Do you ever read stories that are full of darkness and pain? Where it is not a matter of a few bad things happening, and lots of good – but more bad, really bad, and maybe… just maybe… a little bit of relief? People read those stories, and live them, and feel for the characters, and like them. A lot of people. Right now I am reading the Song of Ice and Fire books (Game of Thrones), and they are much like that. Not a lot of happy. A whole lot of tragedy.
Yet when it comes to life… people seem to be okay with pain that happens to someone else, far away. Well, okay, “okay” is probably not the right word. But they take those stories, and they share them, and it gives them something to talk about. They might give money, or of themselves to help in relief. They might even grieve with the people. It is big. It gets their attention. Then they move on to other things. And in the midst, they live.
But people aren’t so great at personal pain. “I am sorry,” they say, and it feels empty. But it isn’t’ their fault. What the person really needs, they can’t give. They couldn’t even if they wanted to. “Let us know if we can help,” they say. But when what is needed is relief from a broken world, restoration with someone who has died, or was otherwise lost, healing from the intense grief… they can’t. They just can’t. Helpless, they walk away, and the person is left alone.
Alone to fight the demons that have invaded their lives, taken away the light, filled them with darkness and shadows. Alone.
And if the battle for wholeness lasts too long, they lose patience. And then the person feels more alone than ever – listening to people laugh, sing, hum, enjoy life – when theirs is still filled with a pain that others want them to forget.
“Surround yourself with positive people,” is the phrase of the day. And those whose lives follow more in line with tragedy than comedy are left. Alone. Lonely. Fighting battles they cannot win. “Drama queen,” they say. Maybe not to, or even about, that particular person. But the words are heard, and rather than accept the false label, they keep the pain to themselves.
Try “sensitive,” “hurting,” even “strong,” – you don’t know how hard they are fighting to give the smiles and laughter that you do see.
It seems that those most in need of comfort, are also those most often left to their pain. It isn’t the fault of those on the outside looking in. They don’t understand. They can’t help. And really, when what those struggling most need is a world that is not broken – well, things can’t really be fixed. Not here. Not by us. Not in this world.
And those of us who live it know this. We know that no matter what is done, or said, or offered, what we are experiencing must just be endured. At least for now. But sometimes it would be nice if someone understood, and if people didn’t get so impatient with the grief that seems to carry on well past when others would have ‘gotten over it.’
“Grieve with those who are grieving,” the Bible says. But how can you grieve to a depth you do not understand?
“You are comforted that you may bring comfort,” it also tells us. So there is the answer. This pain. This pain that I have known my entire life. This pain that darkens the world around me while others are dancing in the light. This pain is given to me that when others are hurting, I might understand. Truly understand. And maybe then I can help.