When ‘Being Strong’ Becomes a Burden

This is a guest post by GSN Member Lonnie Howell, a mentor to young men and a musician, who lives in Rollinsville, CO with his wife and three children.

From people to planets, from cells to stars, from gardens to galaxies; nothing is permanent. Many cultures of the past (and some surviving in the present) understood this and lived knowing that they too would return to the Great Mystery. They held rituals to break through the barriers of grief and to restore the community and continuity in relationships. They shared their grief often with others in order to prevent mental disorders. The bereaved were embraced and listened to. When one member of a tribe was suffering, all were suffering. Public mourning ceremonies were common in cultures from contrasting areas of the world. Death was a part of Life.

In our current culture, we fear death and hide or suppress pain. Often our lost loved ones are not spoken of or rarely acknowledged after they pass on. We use dangerous substances for temporary relief. We try to explain the unknown through religions and memes of separation, which attempt to place the souls of our loved ones “up there, looking down.” Often, we don’t take the time or find the havens to grieve in. Laterally, we have a difficult time knowing what to say or do for survivors; avoiding them, offering generic or cliche advice, or offending them with awkward comments.

Bryce - Lonnie Howell

Having lost a father and a son, I have been riding the waves of grief for half of my adult life. When I was 24, my dad was hit by a car and killed. He was 49 years old. My son passed away recently on 10/10/10. He was just one year and 10 days old, and losing him shook the very foundations of my soul. In addition to my own experiences, I have also been to an unfair amount of funerals and services, witnessing the agony and confusion of people young and old. What I have learned and seen over the years has made me realize that most of us grieve in very unhealthy and unnatural ways. We live in a time of isolation and distraction, where most of us no longer have the communities to embrace us and hoist us out when we fall into the deep chasms of grief…

Although I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a loving family and compassionate community, I was still very much lost when it came to being supported in my devastating grief. Writing seemed to be the only way that I could release the deep, dark emotions that I was feeling. I didn’t know where else to turn. “Being strong” became an exhausting burden, especially when things were “supposed to return to normal.” As I stumbled through my grief journey, I began to realize that we as a civilized culture have forgotten how to be human and support each other in so many ways. This is a crisis in my eyes.

The Grief Support Network has answers to this crisis and addresses this in their mission. GSN is a spark of hope in the darkness of the grief and despair that accompanies loss. For me personally, it has not only guided me to the many compassionate professionals that can help me as an individual, but it has provided me with a trusted outlet where I can share and reflect on my own grief process. This not only helps me, but will hopefully allow others to open up and reflect on their own lives.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the Grief Support Network.  We hope to see you at Shine on September 20th for GSN’s Gratitude Celebration & Fundraiser!  

To get your tickets for the VIP farm-to-table dinner and/or the live auction and entertainment, CLICK HERE.


I feel you in the wind
I hear you in the birds
I see you in the clouds
I write you in these words
I miss you deep and dark
I hold you in my dreams
I wish you in my arms
When will this pain ease?

I cry you every day
I watch your brother play
I see him miss you too
I don’t know what to do
I rage inside my mind
I blame myself and weep
I yearn to find out why
When will this pain ease?

I breathe with little air
I often blankly stare
I blink and you’re not there
I feel my heart’s flesh tear
I sit out in the woods
I search for peace in trees
I wonder if you’re here
When will this pain ease?

I constantly pretend
I fight to get through days
I fall and crawl back up
I battle with this change
I look up toward the skies
I watch the falling leaves
I die a little too
When will this pain ease?

~ Lonnie Howell