– Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
I had this post planned for a while.
It was further down on my list to write up but the recent death of Kobe Bryant (NBA star in the USA), his daughter and friends, prompted me to push it up the list.
I admit, I didn’t know much about Bryant. When the news broke about his sudden passing and I witnessed the outpouring of grief that followed, I felt compelled to write.
When we lose people at a very young age it can cause deep shock to ripple out, engulfing not just relatives and friends, but whole communities.
In this particular case, the shock reverberated around the world.
I have thought a lot about Bryant’s family, in particular his partner and remaining children.
People often say the words “I’m Sorry” to a grieving family and the friends left behind.
And sometimes the words “Be Strong” are uttered, intending to give strength to those mourning.
I heard “Be Strong” a lot.
I heard it when I was 15 years old and my stepfather had passed away.
I heard it again when I was 19 years old and my stepsister had passed away.
Although these words are often said with good intentions, I believe that it can block the natural process of grieving for many people.
“Be Strong” to me, at both those times, meant “don’t show your emotions”.
Whenever I cried or seemed upset or down, I would hear those words, uttered regularly to ensure I would carry on functioning like normal.
“Be strong for your mum”.
“Be strong for your stepmum”.
“Be strong for your sister, she would have wanted you to be”.
In a bid to stay strong for my close ones, I shut off my emotions, my grief, and I blocked my feelings from view.
I stopped crying. I was known in the family for being “the strong one”; the one who didn’t cry.
But I wasn’t strong at all.
It was to my detriment that I blocked my grief.
Grief will come out in some form or another. It cannot stay within the mind, nor the body, without being expressed in some way.
Grief is not just experienced at the passing of a loved one.
can be experienced in many other situations too, such as the ending of a relationship, a career, an old way of life or ill health.
But it is still grief.
Blocking or suppressing grief is temporary.
It will come out in some form or another. It cannot stay within the mind, nor the body, without being expressed in some way.
In the years that followed my grief expressed itself as anger.