Mike and Sarah share Sunday posts, as they are two widows who are in a new relationship together. Today’s post is from Sarah:
I had a dream last night where I was at some kind of event that brought on a lot of emotion for people who had lost a loved one. In the dream, I stood there in the crowd, and instantly recognized that this event could potentially be a trigger for those who lost someone. The event was meant to be celebratory, and was organized by someone who had never lost someone important in their lives… so she quite simply did not get it. It was an odd and kind of vague dream, but what I do remember is being in this ocean of people and knowing instantly how this would trigger so many. I remember welling up with tears myself as I thought of Drew and my parents and how I miss them.
Most of all, I remember looking up and seeing face after face with eyes full of tears and hearts full of pain. One after another after another as I scanned through the crowd. It wasn’t everyone, but even to see one person in the midst of a trigger moment hurts. Just to be there and to know that they were feeling that pain, made me want to do something. At the same time, I also knew there was nothing I could do to take the pain away, and that they had a right to feel it.
There was a singular moment where the event organizer came up to me, gleeful about how well the event was going and just alive with excitement. I was astounded… it was as if she hadn’t even noticed all of the hearts in pain. She was entirely oblivious. Which we all know happens in real life too. Maybe that wasn’t her fault, maybe she just did not have the experiences yet to see it, or for some other reason was disconnected.
As the dream faded out, I recall turning to others nearby who were in pain and simply putting a hand on their back firmly… silently being present so that they knew they weren’t alone, while also honoring their pain and not trying to dampen it out.
Often times, we think simply being there is “all we can do”. As if it is not enough… when in reality, I think it’s one of the best things we can do for someone grieving. All too often, we who are grieving are made to feel like there is something to fix about our sadness. It’s too painful, it’s too dark, it’s too… something. People will try and shine a light inside our pain, or plant flowers, or trim back the weeds. That isn’t what we need at all though. What we need is for you to not touch it at all, but instead to walk beside us through it.
I think people are often so busy being uncomfortable with someone else’s grief moment that they miss the significance of it entirely. They totally miss the fact that there is this extremely deep thing happening, and – painful or not – it is the chance for one person to give to another. It is the chance to give a gift that is so beautiful in the midst of pain. It is the chance to let someone grieving know that their pain, and their love, and everything that they are experiencing in that moment is worthy – and not only to them.
One of the greatest gifts that grief and hardship like this gives is the ability to walk next to someone inside their pain. In times when someone we love is grieving, we might think or feel like there is nothing we can do… when in reality, the simple fact that we may have a newfound ability to be around people’s pain without discomfort means we have something very valuable to give. I’ve certainly felt this. After many losses in my life, I feel comfortable in the space of other people’s pain in a way that allows me to support them so much better. I’ve now run entire creative workshops where I am basically inviting people to have a painful moment in order to feel and honor it with them. I take this very seriously, because people’s pain is not something to be light with. This is a gift I can give that has come from the loved ones I have lost. It is one way that they live on in me. Similarly, during my own painful moments, I can distinctly recall the people who were able to walk beside me in my pain. They helped me honor all the reasons I was hurting, and taught me how to do the same for someone else.
I’m not sure why I had this odd dream last night, but if anything, it was a reminder to me of how powerful it is for us to be willing to be inside the space of another’s pain. To do so is one of the most sacred and private spaces to share with another, and for them to allow you into. For that reason, I think it does us all well – whether we have lost someone or not – to remember this sacredness, and to recognize those moments when we see them happening. Do not squelch another’s pain with platitudes. Be silent, be committed, be fully present, and let them and their emotions lead. Something important is happening. Being in the space of someone else’s pain with them is a privilege, to be respected and honored as such.
For those of us grieving, it gives us a much-needed confirmation… that our pain, our love, and our very being is valuable, important, and worthy of your attention. That we are worthy of being and existing however we need to right in this moment and that you are here to acknowledge our right to be where we are. There is deep healing medicine that happens anytime one person is able to give that to another.