Her Grandson Was Murdered
As we chat on her balcony, I see the tears pooling in my friend’s eyes. She’s worried about about her adult daughter, the one whose son died a year ago because another boy shot a bullet instead of throwing a fist when he got annoyed.
My friend still feels the heavy grief herself. The teenage boy was her only grandson.
But the most urgent emotion rising in her throat this afternoon is helplessness. She knows her daughter is struggling hard with the absurdity of her son’s murder. Of the lack of quick justice in the courts. Of her searching but finding no meaning through it all.
As the mother of this daughter in pain, my friend doesn’t know what to do.
As she pauses her story, I want to fill in the gap with a guarantee, that everything will be okay, that this will work out fine in the end.
But I can’t do that.
I feel helpless, too.
Things We Can’t—and Can—Do
I have no fix for her pain. I have no solution for her daughter mourning her son fresh in the grave. I have no words that can explain why this happened and what will happen next.
In moments like these I am most aware of our shared humanity. Here we stand, my friend and I, fellow survivors in the messy middle of other humans also trying to survive.
So I simply bear witness to her pain. I see her wounds. I allow my eyes to weep, my tears to blend with hers.
Humans need to be in the presence of other humans as they hurt.
The Gift of Shared Pain Is Connection
See it as a gift when someone shares their pain with you. Hold their burdens with tenderness, with holiness, with care.
Yes, it might make you sad, too, as you validate another person’s aches. But it will also connect you. Allow it to fulfill one of your missions here as a human being: to connect with other human beings—through kindness and grace and compassion.
Connecting with others strengthens us to walk through our own sadness, too. Connecting is one of our most valuable powers to heal our breakings.
And sometimes, connecting is the most human thing we can do.
- We need human hands to rest on our shoulders with a gentle squeeze.
- We need human faces to turn toward ours as they listen.
- We need human eyes to to leak salty water as they mirror our own wet eyes.
Being together feels better than being alone. We need to know we’re not the only human in the room.
Hold On to That Wispy Thread
After a bit, my friend’s mood shifts ever so slightly. She still remains worried, sad, even fearful of what she might have to face in the days ahead with her daughter as they both continue to grieve.
But my hope is that she feels a little less alone today in those emotions. Presence is more authentic than any false guarantee I can offer.
At the door, we hug goodbye. I step away from this holy moment. But I’ll keep holding my friend close.
In the crisscrossing of thin places, the wispy thread of connection is stronger than it looks. It bears weight.
Hold on to it for dear life. Because all of life is dear, even in our sadness.
I continue to ponder on my One Word of the Year, Human. What does human connection mean to you?
- Sit with the Pain
Those who sit with us as we sit with pain are those we remember. Pain will never be my best friend, but it leads me into the presence of those who are.
- Camera On or Off? How to Bear Witness
I search for the “camera off” button. I don’t want to be seen today. But her plea changes me.
- How Does It Feel to Be Alone?
My grandson is about to be born. I feel alone. Until I hear footsteps. I look up. It’s not who I expect.
- Grace & Truth Linkup September 15-21
- You’re Going to Fall. Get Back Up (Again).