There’s a meme that has been around for years. It simply states, “Find Your Tribe. Love Them Hard.” I believe in this. I believe in the power of women supporting other women and how incredible that can be. How nourishing and how truly healing. This post is not about my “tribe,” even though they’re amazing and not one day goes by that I don’t remember that. I have surrounded myself by a group of people who inspire me, motivate me and who showed ferocious strength and resilience in the face of my crisis. They took me in, they helped me with my child. They held my hand while I planned my husband’s funeral. They laughed with me, cried with me and reminded me that I will survive this.
I write about my grief in its raw and honest form because I want to give back. I want to give back to people who need that reassurance of knowing everything is going to be ok. I want people to understand that while you may feel like you are failing some days, that you can, and you will rise above it and you will find your path again. I want people to know that in the face of fear, there is always something to be hopeful about. I do this because so many people, especially women, don’t have that. So many of us are busy working and raising a family that we are overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and loneliness at times even if we are not grieving. It’s all we can do to keep our heads above water, and without a really dedicated support system, it is really hard.
Women who don’t have enough of that will often turn to social media to broaden their tribe. There’s not one thing wrong with that. Social media has brought us friends from all over the world who can identify with what we’re going through and help us. Even if we don’t live next door to each other and we can’t meet for a drink or a coffee, does not mean we can’t support each other through it all. Some of my closest friends are people I have never met in person. It does not matter that I have never laid eyes on them. What matters is how we lay in each other’s hearts.
I wrote a post for this site not long ago about my kid being a jerk. So many of you enjoyed it and took it for what it was – a humorous look about a single mom raising a teenager. Because, let me tell you – that topic is funny. While I write about grief primarily, sometimes I need a break from it. Sometimes, I need to write about something funny to clear my head. So, I write about the next thing I know the most about, and that’s teenagers.
The response was mostly positive, and I was thrilled it resonated with so many people and that they got a good laugh at it. But, the negative responses were not something I was prepared for. In my little world, I just move past things I don’t agree with, but apparently, not everybody does that.
Women called me a “bully” and a “twat” and made judgments and assumptions about my life, and my daughter. They flew off the handle and questioned my parenting and my integrity. From the paragraphs I put together, they decided I was wrong in poking fun of the situation and what a horrible person I must be.
One woman wrote, “I knew I was going to regret reading the comments. Women are awful to each other.”
That got me thinking. It really did. She is right. Women can be great for each other, but sometimes, we really are awful to each other. And I have to ask why. Why would we want to attack another human being in the first place, but especially another woman who is living a parallel life to yours? We’re all struggling with something. We’re all figuring life out. So, why wouldn’t we want to be a constant source of support as opposed to hurting each other?
You don’t have to agree with me to support me, and I don’t have to agree with you. You don’t have to change the way you do things in your life. I don’t have to change the way I do things in mine. But, we don’t have to insult each other. Nobody is right, and nobody is wrong. There are certain things I see moms do and I think, “I would never do that,” but I also would never walk up to them and shout it in their face. They will figure out what works for them, and what doesn’t, even if it doesn’t work for you.
Because having our differences is what makes life so beautiful. It would be boring to be perfect all the time. It would be crappy if we all fit one mold. It would be sad, actually, if we all did it the same way. Because then we would be producing a bunch of little robots who never figured out how to live on their own and embrace their diversity.
We have a choice to support each other in spite of our differences, and we have choice to ignore it and move on, but what we shouldn’t have a choice in is how to treat each other when we don’t agree. We should not rush to judgement. We should not stand tall with our fingers pointing and calling people names. Not only should we not do that, but we should not tolerate it in our lives. We do not want to teach our children how to lack compassion or understanding or that judgement is a good choice.
Wives and mothers are constantly judged. Widows are judged. Men are judged. Kids are judged. There is always somebody lurking in the background to remind you what you’ve done wrong. “If you would just do this”, or if “you would just not do that” – those people are always there. You don’t have to be one of them.
I throw myself out there on social media willingly, and people have told me that because of that, I am opening myself up to criticism. I am allowing people to throw stones and because of that, I have to sit back and take it. Well, I don’t, and neither does the mother who sends her kids to school in hand-me-downs because she makes barely enough money to put food on the table. Just because you see her struggle, does not mean you have to shun her. And just because I share my story online, does not give you the right to be awful. Keyboard warriors are so brave but it’s still not ok. All is shows me is that there is something going on with you that’s making you sad, or you miserable, if you have to lash out at somebody else. I wish that wasn’t the case. Nobody should have to feel so bad that they want to hurt others. I tell my kids the same thing. That if somebody is being mean to you, it might be time to look at what’s causing that for them, and be compassionate and understanding about it. How we can help them feel better? How can we be more understanding?
For the record, my daughter reads everything I post. She laughs. She thinks it’s hilarious. She knows what a pill she is. And she also knows how valuable she is. She knows she is beautiful and kind and has a tender heart. She knows she is generous and sweet and funny and that she will grow out of this phase and she will excel in ways that most people can’t because she has survived loss that kids should not have to. And if she wants to act like a heathen sometimes, fine. She can. She’s experienced more than most adults so yes, sometimes she gets a free pass. One day, she’s going to come out the other side of it and she is going to see the power from ALL her lessons, good and bad, and she is going to know she can get through this life with wounds and marks and battle scars and she will be a certified bad ass because of it.
I hope she is happy. I hope she finds a great love. I hope she has kids just like her. But, most of all, I hope she finds a tribe of women who will have her back, help her rise when she falls, who will help her pick up the pieces if she gets broken and who will never judge her for being real. I hope those women will stand behind her through anything, just like my tribe has done for me, and I hope all of you experience that kind of joy and support somewhere in your lives.
But, until then, I hope that she is kind. And, I hope you are, too.
Please remember the power of your words, the beauty in which you can influence lives and the choice you have to judge or not. Women need each other. We really do. We should be supporting each other instead of tearing each other down. We should be having each other’s back. We should be enthusiastic about our successes. We should be compassionate about our failures. Because, we are the only ones who really know what you’re going through as a woman, a wife, a mother, a widow, a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or even just a woman trying to figure out who she is and what she is going to do with her life. We struggle enough as it is, we don’t need other women reminding us of what we’re doing wrong.
That tribe I was talking about? It’s a sisterhood. My friends and I don’t always agree. In fact, not long ago, I had a long talk with one of them about something in my life (after I asked for her opinion). While she was passionate about her beliefs, she delivered her advice to me with love, warmth and from a place of purity. It was not an attack. It was genuine. Do you know how I know that? Because after that, I did exactly what I wanted to do, and she still loves me anyway. She didn’t turn her back on me. She didn’t chastise me. She didn’t even question me about it. She just loved me. If I ask for her advice again, and I am sure I will, even if we don’t see eye to eye, she’s going to love me, and I am going to love her. Because that’s the right thing to do. That’s the commitment we’ve made to each other. But, at one point, she was a stranger to me, like all of you are. Yet, she was kind to me in a moment of crisis. She was sweet to me when my life was falling apart. Whether she understood what that felt like to me or not, she stood by me anyway. Without her and my other friends, I am not sure how I would have survived my loss in one piece. She didn’t know she would be so impactful in my life. I didn’t know. But I look at our friendship now and I cringe at how much I would have missed out on if she had judged me or if I had judged her. I’m so glad we didn’t.
I think we should all practice that kind of kindness. Whether it’s in person or online, I think we just need to remember that it takes nothing to be kind. It takes nothing to say things that aren’t hurtful. It takes nothing to give love. Real women will always do that. We will always support each other. We might not agree and sometimes we might not like each other, but we will keep doing it. Because that’s what strong women do.
That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want my friends to do. That’s what I want to my daughters to do. And, that is truly what I wish for you in your life as well.
Be kind. Stay strong. Give love. It’s pretty simple, yet the rewards are more than you could have ever asked for. A tribe. A sisterhood. A family.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Stefano Register of Meridian, Idaho. She created the #iam49 foundation (149 was her husband’s badge number), to act as a ‘wish granting’ foundation for patients and their families to honor Chad’s generosity. She has been chronicling her journey with grief in a series of stories for Love What Matters.
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