Saturday, November 1, 2014

Never Alone

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others,
 for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness, 
 and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you
 are never alone."
    - - Audrey Hepburn

You know, it's funny - I guess it ISN'T funny - what people will say to others without thinking it through. 

I was having a conversation with a dear friend earlier today. This lady has been my friend for about 15 years, and she is the kindest, sweetest soul who came into my life when I needed such a soul in my life. 

And right now she's hurting - mourning the loss of a family member. A family member who just so happens to be a beloved pet, one she has had for over 17 years. And she was telling me what some folks have been saying to her. 

They don't bear repeating. Suffice to say that the comments have been dismissive and unthinking, diminishing the importance of her pain because the loved one she lost had four legs instead of two. 

I wanted her to know that she was not alone. That there are people - fortunate, sensitive, and beautiful people (like us) who see the good in others (no matter what the species), who speak words of kindness (yes, even to such unthinking humans) and who have walked the path that she is walking now ... who know the pain of losing a beloved family member, be that two-legged or four-legged. For ... as I told her earlier, grief is grief, and it means that we have loved someone or some creature enough to feel something when he, she or it leaves. (Queen Elizabeth II once said, "Grief is the price we pay for love.") 

There is much to be said - when someone has experienced a recent loss (especially of a pet) and a person just can't understand "why there is so much fuss about it" - for silence, for being comfortable with NOT understanding, for NOT giving "pat answers" that might snuff out what little bit of hope the person might have. 

Photo "Lonely Woman On The Beach" by
Sira Anamwong at

Loneliness kills. The pain of loneliness is something that outlasts physical pain. A person can feel isolated and abandoned in a crowd, and he or she can feel the loneliest when nobody appears to understand his or her experience.

Let's sit with those who've experienced a loss, and let them feel the pain, talk about their loved one. 

Let's just LISTEN. That's all. 

That's the most comforting thing a person can do is just to BE there and let that friend know that whatever he or she feels is normal. It's normal!! It's healthy to be sad when you've lost someone. The important thing for a grieving person is to know that that person is never alone, that there is someone to talk to, that there is someone who cares. That "being there" can give someone a tremendous gift: dignity ... self-respect ... the feeling that what they feel and think matters.

There is no need to ask questions in those moments of fresh grief about "what happens now." The time will come when those questions can be asked, but not now. Not yet. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Feelings are not bad or good. Feelings ARE. And people have a right to feel them. Being told that we shouldn't feel bad (or good) is a form of abuse that reaches down into the core of who we are. We were hard-wired for feelings, for relationships, for love. And when we remember that we are not alone in this experience, it makes getting through it so much easier.

Life is not a competition. It's a journey. It's better to go through it together in cooperation than trying to prove who's right and who's not.

It is better to look for the good in others, to speak only words of kindness, and to let each other know that we are never alone.

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