For the longest time, I tried to make everyone around me happy. It made me uncomfortable and nervous when people were sad and I tried to force them to be happy. Obviously, that never worked. It was hard for me to accept that people NEED to grieve and forcing them to smile and laugh will never help anything.
Last year, we were told that my great-grandfather was dying. We drove to Iowa to say goodbye. A few days later, we heard that he had died. Mama told us at breakfast one morning. Jehosheba was obviously very sad. I was sad, too but I didn’t know what to do or what to feel. It hurt me to see my sister so sad. So I tried to force her to forget her pain. I found her sitting in our room, staring at the wall, and I put on my greatest fake smile and chatted to her about how great life was. (Which I didn’t really feel or believe at the moment.) She glared at me with an I-can’t-believe-you’re-talking-about-that-right-now face. I tried for a few more minutes to force her to smile, and when she didn’t, I got mad. I yelled at her and she continued to stare at the wall, saying nothing. I tried to force her to talk. She didn’t. Finally I stormed out of the room and tried to find something else to do. My heart hurt for the loss of my great-grandpa and for the pain that my family felt. But sadness was not an acceptable emotion to show. So instead I turned to anger. I expressed my own pain in the form of fierce rage. That whole day was miserable for everyone around me. I followed my sister around, alternating between trying to force her to be happy and trying to make her yell at me – anything to take away the icy silence.
But silence is okay. Pain is okay. Sadness is okay.
The night ended with Jehosheba and I fighting and Mama trying to stop us. We fought until Mama finally left, declaring that she felt sick. And so I left, too. Because I couldn’t stand to stay there and pretend to be happy or angry anymore. I wasn’t either, really. I was sad and hurt and I wasn’t in control anymore. I couldn’t make my family happy, I couldn’t change anything. And that scared me.
Over the past year, though, God has been teaching me SO MUCH about sorrow and pain. He has taught me that it is really okay to grieve and that it is okay to let others grieve. Often times, when people are hurting, they don’t want you to fix everything. They just want to have someone to walk through the pain with them. And I can do that now. It’s not always easy but it is so, so, so worth it. You don’t have to fix or take away the sorrow. Just be there. Be ready to cry with your friend, be ready to laugh with them, be ready to walk through joy and pain. It is an incredible journey and I am so thankful to the people who have let me walk with them in their hurts. It has been such a blessing.
Be there. Don’t run from the sorrow. Don’t try to fix everything. Just be there and don’t leave your friend, your sister, your brother, don’t leave them no matter what.
Those who show in tears will reap with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5