Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An Ode to the Ache

"Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage"

To anyone and everyone who has ever shared their story with me, this is to you.

At 21, I have seen and felt more hurt and loss than I thought I would have. But the older I get and the more people I meet, I appreciate the strength of the human spirit more than ever. I am amazed at how much we are able to overcome. Hurt and loss that should not have to face, but that we do face and then go on to operate as seemingly whole hearted beings in a world that does not allow us to do so. But at the end of the day, what breaks my heart and what stands out the most is the need that we feel to be so strong during the times of hurt and loss. We all know and have felt these things, yet we do not want anyone to see our weakness in the midst of them. We close up and walk tall as if everything were as it should be, all the while we are coming apart on the inside.

In thinking about all of this, one particular experience from a couple years ago always resonates with me. I was a few months into what felt like a ridiculously long time of loss and hurt, when a mentor that I had in high school reached out to reconnect with me. I met with her and when she asked what was going on, I candidly told her everything, as if I was talking with her about the weather. I didn't need her pity and I was doing just fine accepting that sometimes shit happens. It wasn't even a second after I finished speaking that she gave me a hug and then looked me straight in the eyes and reassured me that I did not have to be "okay". She gave me permission to grieve and to be angry and to face all of it for what it was. I don't think it was until that moment that I gave myself permission to grieve and be upset about the things that were happening in my life. I will always be thankful for that meeting we shared.

To the person who is still hurting, you do not have to be strong. True strength comes as a product of experience and is not self imposed. To be strong in the midst of hurt is to be numb, and there is not life on the other side of that. You are not alone. There are many things in life that we have to face alone, and grief is not one of them. We all have experienced too much of it to not be able to lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. There is a season for everything and sometimes the season is sad and painful, but better and brighter ones will come.

To the close friend or the relative or the loved one; show up. It feels uncomfortable and comes with a long list of doubts... "I don't know what to say.",:What if I'm smothering them?", "What if they want to be left alone?" The list goes on, and despite how insignificant you think you are, it took less than a minute for someone that I hadn't talked to in months to help me more than any counselor could. I'm not sure that we realize how much weight our actions carry and the potential benefit they mean for those around us.

The point I'm meaning to make is that we must not mistake grieving for weakness and strength for numbness.  In order to properly grieve and in order to properly support the grieving, we have to let ourselves be seen by those that we love. We have to get comfortable with vulnerability and trust those closest to us, whether it is with our truths or with our help. In the words of Brene Brown, vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.

To the handful (okay, probably more like two handfuls) of you that have inspired this entry, know how thankful I am for you.You are the bravest people I know, with more strength than I knew was possible. You have helped me get through things that were by no means easy. You listened to me tell you about the not so easy things and helped me work through them. You opened yourself up to be honest and vulnerable with me. You trusted me to know your hurts and your losses. You inspire me to cherish human connection and embrace vulnerability everyday and you will always have a very special place in my life and my heart.

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