A neighbour of mine, across the street, recently lost her mother suddenly. She passed away at the age of 89 years of age. Flowers still grace the large Italian style front porch that show of her sorrow in this loss. It’s hard to see as I know the grief she is feeling and dealing with right now. We can look at age as “oh well, she’d lived a long life” but, when it’s our loved ones, we always want more time with them. Age has no meaning especially, when the person was still full of life and had been able to do most things on their own still and with full mindfulness.
In reaching out to my neighbour yesterday, wondering how she was doing and her family, I realized that this was this woman’s first loss of a close family member. She still has her father and brother and many other relatives in her life so, this was a particularly difficult loss as well as lesson for her to have gone through. My thoughts, prayers and best wishes go out to her as she travels this journey of grief that we all must go through if we live long enough to lose those around us who mean the most to us. Sadly, the only way to avoid that is by us leaving this planet before those deaths happen. Neither is a consoling thought but, rather simply a reality.
My own mother has been gone now longer than I had her as part of my life. I lived without a mother most of my life. My father passed away nearly 18 years ago now too, having watched him suffer a nasty death with cancer. The brother I was closest to because of our ages being so close, passed away suddenly through an accident at work nearly 6 years ago, leaving me feel like half of me was taken away at that point as well. I still mourn his loss. Even when he could not help me with issues that we all have to deal with in one way or another, he could make me laugh or would simply give me one of his famous “Bear Hugs” that made the world’s troubles melt away. I miss him terribly and I don’t suppose I will ever stop missing him during this lifetime but, I had to go on as I had a husband, daughter and one remaining brother (my “Little Brother” as I call him because there is quite an age gap between us) to be here for and with.
In between those deaths, I’d also lost my entire family, one by one. Some went by natural causes of “old age” while others suffered horrendous deaths with diseases or through suicides. Needless to say, I had a banking of a lot of experience on which to draw upon in order to try to offer some sort of soothing comfort to this neighbour-friend.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to not go back and to some extent or another, relive every death you’ve had to endure in order to help someone else. It’s only through experiencing it ourselves that we can honestly say that we can understand (to some extent or another) what someone else may be going through, emotionally, mentally and even physically. Grief takes its toll in so many ways and all at the same time.
Though I knew that feeling empathy towards this friend-neighbour and reliving those deaths that I had to endure with grief was not the way to help, it was almost automatic for me to have done so. There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy would have and should have been enough but, I went automatically to empathy which took me in a tumble backwards emotionally that I really needn’t have gone to as not many others will go down that road to help someone else. It’s human nature to preserve one’s own well-being, first and foremost before helping others. Equally sad is the fact that most people will go through the motions of doing what is considered the right thing to do but, emotionally not be there. Sometimes, that is all that is required and perhaps, the healthiest thing that one can do for another who is suffering through their own travels in Life. However, there is another piece that I’ve written that goes into more detail and can be read HERE.
Suffice it to say that I have somewhat suffered with her because of empathy but, I also recognized that I cannot suffer for her. There are lessons that can and will be learned through the hardest times in our lives and it’s not ours to take those away from people we love. We can’t even do that for our own children. They need those falls, hurt feelings and everything else we’ve been through in order to learn for themselves. Should we shelter them from Life, we’d be doing them no favours. Life Lessons are learned through both the good and the bad. Most often, the biggest lessons we learn have come through the hardest things we’ve had to face in our lives. That’s what gives us strength, character and provides us with knowledge that is invaluable for other lessons we all must learn in Life.
One thing that I have learned through this loss, though I really didn’t know this woman’s mother, is that we can offer up our companionship, words of wisdom and even a shoulder when we can but, much like the piece linked above is saying, we needn’t leap into the hole with someone. We are of no help when we do that. It’s much more helpful for us to remain on the side and throw down a rope to help them climb out than to jump in with them. Both remain stuck and helpless when we do that.
From my little corner of life, we can understand other’s predicaments without leaping into a pit with them. We can offer them our hand to help them out of their holes and we can be there for them. It’s not wise nor, helpful to say that we “understand” by reliving all of our own Life’s troubles. That’s akin to leaping into that hole too and does no one any good.
Blessings, Love and Light…stay well.