I’m sure it’s not intentional. You hear my story, and things get awkward. You want to fill the space. You call me “strong,” because that’s what you’ve heard other people say. You call me “brave,” because it sounds inspirational. And who wouldn’t want to be inspirational?
The thing is, I think we’ve used these words so much, they’ve ceased to have any real meaning. And the meaning that they do have—well, sometimes it is hurtful.
When you tell me I’m strong, what I hear is, “don’t be weak.” And that’s a problem for me. Weakness is a huge and necessary part of my reality.
When you tell me I’m brave, what I hear is, “don’t give up.” And that’s not your place to say. Sometimes giving up is the bravest thing possible.
And when you put these words on me, without thinking about their implied meanings, you add on expectations, and those expectations are heavy.
I’m sure it’s not intentional. I know it’s often just to fill space.
Find another way.
(I love you, too.)
Notes for the Support Team:
When you tell me I’m “strong” or “brave”, it feels less like a description, and more like a command.
Notes for the Bereaved: You don’t have to be brave (needs to be posted)