"Strong" Does Not Mean "Alone"
Asking for help makes you strong, not weak.
For the longest time, I've kept the terrible habit of struggling in silence.
It’s something that I’ve always felt like I had to do. Whenever I had a bad day, I’d tell myself, “Others have it worse, you shouldn’t bother them with your problems.”
Thus, in some of my hardest times, I’ve struggled alone.
After my dad died, everyone told me to be strong. I don’t know what they actually meant when they said that, but in my head I took it as, “Act like you’re okay. Make everyone think you’re fine.”
That seems terribly cruel, which I'm sure it wasn't meant to be. Before my dad died, “be strong” was something I said to everyone going through pain. I didn’t think much about how they would take it - it was just something I saw others say, so I thought I should as well.
I attempted to struggle with grief alone for a while. A few days after my dad’s death, I found myself forcing a smile whenever I walked into school, and trying to add positive notes on top of answers about how I was doing - “I’m not okay, but I will be.” I knew I would be okay, even if it was hard to imagine, but I felt the need to add it so people wouldn’t worry.
If someone says they’re not okay, you immediately worry. If they say that they're not okay, but they will be, you stop worrying, thinking everything is fine. In reality, while things will be fine, they aren't yet, and they still have to get through the time until they're okay.
I struggled, and I hid my pain. I told myself “you’re being strong,” but in reality, I wasn’t.
Hiding your pain isn’t the strongest thing you can do. Opening up and getting help is.
The strongest thing you can do is admit that you’re not okay.
That’s a statement I never read online, yet one that is so true. Whenever I’ve reached out for help from someone, I’ve felt 100x stronger than during the times I’ve not picked up the phone. People aren't "disappointed" that I'm not okay - they're glad that I trusted them enough to talk to them.
"Strong" does not mean "alone."
I know that people will continue saying “be strong,” and that most don’t understand how those words can be wrongly interpreted. Instead of feeling miserable every time I hear it, I’ve started thinking of this:
“They said to be strong, and I will. Strong does not mean alone, so I will be strong, and choose not to go through this alone.”
Reaching out can feel scary. Opening up about your pain can feel that way as well. The first time you look at someone and say, “I am not okay,” is honestly terrifying.
But it’s so worth it.
Months after my dad’s death, I started opening up. First, it was by writing - and some of those writings turned into my earlier articles on here. Then, I started sharing my story. Instead of waiting until someone found out about my grief, I’d tell new friends. I’d bring it up when I had a bad day or needed to talk about it.
What happened after that made me wish I had never hidden my pain. The people around me started checking in on me and being there for me. They became better at figuring out how to help me - before, I had thought that there was nothing they could do, but in reality, because I avoided talking about my grief, they didn’t know what I needed. Instead of isolating myself when I felt horrible, I was able to pick up the phone and call a friend, resulting in me feeling better sooner, and my friendships becoming closer.
There are still times that I struggle to open up. I’m working on it. Everyone’s problems may not be the same, but they’re all important. You are not a burden, and you can talk about what you’re going through with others.
"Strong" does not mean "alone," and asking for help doesn’t make you weak.
Next time you’re struggling, reach out. You are never alone in your grief.
Natalie Adams is the founder of Teenage Grief Sucks. To view more of her work, check out more articles on TGS.