To all of the broken souls who are reading this, the most important thing I can say to you is this. You don’t have to be strong. I wish someone had said this to me. Sometimes it is uplifting when people share their admiration for the strength they perceive, and it can serve as a reminder that you can survive whatever lies ahead. But when you are feeling the weakest, hearing people say you are strong can feel more like pressure than support, despite their loving intentions. Though nothing short of compassionate, these messages did not fill my cup as I would have imagined. But then I was given a gift of words that I desperately needed. I remember it vividly. I was sitting at my kitchen table with my sweet Willow kicking away in my belly. I opened up an unread message, fully expecting that it would contain much of the same well-meaning, beautiful sentiment I had been receiving regularly. But it was something else entirely. “I can't imagine how you're feeling, how scared you must be.” Instant tears sprang to my eyes, and a wave of relief flooded my body. An audible sigh escaped my lips, and for the first time in months, my shoulders relaxed. With her simple, honest words, this person validated my feelings for perhaps the first time on this journey. She granted me permission to sit in the darkness for a moment, without guilt or reservation. Because I was scared, terrified actually. I was receiving constant praise for my strength, but in fact, all I felt was fear, and rightfully so. This simple acknowledgment of my reality challenged the standard I had constructed, this desire to appear strong in the face of adversity. It served as a reminder that the fear, the sadness, the anger, the pain, all of the emotions that felt like weakness, were acceptable. They were born out of dreams, carved from hope, a byproduct of my unconditional love for my child. They ought not be hidden away.

And so, in your most vulnerable moments, when the weakness in your soul permeates your physical body, when the slightest obligation feels like a boulder upon your back, know this. You don't have to be strong. You can wear your grief on your sleeve, you can crumble into pieces, you can surrender to the hurt. And as certain as the sun, you will rise once again.