We are weird creatures, we humans. We are so afraid of grief, and so trained to find the good in everything that we stumble in our support of each other.
“At least you have a healthy baby.”
We find the one bright spot of light in a darkened abyss, and we hang onto it. Our loved one is just so very sad, and we can’t stand just waiting with them in their sadness, so we point out that little shiny thing in the distance.
“At least you had a chance to say good-bye.”
We shout down the silence.
“At least you can try again.”
We are uncomfortable with pain. We want to ease our loved ones’ pain, because we can’t live with it. It’s jarring and ugly and sad and difficult. And we don’t know what to do with it when it is handed to us.
“At least he’s in a better place.”
We all know death and pain and trial and sickness await us. Yet we are surprised and derailed when it comes.
“At least she didn’t suffer long.”
We don’t know what to say. We forget that it’s okay not to say anything. To just sit in silence and nearness with one another. To reach out and hold another’s pain, though it scalds.
(And by “we” I mean “me”. Just to be clear.)
“At least” can do much damage. And it can cause so much hurt because it comes from the mouths of those who love us most, and just want to see us smile again.
We just want the suffering to end already!
We want the wound to heal and leave no trace. Now.
“At least you can’t see the scars.”
But scars mark chapters in a precious biography. We need them. We oughtn’t want them to remain unseen. They are signposts that others can look to when they come to the Valley of the Shadow of Death in their turn.
Scars remind us that there is, after all, healing.
Save your “At leasts” for your own troubles. When you are in despair, find your own “At least,” and speak it. Share it. Find those tiny pinpricks of light within your pain darkness, because each one will help stitch closed that wound and stanch the flow of suffering. Each one will build a ragged and beautiful scar, royal purple that fades to soft silver.
And it will mark the path. “This is the way through suffering. I’ve been here too. I see and I know.”
And remember that your “At leasts” are not another’s. Try hard not to lay them at the feet of the suffering. No matter how similar your stories, your “At leasts” will not be theirs.
Stay with them. Enter into their pain with them. And just be. Show them your own scars without comment. Let them see the signs and take courage in their own way.
It will help them to find their own “At leasts.”
And that is a beautiful gift to the grief-stricken.
Grace & Peace,