Let’s be honest: last night sucked.
It started out great. We were at a party with a whole bunch of friends, people I really enjoy. I was having great conversations with folks and my kids were having a blast. It was a beautiful day and being outside felt like a gift.
Towards the end of the party, I received some tough news about two different friends. It was the kind of news that takes your breath away, life-altering, painful, gut-wrenching things that these people were carrying, and I had no idea.
We headed home soon after, and once bath time and bedtime for our boys was over, I spent awhile scrolling on my phone and then told my husband I was sad and I was going to bed.
I’ve been thinking about them all day. Wondering what they are doing, praying that they are finding peace and rest, hoping to figure out the best way I can care for them.
This is obvious, but one of the hardest things about adulthood has been watching people I love deal with pain that seems unbearable. Sickness, divorce, loss, disappointment, depression – the list goes on and on. And having kids has only made my heart more attuned to the grief and pain of the world at large.
I think one of the most important things I have realized is that in the midst of suffering, we have to let people feel sad. So often we don’t give people space to grieve whatever pain they are going through. Let’s get rid of lines like “They are in a better place,” or “It’s all going to work out,” or, “This will make you stronger.” If you need to say anything, say, “I am so sorry,” or better yet, maybe don’t say anything at all. People are often looking for someone to just be with them in the pain. Maybe they need you to listen while they process, but maybe they need you to just sit on a bench with them.
We also have to know that people don’t need us to fix the problem. I am terrible at this. I try to solve people’s problems all the time, and it is something I am really working on. I have realized that when we constantly try to solve the issue that is causing people pain, it makes people feel as though their pain is unmanageable for us. It also can make them feel like people don’t want to be with them because they are in pain. We have to stop doing this. When we push aside people’s pain or try to make it “better”, we are making it about us, and it is not about us at all.
Let’s keep working to make space for people, space to feel and grieve and cry. And as we make space for other people, we make space for ourselves, and as we make space for ourselves, we make space for our children. Compassion and empathy are two of the greatest powers we have as humans, and if our children learn anything from us, let it be that.