February 28, 2022

Check on the Strong Ones.


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For most of my life, I have been labeled as the strong one.

The sane one in the family.

The one who life handed a turd sandwich and still somehow has her sh*t together. Resilient, dependable, honest, and most of all, carries her emotional burdens in relative silence.

Since childhood, I have played the role of the therapist and parent to pretty much everyone I know. Adults included. And while as much as I understand my purpose on this earth is to help others, I ask that you don’t forget to check on the strong ones.

On the outside, it may look like we can take all of the hurt and pain that comes with being a human while still holding space for others. But please don’t forget to check on us.

I didn’t know how much I needed support until after Jeffrey was killed. He had been my rock, my shoulder to cry on, and the one eternally pushing me out of my comfort zone. And with a knock on the door on a warm October afternoon, all of that was gone.

As I sat on our couch numb from shock, I remember asking, “How am I going to do this?” and being told how strong I was and that I would figure it out.

In the coming days, the outpouring of support was overwhelming. It was almost suffocating at times. Yet, people I never in a million years expected to show up for me, did so in spades. And for once, I was the one doing the crying.

As the days and weeks progressed, the initial flood of support started to fade. People got back to their regularly scheduled lives, and I get it. Our culture loves the initial gory details of death; but what we love even more, is distracting ourselves with shiny object positivity. We avoid sadness like the latest COVID-19 variant.

But, for me, I am still very much in it. Grieving the loss of him. The loss of our life. Our plans. Our future. And the person I was before this happened. All while also navigating the administrative tasks of daily life coupled with somersaulting through all the tedious legal hoops our society has created for those still here.

It’s isolating. Disorienting. Emotional. And f*cking sucks.

Don’t forget to check on the strong ones.

It’s not easy being the one left behind in the physical world, trying to pick up the pieces of what was and can never be. Trying to wrap your head around why you’re the one still here. Thinking back to the millions of times the two of you could have had an accident and died together.

Check on the strong ones.

A loss like this isn’t something that goes away after a certain time frame. It’s something that inherently lives within us. It has made changes in parts of our brain. It’s not going away. Please understand that.

Check on the strong ones.

There is no making us happy, or the fear that you’ll make us sad. We are what we are feeling at that moment. Stripped of any human defenses and void of any inauthenticity. Living with the memories, processing the vivid flashbacks, and holding onto all the gruesome details that can’t be shared. It’s a lot to carry.

Check on the strong ones.

What we are going through and the emotional baggage that comes with it is heavy and painful. Even if it looks like we’re handling it well on the outside, inside we are sleep-deprived, barely eating, and have off-the-charts emotional swings. We feel unhinged, alone, on defense, and pissed at the world.

Check on the strong ones.

If you choose to show up and hold space, do so knowing that this is the only thing I can really talk about right now. It’s the only thing on my mind from the moment I wake up at 3 a.m. until I doze off at night. I don’t have the capacity to hear about the fun and exciting events in your life. Under normal circumstances, we would be rejoicing about your new house, new baby, or fun trip, but right now, I can’t help but feel sad and angry when I hear your good news.

It may seem petty to you, but to me, I can’t help the knee-jerk reaction in my mind that says, “Why do you get that and we didn’t?”

Check on the strong ones.

If you spend time with me, understand that you will probably feel uncomfortable in my presence and that’s okay. I am fully aware of the awkwardness and that I am in survival mode. And please know that even though I don’t have words to say it, I feel bad that I am not able to hold space for you.

Understand that I am being forced to insulate myself and truly live in a self-preservation mode. I’m sorry.

But even with that, don’t forget to check on the strong ones.

Know that if you text me, I may not respond back for a while.

But still, check on the strong ones.

Right now, more than ever, I need to have space held for me. I need to feel held and not hide my complete vulnerability. I fully admit that I am struggling, which is a huge step in my personal evolution. Yet another example of Jeff pushing me out of my comfort zone.

Check on the strong ones.

And a quick note to the grief vultures who fabricate a relationship with the deceased on social media, please know you are not a help or comfort. You are an added layer of hurt and anger that isn’t needed right now.

Rather than pretend to be something you’re not for social media sympathy, do the world a favor, and check on the strong ones.


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