For as long as I can remember, my mom has told us that things happen in threes. Simple examples would be: 3 major appliances in our house breaking in a span of weeks or having 3 car batteries die over the course of a few days. Major examples would be: 3 couples getting married in one summer or, sadly, 3 funerals in a week. My heart goes out to three of my close friends who have buried loved ones over these past few days.
One of the things I’ve always struggled with is what to do when someone is upset. As a child, when I saw a friend or peer crying, I’d back away and leave them alone. It made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to ‘handle’ someone being sad or angry and thought it was best to stay out of his or her personal business. It wasn’t until high school and college that I learned how wrong I was.
It’s interesting how human emotion can push us away from one another. We’ve been raised in a society that tells us hide our feelings. But how could something that we absolutely have in common be such a foreign and intimidating concept?
I understand that each human being is a unique individual. Each person copes with grief in a very meticulous way. Each person analyzes situations in their own particular manner. Yes, some of our tendencies and methods overlap. But no two people share the same exact history, coping mechanisms, desires, etc. So how on earth should one person know how to comfort another person?
I’m going to put it this way. I understand that each one of my friends needs to be shown love in a particular way. When it comes to comforting them in times of trouble, some won’t want me around. So I comfort them with space. Some of them will want me to be with them. So I comfort them by holding them and offering reassurance. Some will want to talk, so I will listen. Some may want me to act as a distraction for a little while, so I’ll make them laugh and take them places. Others may lash out at me in anger. I’ll forgive them. Some may just want prayers. Some may not want me for anything while others won’t know what they want at all.
When it comes to loving people who are coping with loss, it’s hard to know where you belong because you can’t heal their pain. You cannot ‘fix’ it. Sometimes all you can do is be there for them and check up on them every so often. And when they are ready, you listen. You let them cry.
We’re not experts at knowing ourselves, so we are certainly not going to be much better at understanding the depths of another person. Although you may not understand someone’s brokenness, that doesn’t mean you stop trying. That doesn’t mean we are supposed to give up on people and leave them alone. If someone needs space, you give them space. But when they’ve had time to breathe and come back to you, your job is to be there for them. They need to know you won’t give up on them just because they’ve shown you how they’re hurting.
We have an amazing gift of compassion- meaning that we do not have to entirely understand someone in order to love them. You can have a trusting relationship with someone by sharing your pain and understanding with them. I’m not saying it’s easy. Love takes patience and persistence. But we are all capable of caring for others. There is no need to hide from tears.
I love you just the way you are.
Song for You by Alexi Murdoch