We don't have to be strong
I've noticed it when my father passed away, and it has struck me since. It was very obvious again a month ago when I lost my father-in-law:
We phrase (especially in Dutch) our condolences to someone who has lost a dear one and who is grieving, by wishing them a lot of strength. "Veel sterkte" seems to be the most common remark. It is very well intended, I know.
Has it never struck anyone how absurd that is? Are we truly telling them to be strong on a moment that they are overwhelmed and the ground just eroded under their feet. When waves of sadness, tears, uncertainty, nostalgia rolls over them. Why should they be strong? Do we mean they shouldn't cry? Do we tell them not to express their feelings of grief, their lack of energy, their potential anger etc?
I assume we don't mean it like that. When we wish them to be strong, I suppose we don't want them to see collapse. We wish them that at one point they can pick up their life and find joy and energy again. But when someone has just lost someone, it is too soon to be strong. It's not a message that helps them at that point. It's healthy to cry, to withdraw in silence, to yell and scream in anger if needed, it is normal to be fearful for the future and overwhelmed by how to get your life picked up again without this person. They shouldn't be told to be strong at that moment but rather the opposite: it is ok, it is normal, you can cry, we are here to listen over and over to your stories of the past if you want, we understand you don't see the future right now, but we'll be at your side to take you to that future and help.
I never write "Veel sterkte" as a remark anymore. I wish people a lot of support, soft arms to hug, people that listen and help, ... And I also realize that making that wish is very easy to write down. Maybe now I need to learn to be a better support myself to people that do not have to be strong.
(and my point here is probably also very valid in other situations beside grief)