There’s been an undercurrent of sadness over these past few weeks. I haven’t felt much like writing because I just felt too sad. A dear friend died of stage IV liver cancer, suddenly. Tina was a hug that let go too soon.
I couldn’t write about anything else. I felt like if I wrote about her, I’d be taking something from her. Her story wasn’t mine to tell. On the other hand, if I wrote about something else, it felt disingenuous. So I just…stopped…writing. What do you say when tragedy happens? What can you say to mend hearts?
Over the past few weeks, there have been catastrophic hurricanes and subsequent displacement of people from their homes and livelihoods. Not to mention the people I know who are suffering from broken hearts of a different sort, their marriages unraveling and the happy lives they thought they’d have, upended. And then the Las Vegas shooting. This isn’t an exhaustive list of the sadness, just a few examples. When you’re a sensitive soul, these things get to you. It’s hard to shut it out and ignore the pain. It’s equally as hard to sit with it, in it, and dwell on it when there’s very little you can do to fix it. So what do we do? How do we respond when there’s all sorts of pain, a constant barrage of grief, at our doorstep?
You start coping by watching endless episodes of BBC and listening to books on Audible. (Yes, this is what I did.)
In an episode of Call the Midwife, a young woman’s boyfriend died suddenly in an accident. As she’s lamenting with a nun, the nun says, “God isn’t in the event. He is in the response to the event. In the love that is shown and the care that is given.”
A Jewish grandmother in this episode survived the Holocaust had suffered for 12 years without leaving her home, her way of coping and insulating herself from the world. Her twenty-something daughter was giving birth in the home, as many births happened in those times. Shortly after the birth, the grandmother mustered the courage to leave her home and visit the midwife who had helped with the birth of her granddaughter. The midwife, who’d just lost her boyfriend, broke into tears. The grandmother encouraged her with these wise words, “You will feel better than this. Maybe not yet, but you will.” The midwife questioned reluctantly in an uncertain voice, “Will I?” Again, the grandmother replied with certainty, “Yes. You just keep living, until you are alive again.” Remember, she had survived the Holocaust. She spoke hope to the young woman. Her hope came from the trajectory of her pain.
Whoa. This hit me hard. I’ve definitely had times in my life, where grief hit me like a ton of bricks. In these times of so much chaos and uncertainty, we have to keep living. We may not feel alive, but we keep living until we are alive. Responding to these events in the best way we know how; showing love to our friends, family, and strangers. I’m reminded of the chorus of a song by Mark Heard and the line goes, “Love is not the only thing, it’s the best thing. Love is never everything, it’s the best thing.”
Listening to books on Audible has been another way I’ve coped these past few weeks. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown has been uplifting and challenging during this time of sadness. It seems apropos that there would be a chapter on collective grief and sadness.
In reference to a major historical tragedy, when Christa McAuliffe died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, Brene writes of all the people that pulled over along the highway in her hometown, “We were all part of this procession of grief.”
After the Shady Hook Elementary shooting in 2012, moms in Houston communed and mourned. “We just sat together with nothing but the sound of occasional weeping cutting through the silence. Leaning into our shared pain and fear comforted us.”
“Not enough of us know how to sit in pain with others.”
“Funerals matter. Showing up to them matters.”
“Death, loss, and grief are the great equalizers.”
“An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness. It is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness.”
So, this idea of collective grief and collective pain rang true for me this week. Seeing so much death in a venue where people felt safe, at a concert, was just evil.
My ending thoughts are that we need to show up, sit in the pain, and be present in the grief of others. We may not have words, but the “ministry of presence” is powerful. Show up. Give hugs. Give hope.
Until the next Friday I get around to posting… Love you loves.
Gastric bypass update:
I’ve been snacking too much. (Uh, can you say, stress eating?) But I’ve maintained my weight. Gluten free pretzels covered in chocolate may not be the best choice for me. I can’t stop eating them!