Being Strong

Mother’s Day 2016

Today is Mother’s Day. That’s a special day every year, of course. But for me, this day holds something more.

Today marks one year since losing my mother. This year has had so many bright moments and successes, and yet, it’s been incredibly difficult to fully enjoy those, while being only too aware that my mom wasn’t here to enjoy them with me. There have been countless moments of tears and sadness mixed with memories that I cherish so very much. This week I have chosen to write about being strong. If you have ever struggled with being strong or feel you’ve failed in this, please read on.

I think about when someone posts something on Facebook about a challenge they are facing, or a loved one they are concerned about, and almost without fail, someone will write, “Be strong.” I have always wondered what that meant. Does it imply that the person should keep a “stiff upper lip” and forge ahead? Does it mean they should keep their emotions in check and not “break down?” I don’t think so. I think when someone says, “be strong,” they mean, “have faith.” That makes more sense to me. But more on this later.

About two months after my mom passed, we had a graduation party for my daughter. As a family member was leaving, she recalled a conversation she had recently had with another family member and shared with me for several minutes how amazed and impressed they both were with…how strong my sister was throughout the wake and funeral for my mom. They just couldn’t get over how composed she was and how well she kept herself together. They were very impressed with her. I listened to this for several minutes trying to figure out why she was telling me this. I’m not really sure if I even responded. I just knew I felt incredibly wounded by the conversation.

I felt wounded, not because my sister was strong, but because I felt I was being admonished for seeming not to be. Sure, I let my emotions show. I cried when I felt like crying. I could barely carry on a phone conversation with others without sniffling through most of it. I hugged my kids a lot, as they were heavily grieving the loss of a grandmother who was part of their every accomplishment since their birth. I was quiet, and lived inside my head and heart a lot during this time. But I never lost faith. I saw the blessings that existed, even in this time of losing and missing her. I was grateful for what I had and cried as much out of gratitude as I did out of sadness. Despite all of this, I did what needed to be done, I didn’t hide my face in my hands and leave the details and tough tasks up to others.

Here’s my point – Once I was done hyper-analyzing that entire conversation, which included periods of time where I questioned if I should have been stronger, I realized something: Strength is on the inside.

Strength is not measured by the number of tears NOT shed, but by the level of pain experienced while continuing on.

Strength is not measured by how well someone can hide their pain, but by how well they don’t let their pain steal their goodness.

If you have ever felt you were not strong because you showed emotion or had to force yourself to show up, please reframe that. If someone tells you to “be strong,” take that to mean that they are encouraging you to do your best, whatever that looks like, and to have faith that you will be okay. Take that to mean they want you to know they have faith that the pain or worry you are experiencing now will subside and will not change the beautiful parts of you.

Know you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. My mom never gave herself enough credit for the strength she did possess. She loved, and laughed; she was flawed, and imperfect; and she was strong. If you know a mom, or anyone else that needs to reframe their idea of “being strong,” do them a favor and share this post with them.

Please comment “I’m Strong” in the comments section.

 

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email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com 

Comments

  1. I am strong!
    What a powerful message! Thank you for sharing it…I wholeheartedly agree with you about being strong!
    Being strong means to have faith, to have the strength to carry on and even lend a hand to someone in need when they are hurting even though you are suffering as well!
    Happy Mother’s Day!

  2. I am strong!
    Such an important message. Thanks so much
    For sharing, and really appreciate it on this day.
    Happy Mothers Day!

  3. I’m Strong… Faith has seen me through all… Thanks for sharing

  4. I’m Strong! I really love the way you’ve reframed the ‘Be strong’ message into something that is so very beautiful. I love too the memories of your Mom that you share & that she never gave herself credit for the strength she did possess. I think that is very true of many women – we just get on with it. Thank you for sharing so beautifully 🙂

    • You are strong, indeed, Claire! I agree that as women, this does tend to be an ongoing struggle. Thanks for the kind words!! 🙂

  5. I love you April

  6. That’s absolutely beautiful April. I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my grandmother in 2015 and could not go to her funeral. Although a grandmother isn’t the same as a mother, you’re not alone. :)You are so right about strength! 🙂 Thanks I needed to read that today. Absolutely beautiful post. 🙂

    • Thank you, Angela! And there’s no comparing the loss of a loved one. Your grandmother obviously meant a lot to you, and I’m sorry for the hole she left in your life. I hope you are able to fill in most of it with happy memories of her. I’m so glad this post came at the right time for you! Thanks for commenting and sharing your connection. <3

  7. This is a really beautiful post April. I believe I would have felt the same way as you described here… questioning if the person was telling me I needed to be stronger.. Once before a presentation, I was worried if I would get upset during the discussion – if I could make it through without getting upset on a personal topic. Another woman told me, “If you need to cry, cry. That just means you are speaking from your heart”. Not to say that those who are “strong” in that other sense do not have a heart, but showing emotion is not a sign of weakness…all too often we are told otherwise, or we tell ourself this.

    • Pam, what good advice, and a great way to reframe crying – it “just means you are speaking from your heart.” Lovely!! Thank you for sharing that with us!! <3

  8. i am strong. and YOU definitely are too. this is a lovely lovely post, april, but i’m saddened by the reason that it even came up. being strong does not equal being stoic. everyone responds to grief uniquely, and NONE of the responses are wrong or less than. “strength is not measured by the number of tears NOT shed, but by the level of pain experienced while continuing on.
    strength is not measured by how well someone can hide their pain, but by how well they don’t let their pain steal their goodness.” YES YES YES. sending lots of love to you. the loss of my mother was the most difficult journey i’ve traveled.

  9. I just read this today April…yes I’m a little behind. I know how strong you can be, but I couldn’t say anything about your Mom before I left work, wondering if I might “zap” that strength you needed to get through Mother’s Day. Yes you are a powerfully positive person but no one will ever know another’s limits. There is a flow and pace you keep yourself in to get yourself through such sad times and everyone’s pace is different like yours and your sisters’. Your pace works for you! You are always in my thoughts and prayers because you are constantly helping others….your Mom is always smiling upon you. Love you…

    • Awww, thank you, Carmen! My mom never leaves my thoughts or my heart, so there’s no zapping the strength. I accepted the fact that this anniversary might be especially difficult and I was prepared and okay for whatever reaction presented itself. It’s always surrounded with love, though. Thank you so much for the ongoing love and support, Carmen!! Love you back!! <3

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