Strength in vulnerability

Photo by Kerri Shaver

It’s the end of September. 

In a small village in Saskatchewan, the freezing rain and bone chilling wind strike my socially distanced family members as we gather at the graveyard to say goodbye to a very special uncle. 

In it together, but still distanced apart. 

The day almost seems surreal. I feel numb.

I take my turn to step up to the hole in the ground, say a prayer and toss in a sacred piece of wheat. It’s hard not to embrace those that are hurting, but I want to be respectful in following the rules. Instead I make eye contact and make motion of an “air hug.” 

Not quite the same, but still making a connection none the less. I feel for those that have had to say goodbye to loved ones this year. 

The best way I can sum it up is simply: it sucks. 

Grief brings up a variety of emotional waves, sometimes unexpectedly and everyone handles it differently. 

On the long drive home in the rain, we were traveling with my sister-in-law. Not long into our journey, her daughter texted her: “Did anyone cry?” 

This actually made me laugh because I think I did enough “ugly crying” for the entire family. This opened up an interesting conversation about grief and how the process is different for everyone. Shortly after this discussion in our truck, it allowed me to think deeper of the human experience of vulnerability. 

For some, freely expressing our emotions doesn’t come as easy. Many of us grew up feeling that showing emotion was a sign of weakness: as we remind ourselves to “keep a stiff upper lip” during some of the most trying times. 

Now, more than ever, we’re hearing stories arise of mental health challenges where people are trying to hide their struggles and keeping emotions bottled up. 

Under enough pressure, that bottle will burst. We sometimes forget that we are all human and feel all the emotions throughout our lifetime. I often think of the quote by Brad Meltzer: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” 

It’s important to be open to sharing our stories of our battles and also lend a listening ear to those that have the courage and strength to share their experiences with us. We can do hard things.

One book in particular — “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown — transformed the way I view and experience vulnerability, sensitivity and shame. In her variety of published work, and lectures, she challenges us to view vulnerability in a more positive light. 

Did you know that instead of being a weakness, vulnerability can be a source of strength? 

Vulnerability inspires and creates connection. It opens up a conversation, inviting others to relate to your feelings and experiences. It allows you to be honest and real, deeming yourself as being trustworthy to others and true to yourself. “Putting yourself out there” takes and shows courage. You become a risk taker, which opens you up to new opportunities and experiences. Its from these experiences we continue to learn and grow.   

“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the centre of meaningful human experiences.” – Brené Brown