Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.
Several women in my circle of experience have lost their spouses recently. Their friends referred to them as "strong." What does that mean? I really wonder what others think makes a person "strong."
There is the psychological concept of resilience, about which I have written before. Resilence isn't just survival. It's growth. It's looking at life, experiencing it fully with no emotions barred, reflecting and learning and moving on to another stage, maybe better, maybe realistic and accepting of change and even loss.
I don't believe that strength means that someone doesn't sometimes fall apart. It means that she puts herself back together. I don't think strength means someone has no health or mental health problems but that he has learned to deal in a constructive, self-comforting manner.
Strength requires acceptance rather than fear of weakness and vulnerability. It goes along with open-mindedness, tolerance of ambiguity, and willingness to listen. The strong person is tolerant and not easily-threatened by interlopers, understanding and empathetic but not an enabler nor anyone's victim. The strong person understands tough love, as well as self-sacrifice and knows how to discriminate when each works or, at least, learn from mistakes and experience. The strong person makes mistakes for sure, in fact, and uses them as take-off points for improvement.
The strong person likes to think but not overthink compulsively to the point of self-paralysis. He isn't afraid to think. This person can debate issues, invite controversy and consider viewpoints different from what she finds consistent with her conditioning and self-interest. She asks "why?" a lot and is an explorer mentally and , sometimes, physically.
Strength knows that life evolves and there are many stages in identity and development. She doen't ignore her past but embraces the future and is grateful for it. He is a "work in process," as they say.