I’ve been considering the concept of bravery for sometime now, mainly because people often tell me that I am brave. I do not feel brave.

I have just finished reading a book about someone who received a medal for bravery and the definition of bravery, in order to receive the medal, involved choice. Someone has to make a deliberate choice to put themselves in danger.

This changes how I see bravery.

My husband’s recent post about the movie ‘Brave’ made me consider the meaning of the word ‘brave’. He also made a comment about how I liked people to consider me brave.

Being brave was very important to me, once. I prided myself on my bravery and courage and thrived on people thinking that I was a brave person. Now, I think that it was simply risk-taking which is a very individual pursuit. There is nothing community minded about risk-taking.

I travelled alone through South America in the mid-1990s and could hardly speak a word of Spanish. I travelled alone through Peru during the time the Shining Path was holding up buses and shooting tourists. I went to Chiapas when the Zapatistas were in control of the region. I travelled through the mountains of Colombia under FARC control.

I climbed active volcanoes (in Chile and Guatemala). I even went to gaol for a day in Santa Elena, Guatemala, after having a gun aimed at my face. I stayed in Managua, Nicaragua, when it was not considered safe to travel there.

I lived on a kibbutz in Israel close to the Gaza Strip during ‘intifada’ when Baruch Goldstein shot people outside a mosque in Beersheba and where we played tennis as the gunships flew so close that we thought we could hit them with our tennis balls.

These are all instances of risk-taking not bravery.

Now, people tell me that I am brave because I live without Clea. But that is not a choice and therefore that is not brave. It is simply functioning. I could, I guess, choose to commit suicide and lock myself away for the rest of my life but that would not help Clea or my sons or my husband or, indeed, myself. I could be locked in the room for a long time and we all have a long death to look forward to.

We have even been told that we are ‘inspirational’! I’m not sure why losing your daughter is inspirational but maybe that is the subject for another post.

Clea was not always brave. She was not a risk-taker. She hated being left at childcare or even at school. She would cry and cling onto us. She once told me that when she began school or when she was left on her own, she would tell herself that ‘I must be brave, I must be brave’ over and over again.

I think of that now; that I must be brave or, at least, have courage but I really do not want to be brave. It is no longer important to me to be seen as a risk-taker. I must get out of bed. I must speak to people who care little for my tragedy. I must live for my sons even though I wish I was brave enough to choose to be with my daughter (but that would be individualistic as well – a risk, no doubt, definitely not bravery).

I do not want to be brave. And there are no more risks left to take.

About huntersoledad

Mother of three. Bereaved mother of one. Survivor and victim of 2009 Samoan tsunami. Could be if would be writer.
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7 Responses to Bravery

  1. Tusk says:

    Bravery can take many forms, I think. It is bravery for someone to just be there and listen. It is bravery for someone to leave a comment, just to show they have read your words. It is bravery for someone to want to know how you really are, not just the usual words. It is bravery for someone to say your dead child’s name, even if that will bring tears to your eyes, because crying is good for those who are grieving. Silence is not bravery.

  2. grahamforeverinmyheart says:

    I think you’re brave to write, just as Tusk commented. i also think you are brave to speak at the reading awards ceremony. But I understand completely that you don’t want to be brave, you just want to be Clea’s mom, taking care of Clea and her brothers every day.

  3. insaniteen says:

    Bravery is a choice and you have chosen to continue on and write about your struggles. You are putting yourself out there for others to read and potentially judge. I see what’s left behind by those who chose not to continue on. It’s bravery to face that pain everyday, even when you don’t want to. My strength to you lady.

  4. Christine Mason says:

    Hi Trudie, At the end of a long day I decided to see what you had written. I am glad I looked and read. You are brave to be so honest. And I know you are grieving openly, honestly, brave enough not to put on a mask, or hide your grief for fear of what others’ reactions will be. By being this way you are teaching people, our community, the essence of grief. I know people will never understand the pain or the emptiness but they will have some notion fromm your honesty.
    Yours in solidarity, Chris Mason

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