Life is filled with the unexpected. Even the most talented psychic/intuitive can’t know with absolute certainty what’s coming. And even if they did, and could warn themselves or you, how can you possibly prepare yourself for the unimaginable or unthinkable?
Imagine you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The road ahead is likely to be long and challenging, and may test you to your limits.
Friends and family and co-workers encourage you. They say, “Be brave. You’ve totally got this. Be brave. You’re going to win this battle.”
Imagine you take their encouragement to heart, and you soldier through. You keep your eyes on the prize of coming out on the other side of treatment. You keep a stiff upper lip, proving to everyone that you really are brave.
No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected. ~Julius Caesar
Imagine you learn that a loved one has died unexpectedly – perhaps tragically. You’re in shock, and grief is assaulting you in unforgiving waves.
Friends and family and co-workers support you.
They say, “Be strong. It’s what he/she would want. Be strong. He/she’s in a better place now.”
Imagine you take their supportive words to heart, and you swallow back the tears. You hold your head high, and though your smile might not be as bright as usual, it’s there, firmly affixed, showing everyone that you really are strong.
Where there is no struggle, there is no strength. ~Oprah Winfrey
I cringe when I hear well-intentioned people say to those who are suffering, “Be brave” or “Be strong.” I cringe equally when I see those phrases in the comments of blogs or Facebook posts that share such painful life events.
Unfortunately, I’ve had cause to see them recently.
More often than not, they inspire in their target a notion that by overlooking their pain, devastation, and grief, they\’re doing themselves or their passed loved one proud. It’s a notion that’s both old-fashioned and potentially harmful.
Three days ago, one of my best friends was dealt a harsh blow: the unexpected death of her eldest son. Being with her and her daughter-in-law that day was equally inspiring and humbling.
They exhibited bravery by displaying their tears and pain for all to see. And they exhibited strength by asking for what they needed and accepting the assistance and support that was offered.
They didn’t hide their grief or their anger. They didn’t soldier through their horror and devastation.
They said how hurt they were; how angry they were; how sad they were; how empty they were. They carried the weight of their new reality as best they could, and when it was too much to bear, they asked for help.
They were – and are – utterly real in that raw state. On that day, they found the grace within themselves to allow the ebb and flow of those waves of emotion, and to sit in those pits of emptiness, and they’ve been doing the same every day since.
For me, and very possibly for most of the people there on that awful first day, they showed, through their intense vulnerability, what it really means to “be brave” and “be strong”: It means owning your truth, no matter how raw or ugly, and walking side by side with it.
What does bravery and strength mean to you in the face of the unthinkable? Your perspective may help others facing their own struggle. Please share your wisdom in the comments section below.