This year hasn’t been the best for a number of people in my life, and this past week has been especially difficult. A few days ago we were asked to attend the burial of a community member’s adult child. Not something I was wild about doing, because as a parent, this is something we all fear. The next day we learned that our brother-in-law had cancer. My husband wrote the following to his brother, Life has always seemed like a big Dodge ball game but then we slow down and get hit a lot more as time goes by. And we don't get to sit down out of the game when we get hit. Nothing to do about it but be alert and try to get the upper hand.
All in all, it got me thinking about how we deal emotionally with the pain and suffering of those around us. For the practical side of things, check out How to Respond When You Learn That Someone is Ill or Injured.
Anne Lamott hit the nail on the head when she wrote, Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides. Also, you can’t save, fix or rescue any of them, or get any of them sober. But radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air. It is a huge gift to the world.
In addition to Lamott’s insight, consider a few of these ideas:
• Events that look horrific often lead to remarkable and positive changes in peoples’ lives. It’s as if the only way a major “course correction” can take place in someone’s life is by undergoing a “trial by fire” so to speak. It’s their job to figure it out and chances are you won’t be aware of all the positives that have occurred.
• Pain is unavoidable and becoming distraught doesn’t eliminate their issues and may in fact make them feel uncomfortable.
• Being present for the hard stuff in someone’s life, e.g. going to the funeral, visiting the hospital or nursing home, sitting with them while they cry, is important. But when you walk out the door, remember this is their crisis and not yours. Don’t try to “suffer” for their pain.