I’ve found my heart heavy in recent days, heavy with a grief I cannot quite explain.
Loss comes in many forms, you see. Some sudden, some slowly, others in increments over time. I’ve long held to the notion that loss is loss is loss. While the details of our individual suffering may vary, human decency requires we honor its magnitude based on the weight felt by the one required to bear its load.
As the calendar marks another year since my firstborn son died, I’m struck afresh by this mortal proclivity towards comparison. Some who have not walked my road may be tempted to diminish their own woes as less than. In contrast, a grief unresolved could easily seem to outweigh all others.
Death. Disease. Divorce. Disappointments.
We all have our version of “worst case scenario” that life has required us to carry. These differences ought push us towards compassion rather than comparison. While you may never have walked a bereaved mother’s road, I have not had to walk as an orphan or a cancer patient. Where one person’s suffering may exist in external circumstances, some equally weighty exist where eyes cannot see but are just as real as tangible things.
Loss is loss is loss.
There is a kind of loss that, in my eyes, trumps all others by comparison. One that I cannot wrap my mind around and feel honestly blessed to have not been required to bear thus far. It comes in vast shapes and forms, but haunts me just the same.
That of the sudden, the unthinkable, the kind that leave you utterly speechless, the unexplained.
Shootings. Devastating disasters. A sudden lethal heart attack in a healthy wife and mother. A child who never wakes from sleep. Things that should never, ever be.
In the face of such sudden atrocities, my own losses will always pale. Indeed, they fade into seeming luxury by comparison. Perhaps yours feel that same way. What do you say? What can you do? Platitudes cannot and should not suffice in such circumstances. How could they?
Today finds me grappling with such things, with memories of a heaven-bound son and signs of a broken world surrounding. In truth, it finds me with more questions than answers, more prayers of grief for the woes of those known by name and news headlines, more aware of what not to say than words to fill a heavy void.
But even in this space of wondering why, a smallest spark lights up the dark with hope. Not in an outcome perhaps, but in an understanding.
While our details may vary, life has dealt us all a heavy load to bear. We are mortal after all. While such weights can tempt us to comparison, they can also stir us towards compassion – compassion which we all need, that we all have the opportunity to bestow to our fellow man. The losses in my life do not diminish the magnitude of your own, nor vice versa. Instead they bestow a peculiar blessing.
The opportunity for solidarity.
I will never understand life’s sudden losses. I cannot fathom the grief of a parent stripped of their healthy child in a moment nor the terror of receiving that call from an officer. There are wounds you cannot quite grasp either, ones that make your own feel seemingly small.
But what I can do – what we all can do – is allow individual sorrows to fuel a compassion for others, one that stands in solidarity beside the sufferer so they need not grieve alone. We can see them. We can acknowledge the price life has required they pay. We can remember long after the signs and services and sympathy cards have ceased. We can extend our arms once weak with grief to hold up those now in need of lifting. Even Jesus took time to weep. He could have compared the coming crucifixion and found their grievance small. Instead, He wept. So too may we.
While life’s losses can defy explanation, may they fuel compassion. May grieving hearts be kept soft by the solidarity of others who refuse to leave their side.
Though today finds me with more questions than answers, may it also find a willingness to extend a battered heart in compassion rather than comparison, tender with empathy rather than indifference.
Loss is loss is loss. It ALL matters.