The word that comes to mind in interacting with people in the depths of pain, maybe I can only truly speak for me, is see.
So many lists written on what to do or not do when you interact with people who have grief as their houseguest, with those who are in pain, whose brokenness can’t be ignored. Those lists can be helpful guidelines. I’ve seen some good ones.
But since all generalizations may turn out to be false they only get you so far. And quite frankly, I don’t even know what I need. There are so many times when I have just had to wait for God to tap someone on the shoulder and send them my way because I don’t know how to ask. And He does.
Some of the things you could see for me are that it’s hard to put together a meal, or that the laundry doesn’t wash itself. See that an invitation to a cleaning party is a call for help. See that everything takes herculean effort. See that it’s not flakiness or even necessarily lack of desire (though that may happen too) that keep me from showing up. See that there is laughter and joy. See that memories are always present and not to be feared.
In this place I know that my grief has a bit of an identity of its own and its cloak is over me, covering all people know of me, sometimes even all I know of myself. My cry so often has been, “Remember, I’m still me!” I think I’m reminding myself. I long to be seen.
Grief can feel lonely.
“You can feel abandoned because your heart is too too broken.” Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
I know my pain cuts other people and I am powerless to do anything about that. I see the uncertainty in people’s eyes.
C.S. Lewis says it like this in A Grief Observed. ” An odd byproduct of loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet….I see people, as they approach me trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about ‘it’ or not.“
I’ve seen fear of doing things that will cause pain because there is already so much pain, in myself and in others. I think it’s where the uncertainty of what to say or how to engage with loss, brokenness. It makes sense. And it’s hard.
I wonder if my part in this process is to get better at hearing, seeing, acknowledging, instead of controlling, since I can’t control the brokenness any more than you can. To live in being fully known and fully loved. To invite you in closer by exposing my brokenness willingly.
To know that there is always compassion there. For me. For everyone.
In the midst of the pain I want you to be able to see glimpses of the grace I get to see all the time.
There is beauty that if God chooses not to send anyone, even if I think I probably REALLY needed it, I can trust His complete provision for me and I can rest in that. I do trust that He knows what I need and is able to provide it. So if no one shows up, I needed alone time with Him. Truly remarkable how that works when I can see it and accept it instead of pouting or striving. Quite frankly, there’s not much energy for striving. Being satisfied in God’s provision is something He’s been doing in my heart for the past 4-5 years. What a gift. More grace.
Please see your own grief and pain and remember how God meets you there. You can beat respond to others in pain by first seeing your own. My loss does not negate your pain. He’s the same God and He’s meeting me too. See. Look. Listen.
For my part I would rather you say something. Acknowledge the loss. Share a memory. I may cry. You may cry. Don’t be afraid. There is no perfect answer. And it’s no one’s fault. It’s a messy business, this grieving, the losing, the keeping on living.
Don’t be afraid of hurting each other in our brokenness because God is an adept enough healer to bind up those wounds too. He is enough. His grace is sufficient and I am applying it to you even as I soak it in for myself.