“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
I’m coming to the end of another 3 month journey. This time coming from another country, another language, another hemisphere and it has really allowed me to challenge the question of what strength is in healing: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
I left earlier than I planned because after being physically and mentally exhausted for weeks in different countries. It was strength that would be needed to bring me back home earlier than I anticipated, but not in the way I thought. I had to really listen to my body and what it needed, rather than feeling like I needed to do to just remain “strong” and just get through it.
As I sat in my bedroom in Medellin, Colombia I completely broke down and realized that it wasn’t that I needed a little more strength in that moment to stay, it’s that I needed to find the strength in me to leave and not finish my trip as I planned. It didn’t make me weak, it meant I was taking care of myself.
As I write these words over looking the ocean I feel stronger than ever, but not in the ways you might expect.
Traveling is a life changing experience and once you start traveling you really can’t stop. Traveling as a woman isn’t easy, but it can be an empowering experience. I’m a different woman when I travel and my strength comes out in different ways, because I have to be able to protect myself when I am traveling alone or even with another woman. Physically I am prepared, but mentally I am constantly tested.
Traveling with my new identity of a “grieving widow” is a new experience with its own challenges. I wanted to remain “strong”, my ideas of what remaining strong were, but that I got to my breaking point. I found there were moments I had to just surrender to not understanding this new process I am going through and that’s okay. In acceptance comes strength.
I had to accept I’m not suppose to know what to do next, who I’ll be or even where I’ll be. I’m not suppose to have my shit together. It’s not strength that will carry me through-it’s letting it all fall apart and accepting the mess for what it is that will carry me through.
I came to a realization one night while walking with a friend passing the Andes mountains. After our amazing conversation together I really began to ask myself what does grief actually look and feel like and what is the role of strength in this process? Is “remaining strong” actually holding me back from experiencing my grief?
As I continued to walk past the Andes mountains I thought of how they really resembled strength. Mountains are not liner and either is strength is not liner.This notion that we are suppose to “remain strong” in a liner sense doesn’t actually doesn’t make sense, especially in our grief and pain. It’s actually one of the worse things you can do in regards to your healing.
To heal through grief, you have to be with it. You have to feel it to your bones and know that it won’t feel like this forever. It will come and go as it’s constantly evolving and trying to open you up to seeing life in a completely new way.
When we’re uncomfortable of feeling emotions we’ve never felt so deeply we tend to run away rather than embrace all of the uncertainty, vulnerability and most importantly strength that comes with feeling these emotions.
Strength actually comes in being vulnerable, in being present with our emotions not holding ourselves together. Finding the courage to allow ourself to fall apart and let it be a mess. It’s completely terrifying, but also completely liberating. Strength comes in the freedom to just be as you all, in all your mixed feelings and to not judge.
I’ve grown in my strength not by remaining “together” but because I have remained human through it all. I let myself fall apart when I need to. I give myself permission to leave when I need to. I listen to my internal guidance, not what others expect of me.
By giving myself permission to be and feel whatever it is I give myself the gift of strength. I let my strength guide be a tool that guides me to be the authentic, raw human being I am, rather than hide behind of mask of qualities that take away being emotional.
These past months I have made some beautiful friendships, seen too many beautiful places to count, experienced and they have helped me become the alchemist of my life. I have found the internal ability to turn the wisdom I have gained this past year into a gift for myself and others, but it wasn’t because of my strength. It was because of my curiosity and patience to surrender to the unknown.
I believe we are here to share with each other. To open our hearts and know what you are never alone. It takes strength to admit that we’re all on our own unique journey and that that way we heal may look different to different people. We’re all going to come across our own challenges and gain precious insight along the way.
When I let go of our notions of how we should grieve, what the healing process should look like, and rather accept that whatever emotion I am are feeling in this moment is okay I actually become stronger. It’s in my raw humanness that I become stronger, not in holding it together.
We all will have our own way to move and heal forward, but we don’t have to remain “strong” through the process. What if we just allow ourselves the opportunity to fall apart and be completely human? That’s where strength lives.