I am in pain with my brother. People say a lot of things when you are grieving, and you don’t hear most of them. They don’t land. They don’t even make sense. You are just in pain and all you need is for people to be there in your pain with you. You don’t need them to say anything or try to interpret why this happened or tell you it’s going to be alright or “God has a purpose.” None of that helps. Only your presence helps, your commitment to be there grieving with them until they are done. I stay in pain with my brother as long as he is in pain, however long that takes. If that takes a lifetime, I will be there.
We cannot take our pain away from each other, though we would like that. This is partly why people have such a tough time when others are grieving. They feel uncomfortable when others are in pain. They will do whatever they can to pull people out of their grief and pain, to mitigate the hurt or get rid of it altogether. It’s silly to tell someone who just lost their wife that things are going to be okay. All they can see is their pain. They don’t want to be okay and they’re not going to be okay. Until they are.
God doesn’t even take us out of our pain (not that he doesn’t feel for us). He allows us to endure pain for some reason. It is probably because pain is a gateway to something bigger and better. One of the things that becomes clear to you when someone who is part of you dies is that it is not all about this life. You no longer have a “good life.” We tend to orient ourselves toward trying to get what we want in this life. We want to be happy and successful. And we live in the drunkenness of relative comfort. Some do not have this luxury. Some have lives defined by tragedy or abuse or a continuous string of bad luck. Grief smacks them in the face and leaves them reeling for years. You wish this wouldn’t happen and that they would have a good life, but they don’t. Sure, people can recover, but their lives are forever changed.
You start to realize it is not all about this life. When you encounter grief of a certain kind, you start to orient your life in a different direction. You become oriented toward your grief, and for good reason. The grief and pain is your gateway into the next life, to what is beyond. There is something else happening here. It is not about having a good life. It is about finding something beyond that. To die is to become.