Two Words You Should Never Say to an Injured Athlete

Isaiah was kind enough to let me grace his blog, and I have a feeling this won't be my last guest entry, either.


Recently, for those who don't know, my husband suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. During a preseason practice, after catching a pass, he tore his knee and, well, here we are.


Initially, we were devastated by his injury and the consequent reality of his road ahead, but after allowing ourselves the grace to process everything, we realized we needed to hold on to our faith and each other more than ever.


During this realization period, I cried my heart out.


I cried a lot.


I often cried in the shower, mainly so Isaiah wouldn't see or hear me. I want to remain his pillar of strength, and although crying isn't a sign of weakness, I want to make sure the energy I'm putting out is uplifting and uplifting only. So, besides my bout of tears in the shower and during absurdly late hours of the night, I started to accept our reality. I say "our" because what happens to Isaiah happens to me. I know, cliche, but we are one, and if anything, I feel his pain 10x deeper.


As Isaiah came to grips with his injury and the reality of his four-to-six-month rehabilitation journey, he shared an honest, transparent post with his 5,000+ Facebook followers, many of which are former classmates and teammates, childhood friends, family members, fans, and people he considers loved ones. In his post, he stated:


This news really snatched my soul out of me! As I sit here on the train, I can't help but let the tears flow. All I hear is "stay strong," and I'm really trying to keep it together because I know I have the best support system... but, hey, I'm human, and I can cry if I want.

Although reading about his heartbreak had crushed my spirit, I was relieved to know he shed tears because I knew if he held everything in, he would eventually explode.


Isaiah isn't a crier, maybe because I overload our home with tears whenever the mood strikes. I'm one of those happy, sad, shocked, and angry criers. I cry over everything, really. So to see him cry is a clear indication that he's deeply hurting.


Anyway, later that evening, when things calmed down a bit, I turned to him and said, "I'm so tired of people telling you to be strong. Why is "be strong" first piece of advice someone offers during a difficult time?"


He quickly agreed.


"Why can't I feel and be strong? I'm fine, but crying doesn't mean I lost my strength," he said.


In that moment, I saw tremendous growth in my husband.


As Isaiah started to watch a movie with the kids, I couldn't help but think about our recent conversation, and I immediately started thinking about my mom.


A few short years ago, I lost my mother to cancer. During her passing, and to this day, people often tell me to be strong. In fact, "be strong" is the most common phrase people say to "comfort me." When her birthday rolls around, when the anniversary of her passing pops up, and when I share memories of her on social media, I'm inundated with messages of "Be strong, Lace."


Granted, I truly believe people try their very best to lend their love and support during a challenging time, and it really seems as if there's nothing quite right to say when someone is down and out, but I can assure you - the two most discomforting words to say to an athlete (or someone experiencing pain in any capacity) are "stay strong."


I get it, I do - advising someone to "be strong" comes naturally because we're so accustomed to hearing it and then saying it, but try not to dismiss the sentiment that releasing tears is a good thing. Society is strangely conditioned to believe holding back is a sign of strength and should seemingly be applauded or deemed as the utmost pillar of courage. However, when a person cries, they're exercising the strength to release pain and harmful energy.


Therein lies the strength.


In fact, I don't see anything strong about allowing your feelings to fester. That's self-sabatoge.


Refusing to feel or acknowledge does not make problems or feelings go away. Isaiah's ACL is torn, and holding back his tears isn't going to change that. However, releasing his tears will clear space in his soul for faith and resilience, so he may push through this challenging time. In a time when he needs to regain his physical strength more than ever, he cannot elect his body as an emotional storage space for toxicity.


So, we cry.


Today, I'm feeling extra thankful, thankful that Isaiah is comfortable with himself and his emotional health to release what was brewing within. I appreciate his authenticity, too.


As we all know, athletes are often placed on a public grand stand, and although this has its pits and peaks, there are special moments, like this one, to use one's platform to refute society's stigma of what it means to be weak and also set the standard for how we should comfort one another, on and off the court.


I'd like to thank those who offered their love and support to my husband and our family. From Facebook messages to phone calls to text messages to emails to direct messages on Instagram, he has truly felt the love and support from those near and far. I'm thankful for everyone who took the time to write him, especially those who welcomed his feelings and offered a listening ear. You made my husband's week brighter, and we are forever grateful.



Until next time,

Laci