Soon after my daughter died a well-meaning person told me I needed to be strong for my other children.
I remember looking down at my deflated self, my weight leaning fully against the side of a chair, and feeling weaker than I ever had in my whole life. I was sad and isolated and misunderstood, feelings I was no stranger to in those days, but not strong.
Looking back I can see now that I was wrong. Yes, I was incredibly sad and lonely and my grief misunderstood but I was not weak. I just needed to redefine strength.
After you have lost a child, strength is getting through the next moment.
Strength is getting out of bed, putting one foot on the floor and then the other.
Strength is eating half a sandwich when you would like to skip breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Strength is taking a shower on the days you’ve moved off the couch.
Strength is answering the phone once in a while and opening sympathy cards.
Strength is going to the grocery store even though you forgot your wallet and your list.
Strength is finding an online support group or a grief counselor or both.
Strength is declining that baby shower invite and giving your self a minute or a day to cry.
And strength is doing the unimaginable things.
It’s returning carseats and cribs,
deciding on a casket or an urn,
arguing for birth certificates and opening death certificates.
It’s finding a priest and clothes for your own child’s funeral.
It’s picking up ashes at the funeral home and holding your husband when he finally crumbles.
It’s telling your children their sibling died and your parents their grandparent status has changed.
It’s returning to an old life as someone completely different than you were before and deciding the new you is going to have to be okay with everyone because it’s all you’ve got left.
And more than anything strength is moving forward, not past or away from your child who is gone but with them.
Strength is wishing with every part of your being that you didn’t have to walk this earth without your child but doing it anyway.
Strength is knowing you’ve got a child in your heart now who wants it to keep beating, who sent you all their strength the day they had to leave you behind.
You have made it this far since you said goodbye and you will make it through the next day and the one after that because you are strong. You are very, very strong, the definition just needed to be changed.