Friday, December 9, 2011

STRENGTH - What Is It?

STRONG (adj.): firm; durable
STRENGTH (n.): toughness; durability; the power to resist attack

During the months following Austin's death several people commented to me, "You are so strong." "I can't believe your strength. I don't think I could do it."

Which led me to ask myself a couple questions:  "What does it mean, 'I don't think I could do it?'" "What does it mean to be strong, especially when you lose a child?"

Q: What does it mean, 'I don't think I could do it?'"

R: I remember when it was just Austin and me. Other mothers would state, "I don't think I could do it; I couldn't be a single mom." To which I would answer, "If you ended up in that situation, you would figure out a way to make it work. What other choice would you have?"

In regards to going on after losing a child I wonder, "What would I 'not do'? Would I not wake up every morning? Would I not be a mom to my other two sons, who still need a me? Would I stop living, even though I was still alive?" Perhaps that was/is an option, but not the one I chose. In fact, it was never even an option for me. In the days, weeks, and even at times the months, following Austin's death, there were mornings I would wake up and think, "I'm so tired, I could lay here all day." But after a few minutes I would be bored, thinking,"What use is this? If I lay here all day it isn't going to take away my sadness and pain, so I might as well get up."

Don't get me wrong, there were days that I got little or nothing accomplished. My mind couldn't focus on anything but missing Austin and I couldn't get out of my own way. There were times when I didn't answer the phone because I just couldn't talk, and then other times when the opposite happened, I needed to chat with a friend, I needed to be around people. There were tasks I couldn't bring myself to do for a very long time: painting, tending to my landscaping - other than the bare essentials, exercising (more on this in a later blog), reading, driving alone in the car without crying, and on and on the list goes. My energy level was much lower than normal and my ability to multi-task slowed substantially. But, I had to live, I had to go on, in whatever manner I was able to manage at each specific point in time.

To some this might sound like strength, but to me I was just doing what I had to do. I wonder, if instead of saying "I don't think I could do it," what they're really saying is, "I don't ever, ever want to have to endure that kind of loss. I can't imagine, I don't want to imagine what it's like, ever!"
"Some people think that to be strong is to never feel pain. In reality, the strongest people are the ones who feel it, understand it, and accept it." ~ A Breath of Fresh Air

Q: "What does it mean to be strong, especially when you lose a child?"

R: It's amazing, when we are put in situations that we never imagined being in, what we do to survive. Until you're there you have no idea how you will react. Traveling down the road of life there are tunnels no one wants to enter, because from the outside, looking in, they are so pitch-black you do not see how you'll ever survive the trip. You have no idea what you would or could do to make it through the dark, stormy tunnel. You don't know what's on the other side and cannot fathom  sunshine waiting for you at the other end.

I can tell you, today, that sometimes you're rammed into that scary, turbulent tunnel, like it or not. In the beginning you cannot see, even a glimpse of, light at the other end. You cannot turn back, though, so you keep moving along. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and sometimes you even come to a complete stop - due to construction or to get your bearings. You cannot stop for long, because everyday life keeps pushing (and sometimes pulling) you on. Before you know it, there's a little ray of light in front of you, peaking through the other end of the tunnel. As you continue your journey the light gets brighter and brighter, and you realize you're going to be OK. You're going to make it.

I think we often get confused about what strength means. When we see the word 'tough', in it's definition, we think we should never be sad, never cry, never get frustrated, never feel like quitting. But that's not true. I like the part of the definition that describes it as 'durability', because that better fits my situation. I am durable. I can make it, despite being sad, despite crying, despite getting frustrated, and wanting to yell, 'Stop the world I want to get off!' Being 'strong' means being able to acknowledge how you feel and being OK with it at that moment. It means being able to get your bearings, when your thrown for that upside down, inside out roller coaster ride, and figure out how to survive. It's seeing that the scars you're given can actually help you maneuver life's bumpy roads - potholes, detours, and all.

A few months after Austin's death, a friend sent me a bookmark with a beautiful saying, which truly sums up strength. The title is "You Are One of the Strongest Women I Know", but I think this applies to anyone who has fallen down and gotten up, who has faced life's trials and been made stronger. So, I have replaced the word "women" with "people". This goes out to all of mine and Austin's friends and family, who have walked the past 17-1/2 months with me...
You Are One of the Strongest People I Know!
 ~ Brenda Hager

Strong people are those who know the road ahead will be strewn with obstacles, but they still choose to walk it because it's the right one for them.

Strong people are those who make mistakes, who admit to them, learn from those failures, and then use that knowledge. They fail time and again, but still keep trying until they succeed.

Strong people face the daily trials of life, sometimes with a tear, but always with their heads held high as the new day dawns.
While typing the above quote I couldn't help but smile and think of Austin.... because this is how he dealt with life.... always ready to take on the new day - potholes and all!!! ...Usually with a smile!

Go take on the new dawn with your head held high!

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