Friday, February 11, 2011

I think I understand what it means to "be strong"

Immediately after Casey's death a number of people told me to "be strong." After hearing that for several days I asked those who said that to think about it and get back to me and tell me what that meant. I made that request of five or six people. Only one did speak to me about it later. He said "just keep doing what you are doing."

I recently completed a study of the support groups of grieving parents-those friends, co-workers and neighbors who come in contact with grieving parents. Because of my experience I solicited information about the statement "Be strong" when used to respond to parental grief. Almost all of the men considered it to be helpful while virtually none of the women responded that way. Not a single women said that to me after Casey's death.

I was told to be strong when I was tearing up or was too full of emotion to speak. At the beginning it almost made sense-be strong for your family, let them see through my "strength" that there was a path forward. My father-in-law also told me that the day after Casey died. He was trying so hard to be stoic and controlled after losing his granddaughter. The next day he suffered a stroke.

With time and distance and the experience of grief I sense that there is strength in suffering, in feeling the pain of an incredible loss and in wearing that pain plainly on one's face. My concept of being strong is very different I suspect from the behavior I was urged to adopt in the days following Casey's death.

1 comment:

  1. My husband and I often comment to each other, "nothing can touch us now...we've been through the worst imagineable." There is a kind of strength that comes through losing a child; but it is not one I would have chosen for myself. God bless you and your family!