laws were gone, all of my grandparents had been gone for decades, and now my husband was gone as well.
As I went through this period of caregiving for three of the people who died, everyone kept telling me again how STRONG I was. After my husband died, I heard it repeatedly. And of course they always added that they could never be as strong as I had been. Every time I heard those words, I felt irritated. It made me think that everyone agreed with my mother, but I never felt that I was that Hard Hearted Hannah she had called me. I have been given no choice in the life that has been handed to me, the life that I've had to endure. I am not strong, I am merely alive......... and some days I am barely that.
I posted on my website recently about the power of being gentle with yourself during grief. I try hard to be gentle with myself .... and with others. But when someone calls me "STRONG" I cringe, and taste the bitter anger growing inside. I have learned to replace that word.... strong... with something that I can live with. Something that is truer to who I am, who I was forced to become, who time has created in me as a person.... DETERMINED.
I am determined to do the best that I can, in this moment and in the moments that come.