What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger…Or Something Like That

If you look up the word “strong” in the dictionary it will give you the definition: “having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks” or “able to withstand great force or pressure.” Ok I lied. Google says that. But nobody uses an actual dictionary anymore anyway, and I’m the queen of Google so that’s where I decided to go to figure out why I’ve heard this word 1,597,142 times since October 1st, 2017.

When someone dies, the word strong gets thrown around like freaking confetti, and when you’re living with grief brain you become really great at taking everything everyone says and twisting it to mean whatever fits your emotional agenda for the day. Of course I hear “You’re so strong” quite often, but I’ve also been told “You’re trying to be too strong, it’s ok to let it out,” which causes me to frantically question if there’s more wrong with me than I initially thought, all while trying to muster up some tears to make this person feel better, by giving them the opportunity to pat my back and spend the remainder of their day with my snot and tears wiped all over their shoulder. “You have to be strong for the kids,” is another one that has come in various forms and phrases, resulting in me laying in bed every night remembering how much I nagged my son that day, and envisioning him sprawled out on a therapist’s couch at the age of 40, talking about how he’s never had a real relationship with a woman because his mom couldn’t get her shit together and figure out what being “strong” actually meant.

This is of course, all my doing, because like I said, I’ve become a master at overthinking. People really do mean well, and it’s not their fault, they’re simply trying to find the right words for a situation that doesn’t have any. And the only people who truly get it, who do say all the right things, are those who have experienced a loss of this magnitude…a child, a spouse, etc. I am both fortunate and unfortunate to have several of these people in my life, meaning I wouldn’t wish this pain on anybody but damn it it’s nice to have a few people who understand just how much this stings and how hard it is to navigate your way through grief….because there are as many ways to grieve as there are people living in this world. (An actual licensed therapist told me that, in case you think I’m being dramatic).

And I understand that many people don’t know how to “take” me sometimes. I use dark humor, sarcasm and inappropriateness to deal with just about everything, and it can make almost any situation super awkward. But I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to be a victim to my circumstances, regardless of what life was going to throw at me. I never in a million years imagined it would be something this extreme, but here we are so buckle up Susan, we’re doing this.

Most of these people also don’t know our story. Jesse’s story. They weren’t there through the intense highs and lows that are often accompanied by mental illness, addiction and loving someone who has experienced God awful trauma. If you don’t learn to grow from it, you won’t survive it, so that’s what I did. Although I had no idea at the time that I would actually be equipping myself to deal with the fact that life wasn’t about to just hand me lemons, it was going to full on beat me in the face with them.

Watching someone who has EVERYTHING..a wife who loves him, 2 beautiful kids, 1 healthy boy and 1 healthy girl, a good job, friends and family rooting for him every single day, not be able to enjoy or have gratitude for any of it, because he doesn’t feel like he’s deserving of it, just plain sucks. I think this is why even in his absence, with the circumstance being that he literally made the choice to leave this Earth permanently, it isn’t me that I feel sorry for, it’s him. Jesse spent so much of his life in emotional pain. He never got to find peace. He didn’t get to experience the world the way that I see it. And that just seems so unfair.

I know I’ll be ok, and I’ll find genuine joy and happiness again, because I’m not special. Others have been through exactly what I’m going through. They learned how to keep going and so will I.

And because one of the last things Jesse said to me, two days before he took his life, in the midst of his downward spiral, when he was at a point where he was still able to somewhat find his way back to me through the paranoia, depression and psychosis, was “Babe, please do not let this world break you.” I didn’t make the promise right away, but I did a few days after he passed, as I sat sobbing on my bathroom floor, half hating him for what he had done, half pleading with God to bring him back to me. I promised Jesse I wouldn’t let this break me, and I won’t.

I will for the rest of my life be living a constant duality though..one of sadness over his absence and gratitude for the life that is here. And I intend on kicking ass at it in my own hot mess way. To some that might mean I’m trying to be too strong, and to others it might mean I’m not strong enough, because it won’t seem like I’ve completely moved on.

The reality is I’m creating my own path through grief; my own messy, chaotic, unique to me path, toward whatever my new version of happiness is going to be. It has nothing to do with being strong. It’s about keeping a promise to that man that I loved.

12 thoughts on “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger…Or Something Like That

  1. I am so glad to see you are doing this blog. Realness is awesome! One day, one hour, one minute and yes even sometimes one second at a time, none are ever the same and there is no right or wrong way. Great message!

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  2. Spot on. Personally, I know I’ve heard, “you’re so strong” or “I don’t know how you do it” so many times, it is enough to make your head burst. The best I can say is, I do what I gotta do. Unless they’ve been through it, how could they possibly understand what you’re going through?

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  3. I think of you so often Amanda. I am so glad you are doing this. Some of us have lost a spouse and babies. You are so honest and write so very well. You will be helping many people who simply can’t express how they feel because of pure fear they might say something wrong or offend someone. We go threw our lose in very different ways. It seems unbearable at times,even after many years. Time helps but,never heals. Thank you so very much. I will be reading….xo

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  4. We all grieve in our own ways, you kick ass if you want. I had my faith and my boys to keep me going. Family is everything to me. As I fight back tears I’ve learned that life has to go on. So I’m trying to enjoy my ride. ( Until I see him again)♥️

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  5. It’s been eleven years this week since I lost my beloved Darrell. I’m still not “through” grieving for him and I doubt I ever will be. I will never know that kind of deep love again. He was my first true love, my soulmate.
    I have moved on in my life and I do love someone, my Danny, again. Is it the same love that I had for Darrell? No, because it can’t ever be, but I do love him. I made a promise to my first love that I would go on and be happy. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. He told me many times during our life together that he would go to his grave loving me and I will do the same.
    My point, Amanda, is this. Be as strong or not strong as you need to be in any given minute. This is your journey to take, in your way. Don’t worry if you’re doing it right. However you do it, is right for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We’re all a hot mess…

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  6. Wow, Amanda, I read your blog with tears rolling down my face. Brought back a lot of memories of feelings that I dealt with and still do from time to time. The passing of time really does help. I have no doubt you will be happy again. You are amazing. I am proud you are my niece. Love you! Sheryll

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  7. Amanda,
    You did a great job writing your truth. Just continue to surround yourself with people who love you❤️
    Cody

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  8. This is so perfectly written. When I lost my Dad 3 years ago I remember people always saying “you are so strong” and I was like no I’m not and that’s ok because this is awful BUT I Agree no one gets it—no one- as much as they try unless they have been through it. I hope you find this blog therapeutic and I am sending positive vibes your way for you and your kiddos ❤️

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