After the death of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, “Check on your strong friends” became a loosely used social media status and months later while it is still being thrown around I am not certain that many have taken the time and effort to even figure out what that means.
In the space of three months, I have had a miscarriage, found my father dead in my home, my husband lost his job and my latest blood work came back irregular. Anyone of these things would be enough to break someone, but I maintain my smile and the world looks on and draws inspiration from it to handle their own challenges.
Knowing how many people draw strength from my strength can be an added burden, but most times it is the very thing that keeps me going.
To let others down, would be far worse than letting yourself down—that’s the mentality of a strong person.
If you sent me a text asking how I am doing, chances are my response will be positive, even if it meant I have just finished crying my heart out because the grieving process of the miscarriage has only just begun now that I have found some normalcy with dealing with the loss of dad.
The average person will throw their hands in the air and think they’ve checked on their strong friend because they sent a text and they received the response they wanted to hear. The harsh truth is, that’s nowhere close to being enough. Strong people need strong friends.
If you haven’t googled “how to check on your strong friends”, chances are you haven’t been doing it well, because we all google the topics that interest us the most and if we were desperately interested in doing it, then we would have ensured we were equipped to do so.
Strong friends mask their pain well, again because they are fully aware of how much others depend on them. Even as I type, I do it with caution because I never want that hurting mom to feel like a burden to call for help. Regardless of what I am going through, CALL FOR HELP!
We self impose expiry dates on our grief, not because of denial or even burying it, but we hold on to the saying “what you focus on will manifest” and that means we ditch the complaining, even the complaining that seems legit.
So how in the world do you check on your strong friends?
After my miscarriage, Richard was advised to stay at home, to physically be there. When the ambulance came and pronounced dad dead I was alone, they never left until someone else arrived. STAY PHYSICALLY PRESENT.
Think of your strong friend as human just like everyone else—a bad break up, loss of a job, death of someone close, major health challenges, financial difficulties, these are all things that affect every single human being, and your strong friends are not exempted, so regardless of how well they handle it, understand that their wounds still bleed like everyone else’s.
Pay attention to the signs, they will be subtler than others, but they will be there. Two years ago, I had my first panic attack and experienced my first dose of anxiety. I never truly understood mental health until then and I know for sure this topic is still very much taboo in our country, but without proper, genuine, humble understanding, we cannot help those around us. When my blood work came back showing that my hormones were once again not being controlled I had to sit Richard down and give him a crash course on what depression may look like. We spoke about any, and I mean any thoughts of suicide. The handful of people that are able to see behind my hard layers ask the questions and are able to see the answers not even said. And that’s really the key I think —hear the answers that aren’t even said knowing that a strong person will never blatantly say no, I am not doing well.
This advice goes for kids as well. As parents we must be in tune with our children, we must learn to hear what they are not saying and see what they are not showing.
And finally, for the strong ones out there, it’s okay to not be okay, I believe in you but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed off days, have them and DON’T APOLOGISE FOR THEM.