One of the things that I think most of us can agree on is that women are fixers. We are always in the “business” trying to fix something – or actually doing it. We are good for that! We are dependable that way. But when a problem doesn’t have a solution, we feel stunted. We feel like there is something we should be doing – yet, there is nothing to do. And sometimes, that truly is the best option. Sometimes people need to live through a problem. They don’t need your words, they don’t need your money, they don’t need your food, they just need you to be there. Be with them. Whether that means a hug or the offer for a phone call at 2 AM, they just need you to be willing to sit with them in the dark.
If you’ve read The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green (an amazing book that everyone should read), you know about an Imperial Affliction. This is a fictional book that our main character is engrossed in – and one line has always stood out. “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” There is no going around it, there is no brushing it off. It doesn’t matter if the “thing” happened 30 years ago – pain demands to be felt.
There are many cycles and stages to life. You are born, you go to school, you have your first crush, and on and on. I’m now 40 – I’ve gotten married, I live in a house, and I have two kids. I have recently passed out of one stage (the having babies stage) and into a new one. In the last few years, I’ve been witness to many young deaths. One of my college friends passed away – he was in his 40’s. Two of my girlfriends have lost their husbands to cancer (both in their 40’s). We recently had a close family member pass, and several of my other friends are fighting their battle against cancer. It is really hard not to be able to “fix” any of this. This is a stage where fixing is just not an option. And I know I’m not alone in this – most of you have either gone through it, are in the same stage, or will be sooner than later. This is one of the stages that we all go through eventually.
So how do you help when you find yourself here? What do you do when there really is no way to see a bright side? I try my hardest to be a positive person (to the point of sometimes being annoying, I’m sure), but there are times where seeing the positive isn’t going to help. When the pain demands to be felt. So in those times, we have to stop trying to fix or help in the way that feels most comfortable to us. No food or words will suffice, so it is important to try to stop pushing them in order to appease ourselves. We tend to want to do these things because they are what make us more comfortable. They are what we know and how we know to help. One glaring thing that needs to be remembered though – it is not about us. This is about what the other person really wants and needs – not what we think they will need based on what we might need. So really try to hear your friends who are hurting and try to stop making yourself comfortable – because it likely isn’t helping the other person. But being there in whatever way they need, watching a movie together, talking about the lost loved one or the battle with cancer – sitting in the dark together. That is what will help our friends not feel so alone.
Working through pain is a process – and not one that lasts forever – at least not in the same way. The best thing that you can do for your friends, loved ones or yourself, is just be there. Remind them that you love them. Because, on the other side of that pain is a person who can begin picking up the pieces. Who will need your food and your words and your assistance at that time. And helping them get through the darkest of moments will empower them to be able to push forward.