Being strong does not mean boxing up your emotions and being stoic in the face of tragedy. It does not mean never crying when something awful happens. It does not mean you can endure endless pain. It is not synonymous with not having or showing emotion. I think it means quite the opposite.
Being strong means knowing how to take care of yourself and keep going. It means asking for help when you need it, even when you don't want to admit you need help. It means when something awful happens, you don't run away and hide forever. You don't give up or back down. It means no matter how helpless, hopeless, or weak you feel, you get out of bed. You push through and keep going until you make it out the other side.
Hiding from your emotions, denying them, and never facing them is the easy way out. And not even that easy, if we're being honest. To look at your situation, accept that it's awful, and express how you feel about it in whatever way you're comfortable with takes strength. Coping with triggers, accepting you cannot control the situation, and learning to keep going takes strength.
So many times we hear people, or even ourselves, say "you need to be strong." And somehow that's supposed to mean stop crying and thinking about it and just pretend everything is normal. Just ignore whatever terrible thing is going on and brick up all those socially unacceptable emotions. That is not strength. That is hiding. You're forcing yourself to avoid confronting and processing this event. But hiding from it will only continue to get harder and make you feel weaker as you force this facade of strength.
Being strong takes courage. It means feeling all those negative emotions and having the strength to not let them take over your life and define you. Strength comes in learning how to accept and appropriately cope with the negative emotions and thoughts that we all experience. It's taking a deep breath and doing what needs to be done.
"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places."